The Long View

S. T. Joshi

Let’s step back a bit.

At a time when we are constantly bombarded with information (true, false, biased, or fabricated), it can be difficult to take note of broader social and cultural developments that have radically changed the simple act of living in the United States at this moment in history—and, in my view, changed it for the better. Having recently entered the ranks of sexagenarians, I have found myself reflecting on how different things are now from that remote period—the summer of 1963—when, as a wide-eyed five-year-old immigrant from India, I attempted to take stock of the country, halfway across the globe from my native land, where my parents had brought me.

The civil rights movement of the 1960s, set against the grim backdrop of the Vietnam War, was painful and bloody, but it did achieve significant gains in the fairer treatment of persons of color and other previously scorned minorities. And an entire treatise could be written on the strides women have made in social, political, and legal equality. One only has to look at any film or television show of fifty or sixty years ago to see how a bland and unthinking misogyny was deeply rooted in the culture as a whole and pop culture in particular. An episode of Bewitched from 1970 featured little Tabitha Stephens complaining about a puppet show in which Punch repeatedly beat Judy with a stick—whereupon her mother Samantha immediately branded her a “women’s libber”! The upshot of the episode was not that Punch should give up his violent abuse of his wife; apparently the best we can hope for is that Punch hits Judy a little less hard with that stick.

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