Back then (from the end of WWII until the mid-1960s), most people felt good about America. Even though there were racism, sexism, war, poverty, oil issues, rape culture, riots, police and military over-stepping, and all the rest of the same issues we're facing today.
Nothing's changed. But everything's changed. Where did our patriotism go? Where did responsible reporting go? Where did ethics in government go? What happened to our ability to believe in one another, stand by one another, to care, to give, to trust, to love? My answer? Technology.
Now, I'm not against technology at all. I often joke that I'd be happy living in a box under a bridge as long as I had internet access. But we do have to admit and accept that the information age has changed us as a culture.
I think it started when Vietnam became bigger than life, not because it was a more brutal war than any other or because it made less sense. Not because it "wasn't our fight" or because so many young people died. It was bigger because it was in our faces. The reality of war came into our homes for the first time, through television. All of a sudden we knew way more than we ever wanted to, and it changed our feelings about war forever.
Politicians have always had secrets. Everybody has secrets. But it used to be that our perception of public servants was that they were actually serving the public. Their secrets weren't visible, and the media reported about their accomplishments and stands on issues rather than on their personal antics. There was an understanding between our government and our media that it was in all our best interests to work together, to make sense of the difficult issues and to be respectful of one another. Political reporting existed to inform voters.
Journalism was a noble calling. It required extra integrity and judgment and responsibility. Writers went to jail rather than compromise their standards. Reporting inspired people to work together, to vote, to care about society. The internet has changed all that.
Now we not only have access to far more information than we ever imagined, we have unlimited sources without the ethical code that journalism traditionally carried. Anybody can write anything about anybody, and millions of people will believe it, because we could always believe what was being reported. Being informed today requires a level of skepticism that would have seemed paranoid a generation ago.
Every public figure's worst moments are instantly sensationalized. Some of them even do it to themselves -- just read a few Trump tweets. So where does that leave the news industry? It shifts it from a noble calling and a public service to a desperate battle for financial success, which in turn prompts attention-grabbing headlines, embellished stories, and graphic images. To stay in business, news agencies now have to appeal to the lowest common denominator, and they have to do it faster than the other guys.
What does Monica Lewinsky have to do with Hillary's qualifications for the presidency? What do the hotels that bought the Trump name have to do with whether he has any qualifications at all? What does a rapist's lack of remorse have to do with sports scholarships? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But news corporations have to make money, and how the public responds to their dramatic spins is our own problem.
Our government no longer has any respect in journalism circles. Ethics have gone by the wayside. The result is that we're not better informed, but are instead more swayed by irresponsible information sharing, more susceptible to the loudest voice no matter how untrue, and more discouraged than ever at the state of our society.