I Was Six in 1975
Tuesday was my birthday and turned 41 years old. Now that I’m on the cusp of middle age, it made me nostalgic. I started to think about the Seventies, specifically the year 1975 when Jerry Brown became governor of California. I was six years old in 1975. We had just immigrated to this country from England. I had a perfect English accent and quickly had it beaten out of me in our apartment complex in Philly. I threw a rock through a neighbor’s window, got a hockey stick from the guy down the street who drove the Zamboni at the Spectrum and was fascinated by this new invention, the color tv. I also liked army men and ate a hamburger for the first time. That’s about all I can remember.
As I moved through school, I studied the Seventies. I learned about Gerald Ford, about whom there was not much to learn; Nixon, who did a lot of mean things and had an interesting nose; and Jimmy Carter, who now is the closest thing to a saint we have in this country but had some difficulties “messaging” as President.
What was it like in California in 1975? Not being from California, my earliest impressions of the state were formed by “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” and “Valley Girl”. Those movies came our out in the Eighties when I was in my teens. For me, 1975 is like 1965 or 1955 with the only difference being I wasn’t alive in the Sixties or Fifties.
Given the fact that we have two generations of voters in this state – Generation X, and Generation Y - who are of voting age, it’s fascinating to me how much time our two candidates for governor are spending talking about the Seventies.
Things have changed. We are a majority minority state. Two issues that were damn near taboo in the Seventies – Same Sex marriage and Pot Legalization – are front and center in our current political debates. If you had asked someone about global warming in the Seventies, they would have either given you a blank state or asked whether it was the result of a nuclear holocaust. If you had bet anyone in the Seventies that a black man would become President of the United States, they would owe you a lot of inflation adjusted money right now.
I came to California in the Nineties. And when I got here, in the midst of the dot-com lunacy, I taught in a school in the Mission in San Francisco where all the students were poor. I had come from teaching in a school in Boston where all the students were poor but the resources available for those students were much better. I taught and lived around poverty in a place where new wealth was created at a rapid pace. People I knew became paper millionaires and spent like real millionaires. The vast contrast between rich and poor was similar to what I had seen in India and I found it appalling.
I still find it appalling. I am now a Californian. I was married here; my children were born here and I am a California voter. I see our schools; I see our kids who need so much better than what they’re getting and I want our candidates to talk about them and today. I want them to talk about how they will fulfill the aspirations of those children and their parents and create a public school system and university system that is the envy of our nation. Because, quite frankly, neither nostalgia or attack ads about a time that is a distant memory, provides the hope for the future I need.
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