I think of the 20th century as my birth century.
It moved along logically, even in its most bizarre times. The outcome of centuries of entitlement for some and slavery or virtual slavery for others. The growth of science. Great literature—how is it possible that the novel came so late in human history? It’s only existed for a few hundred years.
What would I have done if nobody had come up with the idea until, say 1999?
But I digress. The 20th century. Tsar Nicholas II. Hitler. Stalin. The KKK. Skinheads. Right wing religious bigotry. And at the same time, a new recognition that things didn’t have to be that way. Most of our parents shrugged—you can’t change the world. Just keep your head down.
But midway through that astonishing century, heads starting popping up like a giant game of whack-a-mole. The civil rights movement. The student movement. The women’s movement. The gay movement. My head was spinning.
Bad stuff just kept on happening, though. Women sometimes got decent jobs but it was hard to take the crap that came with them. Lower pay, less respect, fewer promotions. Gays were still sneaking around, creating organizations but sending everything in a plain brown wrapper. African-Americans faced a wall of smarmy hate.
Good things happened, too. Slowly. Half-assedly.
And it built. And then came the 21st century. If my head was spinning in the 20th, it almost unscrewed itself in the 21st.
We have terrible and impossible-seeming battles to fight now. Enemies who creep around our cities planning mass murder. As always, the worst of us have many excuses. Reasons.
But the best of us no longer do. We can just stick our heads up through those mole-holes proclaiming our causes, no excuse not to. The idiots are still around, sneering in unison, but we have so much now that we didn’t have before. If the world makes it through the 21st century with clean water, breathable air, and something better than feudal-style income inequality, it’s going to be a great ride.
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