Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2011

Issues of past, present­­­­

September 29, 2011

Have you ever wondered what the “hot-button” social issues will be in 50 years? Probably they will be a lot different from today and maybe some will be beyond our imagination. Looking back to the 1950s, certainly many issues that we debated then seem trivial now.

If you remember in the 1950s, we had the McCarthy hearings and we were told that there probably was a Communist hiding in every closet in the United States. We now know that wasn’t the case and a lot of careers were ruined by frivolous charges. Of course the worst social injustice was the treatment of blacks throughout the nation. Simply put, what happened was ridiculous and terribly wrong. I will never understand how people were so cruel. If you want to be reminded of the bad old days, see the movie, “The Help.”

Here in Kansas we had some burning issues that have either been solved or moved to the dusty bid of history. When I was in junior high and high school, there were heated discussions about dancing. Many churches tried to get their young people not to attend school dances. There were even cases where ministers came to school dances and forced members of their congregation to leave. Some groups petitioned school boards to ban dancing. I remember one school said there had to be a distance of one foot between boys and girls when they were dancing.

Of course, the idea was to prevent contact between couples. Well, that didn’t work out very well. They forgot that couples “parked” and discovered other ways to have close contact. Really it is pretty much a dead issue since dancing is now accepted and most churches have taken a much more realistic approach to teenage dating and other social activities.

Another major issue of that time was “blue laws” which prevented activities on Sundays. You have to be at least middle-aged to remember a time when businesses were closed on Sundays. After a number of years debating, businesses were allowed to be open on Sunday afternoons, but had to be closed for evening church services.

A couple of reasons killed Sunday closing laws, including the fact that more women were working and simply needed time to shop. Actually, I think the real reason was economic – retail merchants wanted more selling time. Now, it is hard to find a business that closes on Sundays.

Playing sports on Sunday was a major issue, too. Many cities had ordinances preventing Sunday afternoon baseball. Recently in the 100 years ago column, the Edwardsville correspondent lamented that more people had attended a baseball game than were at a church social. Fortunately, congregations decided to have a variety of worship times and now you can attend church and enjoy an afternoon at the ball park.

Without a doubt the hottest issue 50 years ago was prohibition. Kansas was one of the last bastions of prohibition in the nation. No, Kansas was never really totally “dry” because every small town and big city neighborhood had a bootlegger. Churches and groups like the WCTU battled to keep “Demon Rum” out of Kansas.

In the 1970s, the state became a laughing stock when the attorney general wouldn’t allow the sale of alcohol in airliners flying over the state. Kansas began to loosen its liquor laws and soon came up with a mishmash of rules that no one could understand. Now the state has some sanity in its liquor laws but it took a long time.

I guess that over time issues move toward the middle and I think that will be the case with many of the present-day incendiary issues. Today’s issues will be solved just as in the past. Still, I wonder about what will worry folks in 2061.

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