I was lucky. I grew up at a time when American history was being passed down to my generation from previous generations. I don't mean only American political history, although it was that too, I'm talking about American cultural history. Not that it was "taught" in any academic or pedantic way, it was simply passed down to us. It was what was talked about and shared by our parents and others who were around before we came along.
We knew what the popular songs, movies, books, and art were of previous times. We knew what the styles were in years past. We knew the silly catchphrases and the slang words of our parents and grandparents times. We knew who the old-time sports stars were. We knew what classical music sounded like. We knew the stories of American heroes and the legends of American folklore. In other words, we knew a little bit of what came before us, unlike today's last couple of generations who think nothing of any importance started until the day they were born.
A lot of the particulars of the past weren't so very important in and of themselves. Does it mean very much to know that Paul Bunyan's pet was a big blue ox named Babe or that your mom and dad used to dance to swing music while your grandmother and grandfather used to dance to the Charleston? It's just so much trivia, none of it having anything to do with today's concerns.
But having a working knowledge of the past culture is important. It puts life in perspective and gives a person a better understanding of who Americans were, what motivated them, and in turn how our country and the world got to where it is now. Ignorance of history is ignorance of ourselves. And knowing a little about our parents' time narrows the so-called generation gap, it brings us closer as a family. In the same sense that knowing about American history and past American culture brings us closer as a country.
I was introduced to Laurel and Hardy and Abbott and Costello through my father. Because of that, some of my most cherished memories are the times that my dad and I sat on the couch laughing together as we watched their old movies on TV. I learned about "Jitterbug" dancing from my mother and as a kid she danced with me to the music of Benny Goodman and Harry James. Dad loved Bing Crosby, mom loved Frank Sinatra and I learned to love them both.
It's so sad how fractured we have become as a society in America today. Where once we were a melting pot, now we are a mish-mash. The Left thinks it's a good thing, calling it "multiculturalism," but nothing good can ever come out of a place where its people are divided and there is no unifying culture. Think of the Middle East where tribalism has resulted in centuries of ongoing wars and bloodbaths.
Similarly, in our ultra-liberal times the American people have been sliced and diced into tribes based on race, age, gender, religion, place of origin, and anything else the Progressives can come up with in order to keep us segmented. I'm convinced it is being done by design, as a way of pitting the people against each other and keeping them off balance. Remember the expression "United we stand, divided we fall?" I fear we now are in free fall.
Americans used to sing the same songs. Dance to the same music. Laugh at the same jokes. Celebrate the same holidays and honor the same heroes. We used to work toward the same goals, share the same values, practice the same decency, and obey the same laws. Americans were people from all countries, all faiths, and all backgrounds, who loved being American. We, or our parents or grandparents, may have come from somewhere else, but we were now proud Americans, all of us. We felt patriotic in a good way, not in a jingoistic sense.
Our schools used to teach something called, citizenship. They reinforced American patriotism and taught American history (positive American history, not revisionist American hatred). This uplifting Americanism used to be reinforced also through popular culture. Movies, and TV celebrated the exceptionalism of America. Two or three generations or more have now been denied that in our public schools and cultural institutions.
We no longer sit together and laugh at Laurel and Hardy or Abbott and Costello.
We've lost our common culture and it will be to our common detriment.