Recently I took my 12 year old daughter and her best friend out for the day. We went to lunch and I told them about what life was like for me when I was 12. It was 1984. I told them about how we had no internet, no cell phones, and about 4 channels on the t.v. Aghast, horrified, and unable to speak, they asked me, in today’s pre-teen speak, what we “literally, seriously, honestly” did all day long.
I told them that my friends and I would find odd things from around our houses (i.e. paperclips, string, toilet paper rolls) and then we would decorate them and go around and sell them to the neighbors. “Did people actually buy them?” “Yes, for a penny. It made us happy, and that’s what neighbors did. Made each other happy.”
I told them that we would mix together all of the cooking-type food items in our houses and then bake them into strangely-flavored cookies or brownies. Again, we would sell them around the neighborhood. We always came home happy.
We listened to records in our rooms and made up dances to songs or shows that we would perform, again, for our neighbors (For a small fee. We were nothing if not business-oriented gals.) We played in the parks and rode our bikes to each other’s homes.
I suggested to my daughter and her friend that we should have a “1984 Day” at our house. For that day, we are going to spend the day like it is 1984. The girls will wear clothes that cover their entire bodies (even if they are neon colored and made of mesh and include fingerless leather gloves.) The girls can play with their very own, upgraded, imaginations all day long.
Surprisingly, the girls actually love the idea and we are deciding when 1984 Day will take place this summer. They keep texting each other pictures of paper clips and are analyzing which ones people will want to buy.
I’m more excited than anyone. You see, I like the idea that in 1984, we didn’t hear about shootings every day in this country. We didn’t hear daily stories of home-grown violence and terrorism. We studied about racism in school, but it was part of a history course. It wasn’t something we studied in current events. Cops were trusted members of our society. Our greatest fears and enemies were far away on the other side of the world. We weren’t fearful of our neighbors. We trusted all of them. In school, we had fire drills and tornado drills. There were even drills and warnings about the nuclear bombs that other countries might use against us. But we didn’t have drills where we learned to hide from sharp shooters who lived next door to the school.
As I told the girls, we have come so far since I was 12. Electric cars and mobile phones and portable t.v.s and the face-timing were incredible fantasies that no one thought would ever be invented. We are way ahead in medical and scientific fields and in the space race.
But let’s be honest, we haven’t advanced all that much. In fact, we are actually moving backward way faster than we are moving forward. We are back living in the Wild, Wild West where guns are legally allowed in bars and in churches and in movie theatres. When guns are used to kill, people scream that it was their constitutional right to do so. White men in power sit on t.v. and nod that they are correct. We are living in the 1960s in the Deep South. Hatred and racism are the norm, and white people in power continually cover it up. Lawmakers look the other way. We are so far back that we are now in the days of the Bible, when people shout the name of their god to justify violence against people who are not heterosexual Christian white folks.
Maybe all of us here in our country need a 1984 Day. Not just to turn off the electronics or to wear Flashdance sweatshirts with high ponytails or to play outside. We need it to go back in time when we here in the USA felt safe and free. When we trusted our neighbors.
Before we went to war on ourselves.