Are Things Really Worse Now?

There’s a comment I’ve been hearing often lately from my friends and family — “Things are worse now than they’ve ever been in this country.” That comment got me thinking. Are things really worse now than they’ve ever been in the U.S.? Are we really living through the most violent, depressed, challenging era in America’s history or are these issues — terrorism, police killings, racial division, etc — simply the issues that will define this time period?

It’s a difficult question to answer because it requires subjective analysis. Who can say that the race riots of the 1960’s were worse than the recent murders of young black men at the hands of the police or the targeted killings of police officers in major American cities? I think what is instructive is to take a quick look, from a historical perspective, at some of the crises, controversies and challenges that have occurred over the past 100 or so years in the United States.

In the 1900’s, President William McKinley was assassinated, thousands died in an earthquake in San Francisco and a hurricane in Galveston, Texas and half of children in this country lived in poverty (

In the 1910’s, America spent two years fighting World War I and more than 116,000 Americans died in the war. Also, it is estimated that 28% of Americans were infected during the Great Flu Pandemic of 1918 and approximately 675,000 Americans died during the Pandemic (

In the 1920’s, America sank into the Great Depression. Fifteen million non-farmers were out of work. That was a staggering 1/3 of the workforce (The George Washington University). Suicides were rampant and it took years for the country to dig out of the mess. The 1930’s saw more of the same.

In the 1940’s America entered World War II, where more than than 405,000 soldiers died.

In the 1950’s, segregation reigned and Cold War fears of a nuclear holocaust grew.

In the 1960’s, the country blew up over civil rights while Americans watched a president, his brother and two African-American leaders perish in assassinations. There were race riots in the streets of major American cities and more than 58,000 young men and women who died in Vietnam. The nation also watched as the possible apocalypse played out during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The 1970’s were grim. Watergate dominated the news and the oil crisis severely damaged the economy. A number of Americans were held hostage in Iran. Plus, Americans had to deal with disco.

In the 1980’s, the Iran-Contra scandal fueled the news cycle, the country dealt with a recession and there were American soldiers targeted around the globe.

In the 1990’s, America fought the First Gulf War and the World Trade Center was attacked while President Bill Clinton had a dalliance with an intern that turned the political and cultural worlds upside down.

In the 2000’s, terrorism confronted America head on and led us into more than decade of wars where more than 7,000 soldiers died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then, in the latter part of the decade America sank into the Great Recession, wiping out vast amounts of wealth.

And consider that during the first 6 decades of this century minority groups were systematically discriminated against subtly and overtly, facing injury, death and fear for their lives on a persistent basis. They were segregated and dehumanized.

For much of the century, women fought — and continue to fight — for equal pay and equal rights. And for a portion of the 20th century, women could not vote.

And remember this — Social Security didn’t exist until the 1930’s and Medicare and Medicaid until the 1960’s. In the early part of the 20th century, children toiled in factories often in substandard working conditions. There were also few regulations to make sure the health and well-being of workers were being watched out for.

What does it all mean? To me, it means that things happen. They always have throughout the history of mankind and they always will. That’s not to minimize the struggle and pain and suffering that exists today. It’s bad. It’s horrifying to watch police officers being hunted on their streets and to watch innocent men and women being killed or seriously injured because of the color of their skin. Those things are upsetting and they should upset us. They are a call to action for all of us to either make our voices heard in our communities to demand change or to quietly and firmly resolve to teach our children how to live differently so their world can be a bit better.

I believe that the litany of events above should help us to realize that we’ve always dealt with problems. We’ve always had to handle death, mistreatment, tragedy and disasters. And you know what? We’ve always managed to overcome them. Always. We’ve struggled and we’ve survived as individuals and as a collective. And we will continue to.

(Photo credit: Julian Carvajal via Interior Design / CC BY)


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About Happiest Daddy

Two boys, one wife and a ton of material. I live for family and I'm one of the most blessed people you will ever meet.

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