1963 …

Time moves on. 

At least that’s what they say. 

I was listening to a campaign sound byte by Hillary Clinton, back in 2016, where she said something about how little girls should be able to grow up to be whatever they wanted to be, instead of being told they couldn’t do this or that just because they were girls. 

I twisted my head to the side, like a confused dog. 

I thought to myself, “Who in the world tells a girl they can’t do something because they’re a girl, anymore?” 

I know, I know. Nobody knows your story. But culture as a whole has rejected the narrative of girls not being allowed to do something because of their plumbing. That attitude is simply not recognized with any sort of validity. And it hasn’t been for a very long time.

In Mrs. Clinton’s case, she has (as a part of her own personal legend) always told the story of NASA rejecting her request to become an astronaut (when she was 13), solely on the basis of her gender (did I mention she was13?). And so, her experience of sexism was burned into her psyche and made a part of her internal political directive.

But here’s the thing…

Sally Ride. 

Mrs. Clinton’s experience (in 1962), while certainly disheartening, was a product of a different time. We don’t think like that anymore. We don’t say those things to our girls anymore. 

And when she made a political statement based on something that happened to her in 1962, we all looked around at each other, like, “what?”

I have a daughter. I know dozens of fathers with daughters. Nobody tells their daughters they can’t or shouldn’t do something because of their vaginas anymore. I’ve never even heard of anybody from my generation on, even entertaining a thought like that. You’d be a punch line or you’d be seen as some weird relic from another time if you did. 

Maybe there are still people who think that way. But I don’t personally know any of them. If a female feels like she’s being held back by society, in 2021, solely on the basis of her gender, then there might possibly be some force at work in her personal case, none of the rest of us are seeing. 

Women are celebrated and empowered and portrayed in the media as strong and capable. And they are strong and capable. Are there still sexists and misogynists in the world? Of course. But society has done a lot to mitigate their power. 

And keep in mind that just because someone is an alpha male or acts in a way that wouldn’t be approved of in Sunday School, doesn’t mean they are actively participating in systemic sexism. Being a jerk is different from actively participating in a system that keeps someone from opportunity based on race or gender or religion or belief. 

As of the writing of this piece, the male-to-female ratio of NASA astronauts is exactly…50/50. 

But Mrs. Clinton needed it to still be 1962, for her political point of view to make sense. Her unfortunate experience was like one of those mosquitoes preserved in amber, in Jurassic Park. It still looked completely in tact. But it was actually a relic. 

Meanwhile, the rest of the world had already moved on.

The progressive left, in this country, seems to require that it constantly remain around 1963. That informs their opinions of the other side. It places their opponents on the side of clear-cut wrong and backward thinking. 

As long as you still believe it’s somewhere around 1963, you can march for “equality” with a straight face. Even though “equality” has already been achieved…a long time ago. 

Buying into the 1963 mindset, can drive you to make public accusations of racism and sexism and whatever-the-hell-else ism…even though those things are not actually happening in whatever crisis you’re assigning them to.

If people are suddenly not the 1963 stereotypes you need them to be, your argument (possibly even your entire world view) might fall apart.

We ALL saw the George Floyd video and were appalled. The polls suggested that over 90% of the nation believed George Floyd’s death was a murder and that the cop in question should’ve been prosecuted (which he was). 

But here’s where it all broke down: to this day, we don’t know if George Floyd’s race was the reason for his murder. A lot of people assume it was the motive. It may well fit into their own personal story or belief system. And I’m certainly not here to tell someone how they should feel. 

But we don’t actually know. 

If race had nothing to do with it; if the cop was just a power hungry moron, who liked lording his authority over people and let it finally get too far out of hand, it sure would mess up a lot of people’s internal story. It wouldn’t fit so neatly into the narrative that allows rioting and looting and tearing it all down.

As long as everything stays somewhere around 1963, we don’t have to think any more about it. We don’t have to do any deep dives into nuance or psychology. We can keep everything simple and straightforward. 

But things might be more complicated than that …

My daughter is Asian and has special needs. She has lived in Nashville, Tennessee, since she was 8 months old. She’s now 19. In almost twenty years of living in the south, she has only been the target of racism 3 times. 

In every case, the perpetrators were Asian women – not from here. 

To our knowledge, she’s never been the victim of ablism by any adult.

Sure, there was absolutely a time in Nashville, Tennessee, when my daughter might’ve been ridiculed or made fun of or even been a victim of violence. But we simply don’t live in that time (or that Nashville) anymore. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of adopted Asian girls in Nashville. It’s not uncommon to see mixed families and hear different accents and languages being spoken at the mall. 

We’ve all gotten off the farm. We’ve seen the pyramids. We have indoor plumbing. We have iPhones. We get the joke.  

I live in what is supposed to be one of the “whitest” counties in Tennessee. And my house is built on top of an old Confederate encampment. It is said that thirty thousand Confederate soldiers camped here, waiting to fight the battle of Franklin. 

But my next door neighbors are Iranian. Three doors down from them, our neighbors are Iraqi. Across the street from them, our neighbors are black. Two houses up from them, a muslim man is married to a white woman and they have an adopted son…who is black. 

We all wave to each other as we drive by. Not a Confederate solider in sight. 

Time moves on.

My father is a counselor and runs a school for counselors. He has certified dozens of black counselors, over the years. But he often talks about a strange phenomenon that happens at the beginning of their course. 

Inevitably, one or two of the new students will come to his office for a “consultation,” and assert that they know they’re going to have to work twice as hard for half the grade. But they are committed to doing it. 

He always answers the same way: “who told you that? And why do you believe it?” 

They usually say something like their mother instilled it in them or it’s just a fact of life for a black person in America, or some form of the two. 

He gives them some form of this sobering speech …

“Why in the name of all that’s holy would anybody require someone to work twice as hard for half a grade? That literally makes no sense. Not only is it illegal, but it also puts a lot of extra work on me as the teacher. Even if I were a racist, which I’m not, I wouldn’t want to have to do all that extra micro managing of grades based on your skin color. I honestly have no extra time to factor in your race, in this class. No…you do the required work and you will get the deserved grade. It’s really that simple.”

That’s usually how the conversation ends.

He has guided several of those students to PhD’s in counseling. And their race never came up again after that initial conversation.

But we have been so conditioned to believe we’re all living in some Mississippi Burning movie, that we actually look for the drama based on outdated points of view.

Meanwhile, it’s not 1963 anymore.

That cop might have pulled you over because your tags were expired. Not because of your skin. That white woman eying you in the department store, might actually be admiring your sweater or glasses…not thinking you are about to shoplift something. 

That dude saying horrible things about you might be responding to something horrible you said about him, and not caring one bit whether you’re a girl or a boy. 

In other words, he might be treating you as an equal

Are there still rapists in the world? Of course. But we stopped being a society of Vikings, where it’s standard operating procedure, a long time ago. 

Is there still racism? Of course. But it might not be happening when and where we think it is…nor, by whom

The world isn’t perfect by a long shot. And people still give in to the worst parts of themselves. 

But time moves on. 

And people grow. And attitudes evolve. 

And girls can become astronauts.

And it’s not 1963.           








3 thoughts on “1963 …

  1. Ahh..1963
    I got married at 10:00
    At 12:00 Joe and I went to his Moms for lunch
    I graduated at 2:00
    Then we left for Gatlinburg!


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