The Greatest Decade
The greatest decade of the twentieth century is this week’s topic. 1900 to 1999. Let’s see. The 90’s had okay clothes. Music, though Grunge is not my thing. It did have some good Techno, though, and you can sort of date me musically to the 90’s based on how much Nine Inch Nails and Frontline Assembly shows up in my playlist. Got to see my first total solar eclipse in the 90’s, too. On a ship. In the Caribbean. The three plus minutes of totality were worth having gone into debt for. I got married in the 90’s. Graduated from college, too.
If you look at the radio station I favor and look at the music I buy these days, you’ll find that I’m a throwback to New Wave and to the dance music (not disco – oh GODS – not disco, that crap’s way too slow) of the 80’s. I spent a lot of time in under 21 dance clubs (no alcohol, no real meat market, fewer fights, stabbings, shootings). The fashionable – which I was not and have never been – had insanely big hair and clothes that were more accessory than clothing. Teenage anthem movies were big. (Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Flashdance, Footloose . . .) It was a huge political decade. We saw the end of the Soviet Union. The Berlin Wall came down. In the Pacific Northwest, Mount St. Helens came down as ash all over the state.
The 70’s? Great decade despite the clothes, the music and the hair. Thank the gods I was a child and therefore not subject to the fashions of the day. I still have shame over some of the bell bottom jeans I wore as a kid. Man, some of those things doubled as split skirts. What I liked about the 70’s was that Nixon ended the Vietnam war – before getting his butt impeached. This mattered. Dad was in the Air Force and got stationed to Vietnam. Ended up not going because THE day he was to report to his transport, he came down with mono. Flight surgeon grounded him. Thus, I still have a father. We ended up stationed in Iceland during the 70’s. My sister and I got to see things few other people ever get to see: Blue whales migrating past the rocks we were standing on. A volcano erupting (from a distance). Geysers – up close. The slash through Iceland that is the mid-Atlantic Rift pulling the two sections of the island apart. It was an amazing experience. The rest of the decade, after we returned to the US, was full of things like Girl Scout camps, strep throat and ear infections. Sometimes, all three things at once.
Ah, but the 60’s. THIS is the one I think takes the title of Greatest Decade. Yeah, yeah. Stupid clothes. Stupid hair. But hope and optimism? Available in spades. Along with enough people all questioning the status quo at the same time that great changes in social policy followed. Granted, I’m a little annoyed that a bunch of the people who participated in all of that activism seem bound and determined to undo it all now – but that’s another post for another time. I’d rather focus on the power of the masses to effect great change in a country when the people are galvanized by any number of causes. Civil rights were won – not that racism died – but a meaningful start to recognizing humans as humans regardless of skin color at least got underway. Above all things, I think the 60’s were the greatest decade because of the power of a single event to spur a generation of kids just barely old enough to remember sitting in front of their tiny black and white TV sets while dressed in footy pajamas, watching the first men step onto the moon. Had you been there and asked any of us who watched that with our own eyes what we wanted to be when we grew up, we’d have all given you the same answer: Astronaut. A bunch of us buckled down in science and math because we understood that’s what NASA wanted – our teachers made sure we knew. I harbored the astronaut fantasy right up to the point that the Air Force Academy recruiter told me that asthma disqualified me 100%. None of the militaries would have me. Since I get air sick just thinking about flying, it was probably for the best that no one wanted to entrust me with multimillion dollar equipment.
But the images from when I was 5, feeling the weight of what I was watching, it never quite went away. It’s no mistake that my first published book was about a woman who’s the captain of her own space ship.