Archive for Thursday, February 25, 2010

Hot’ topics

February 25, 2010

Everyone knows that there are a lot of “hot button” topics today. There are some issues that most of us would just as soon not discuss because the outcome might be an angry tirade. I wonder if “hot button” issues can ever be discussed calmly and logically?

My guess is that 50 or 100 years from now, these issues will have been relegated to just a few words in a discussion of life in the early decades of the 21st century. Angry issues 75 or 100 years ago now seem a bit trivial.

Take, for example, prohibition. Now this was one of the “taboo” topics for nearly a century in Kansas. The state was one of the first to prohibit the sale of liquor and one of the last to let go of the restrictions. In 1880, Kansans voted “dry” or to prohibit the sale of alcohol, setting off a century long firestorm which wasn’t finished until the 1980s. Churches, women’s organizations and others were angry supporters of prohibition and quite simply didn’t want a calm, logical discussion of the issue.

Those of us who lived through part of the era certainly remember that any use of alcohol was adamantly opposed. Never mind the fact that every hamlet had its bootlegger who was able to supply liquor. There is no doubt that the system promoted crime because prohibition didn’t have tremendous support from the masses. That became evident during the 1920s when there was national prohibition. The Depression, concern with organized crime and national apathy led to repeal in 1933, however that didn’t change attitudes in Kansas. The state’s image wasn’t enhanced by Carrie Nation who led armed attacks on saloons.

Now, prohibition simply isn’t a topic. National prohibition was called a “noble experiment” and one that failed miserably. The public accepts the sale of liquor and its use in moderation. There is also strong support of stricter drunk driving laws keeping drunks off the highways.

Another issue which was angrily discussed in the early decades of the 20th century was women’s suffrage. While it seems a bit hard to believe, there were actually those who thought women simply didn’t have the intellectual capacity or the interest in politics to vote. Now, it wasn’t only men who opposed the female voter, many women had concerns about voting. I read a news story about a speaker at a women’s gathering who asked: “why would any woman want to vote? Leave that to the men and we will take care of the home.” A number of traditional women’s groups had concerns about women’s suffrage.

Well, that has changed, too. No one questions whether women, or other groups, should vote. We rightly regard voting as both a privilege and duty of citizenship. In fact, the entire idea of limiting anyone’s voting rights seems laughable now.

Sunday “blue laws” was another topic which caused great anger and division for much of the previous century. When we lived in Missouri in the late 1970s, most stores had to be closed on Sundays. Earlier in the century, activities other than those conducted by the church were prohibited on Sunday. Even urbane New York didn’t allow baseball on Sunday afternoons. Maybe the issue of Sunday activities was best portrayed in the movie “Chariots of Fire.” It was certainly a good example of attitudes at that time.

Again, that has changed and we have learned that people can go to church on Sunday and still have time for recreation.

Maybe most of the changes have come about because of moderation and the fact that we now believe in the judgment and common sense of most folks. Anyway, those were taboo topics in years past and any discussion could result in an angry fight. Now, no one really pays much attention to these topics. I wonder if that will be the case in the future with the angry issues of today.


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