“Remembrance of things past is not necessarily the remembrance of things as they were.” Marcel Proust, French novelist
We once had a neighbor whose father served as a doctor in the Civil War. Yes, the Civil War. She was in her 90’s when we met. Her father remarried after his first wife’s death, had a daughter in his late 60’s and voila, we had the odd opportunity to hang out with a woman who had a direct tie to a war that had come and gone more than 130 years ago.
This wasn’t our only brush with eras long past. We grew up with plenty of relatives, teachers and neighbors who had first-hand knowledge of victory gardens and battles we know only from Ken Burns’ documentaries. We came of age during the massive cultural swings of the late 1900s. Now, our daughters are in the thick of Gen Z, growing up in a world that Civil War doctor couldn’t even have imagined.
Watching the news or certain strains of You Tube, it’s tempting to think that everything about our daughters’ world is worse. The violence, the division, the utter confusion. But, although it’s undeniable that America is less God-conscious than it was even a couple of decades ago, there are a few things that have gotten better.
This was brought home to me twice this weekend. First, we watched a Disney movie from the 1960s. It was one of those madcap movies starring Dean Jones and a multitude of dogs. It was worth watching just for the scenes of dog-caused mayhem, but it was an eye opener about how the good old days weren’t always that good.
The most glaring example was the interaction of the otherwise-white cast with two “Chinese” caterers. The two Asian men were portrayed as buffoons. Unable to tell the difference between a great Dane and a lion, unable to interact with wealthy suburbanites as anything but polite and humble “servants,” unable to recognize the contempt with which white people regarded the more exotic examples of their cuisine.
With that fresh in mind, I was not surprised to read of actress Molly Ringwald’s mixed feelings about The Breakfast Club and other movies she filmed in the 1980’s. Upon re-watching that movie with her daughter smack in the middle of the #metoo movement, Ringwald wrote in The New Yorker that she was uncomfortable at some of the interactions between her character “Claire,” the high school sweetheart, and the bad-boy character who eventually won Claire’s heart. What flew in the 1980s, both on and off set, cannot be erased, but is no longer acceptable, she wrote.
It’s true. Our neighbor’s world, our parents’ world, our world and our childrens’ world are all different — sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse.
Perhaps the only thing that has not changed is God, whom scripture promises is the same yesterday, today and forever. Armed with that assurance, I can look at my daughters’ world and have hope. There is something redeeming in a generation that is determined to tolerate, to love. Can the master of redemption work with that? He can and, if the past is any indication, there is no doubt that He will.