Sweeper: Societal Nostalgia

Throughout the readings and discussion this week, nostalgia was brought up a few times. Nostalgia was a topic that focused on in my group for part of the debate. However, the analysis always focused on personal nostalgia. But, no one living today was alive anytime near the Middle Ages or even the 19th century. However, “Make America Great Again” only applies if you believe America was ever great. So, what made America great? And when was it great?

I believe that life was not better for anyone back then. It is true that the wealth and rights gap between whites and other races was huge, but even the wealthiest people then could not buy themselves a life expectancy or the items people have today. Therefore, that message resonated because people believed it was better, even though for someone living now to have been alive during the second coming of the KKK, they would have to be just under 100 years old. Thus, it is not personal nostalgia that sold this message; it is societal nostalgia. It is the actions of groups like the Daughters of the Confederacy who, according to Amy S. Kaufman in her article Medievalism and the KKK, “sponsored the very Confederate monuments we’re still fighting about today.”. They also published works defending and even praised the Klan. I believe this distinction is important because it changes how best to address the problem. If someone were merely nostalgic, it is theoretically possible that demonstrating that life was not better then would lead to them accepting that conclusion. However, societal nostalgia is more difficult as a society only began believing it because a specific portion of society found sources and information that they considered credible enough for them to form this opinion. Thus, merely demonstrating that they are wrong is not enough. One must prove that their sources are also wrong, and this is harder as can be seen in the fights to take down Confederate statues.

Therefore, while it might seem a simple technicality, it must be specified that while some might be intentionally overlooking history, others have fallen victim to a society that allows for negative nostalgia to flourish.

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