The Roaring 20s

Will we see a positive surge this decade ... or are we doomed to repeat the last one?

The 1920s were an exciting time. We called them the “Roaring 20s,” because dammit, they roared I guess. One hundred years later and we’re in the 20s again. That’s progress, isn’t it? It takes you 100 years to get where you’re going and you’re back where you started. It’s rather pathetic. A lot going on right now is pathetic. But I guess that’s how excitement starts. Can you agree?

Whether you believe in climate change or not, the weather is turd salad. Australia lit up like a dry brushfire. California sees this problem yearly now. Drought threatens communities across the world. People cite inefficient water use and poor forest management as leading factors of this. I just say it’s crappy. I’m glad to live in Michigan where the odd cold snap is the worst of our worries, but saying that is a bit apathetic, insensitive.

Coronavirus is spreading faster than brushfire. Optimists are saying it kills only 9% of its victims, but that could still be millions. That’s not optimism, that’s “damage control.” We’ve always been two steps from suffering a worldwide pandemic, and ever since discovering the Mayan calendar ran out, three steps from a zombie apocalypse.

We have a president who has divided this country in very dangerous ways. Gone are the days of Reagan when Americans were divided over whether he was “super great” or just “mostly good.” Many people hate our president. Passionately. They want to see his head on a stake and his testicles in a vice. Other Americans lust over his policies as forlorn lovers in a moonlit meadow. They just want to kiss his perfect, orange face. Most of us, I optimistically and probably mistakenly assume, are somewhere in the middle — either indifferent or leaning one way but without the need for violence.

Things suck. But they don’t suck in an extreme way. But that might change. So how do we compare to 1920?

We’re still getting through and getting over an almost 20-year war in the Middle East. War is terrible. Many died. They will continue to die. But in 1920, people were getting over the Great War, what we now call World War I. Many Americans were lost, but Europe was absolutely devastated. Whole towns were reduced to rubble. In some cities, working age male populations reduced as much as 90%. Yet society not only recovered, it prospered.

Coronavirus is just now picking up speed. It’s getting scary. It’s no longer China’s problem, it is a World Health epidemic. But in 1918 the world was neck deep in the Spanish Flu pandemic. Between 20 million and 50 million people died, including 675,000 Americans. God save us if we reach those numbers.

Many believe our president is racist. Evidence shows Trump shows some disparity toward peoples of color or different ethnic backgrounds. Calling certain developing countries “shitholes” wasn’t a good step. But holy crabs he is nothing like Woodrow Wilson (president 1913-1921). That was a man who regularly supervised segregationist legislature, and even screened the racist propaganda film “Birth of a Nation” (1915) in the White House — a film that glorifies Ku Klux Klan violence toward “unruly” blacks.

In terms of culture, the 1920s were the Jazz Age, and music’s role in pop culture exploded. You might think music mostly sucks now. What is the next Jazz Age? We’re already past the “Dubstep” and “Soundcloud Rapper” eras. What’s next? I’m optimistic. The biggest hit in 1919 was one “After You’ve Gone” by Marion Harris. It’s terrible and she sounds awful. But I guess that’s taste.

Things were terrible following the 1910s. But from that garbage, our culture grew and prospered in exciting ways. So are we entering a new cultural renaissance from all of this gloom and depression? There’s no signs pointing in that direction. Part of the beauty of the Roaring 20s was the prohibition of alcohol. We’ve recently prohibited flavored vapes, as well as cigarettes to minors. Not the same.

My belief? We’re currently in less of a roar, and more of a dull fart.