Editor’s note…This is a guest post from Simone’s daughter, Dina
About a year ago, my mother and I were discussing things that had gotten better or worse in our lifetimes. This developed into a blog post about practical matters like service, medical care, and email. Recently we visited this topic again and looked at things that had gotten better or worse in the larger social and economic plane. Again we realized that in some areas we make progress; in others we lose ground, and in still others, we progress only to slide back.
Worse The issue of income disparity and the erosion of the middle class is an area where things have gotten worse in our lifetimes. Both the blue-collar and white-collar middle class have suffered loss of jobs and loss of job security. The middle-class dream of working hard, buying a house, taking vacations, and sending your kids to college is harder to attain today. Many jobs have been out-sourced overseas; unions have lost much of their power; housing and college have become much more expensive. At the same time, the famous one-percent controls a much larger proportion of the nation’s wealth than ever before. In economic opportunity, we have slid back.
Better We thought about women’s rights. Women have made huge strides. In my mother’s day, the only way to leave your parent’s home was to get married. Women did not simply go out and get an apartment and a job, which is more normal today.
Most women did not go to college and worked very often as secretaries, usually stopping after marriage. Generally their only choice if they did have a college degree was to be a teacher. Today, more women than men go to college. The law, medical and business schools are full of women. While still facing limitations at the highest levels, women have career opportunities that their mothers and grandmothers could not have imagined.
When I was a child if you went to the doctor the doctor was a man and the nurse was a woman. Today, very often, the doctor is a woman and, in a turn that has liberated men as well as women, the nurse is often a man.
The development of the birth control pill in the late 1960’s went far to liberate women and allow them to take control of their own lives. Today women tend to get married and have children later, and are free to use their early adulthood for education and to start their careers if they wish.
Better, then Worse In 1973, women gained the right to a legal and safe abortion. While abortion is a personal matter, the point really is to give women a choice. In this area we have slid back, as individual states have enacted many restrictions on the right to get an abortion. Today it is harder to get an abortion than it was in 1973.
Better Then we thought about gay rights where there has been enormous progress in our lifetimes. For a long time, homosexuality was not a topic that many heterosexuals were comfortable with or even understood. Gay people did not dare let their orientation be known; they risked losing their jobs or being attacked in the street. Same-sex marriage was allowed by certain jurisdictions only in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first state to legalize same-sex marriages and all the rights that come with them.
Gradually at first and then very rapidly, our society’s attitudes changed and opened.
And then, in June 2015, the Supreme Court made gay marriage the law of the land – a huge leap forward.
An advance we never thought we would see – Obama
A regression we never thought we would see – Trump