The Song remains the Same

01-05-2020Fr. John LettersFr. John Bonavitacola

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the Roaring Twenties, or so we hope. Of course, the 1920's didn't end well so let's hope the 2020's don't end with a big crash on a Black Tuesday. Right now we are possibly set to imitate the economic prosperity of the 1920's: between 1920 and 29 the nation's total wealth more than doubled and we are presently witnessing a booming economy and the Dow setting records again and again.

Back then, the extra money in people's pockets helped usher in a consumer driven economy. One of the big factors that made the 1920's roar was the introduction of the automobile. In 1924, a Ford Model T would set you back a whopping $240! Of course, along with the car came the Service Station, where a polite attendant would come out and pump your gas, clean your windshield and ask if you wanted your oil checked. As 2020 approaches on most new cars the first oil change is at 10,000 miles and filling up your tank is a rather solitary experience! The car also helped birth the Motel which allowed people to slowly discover the country outside their previous reach so you could "get your kicks on Route 66"!

One of the downsides of the economic boom of the 1920's was the birth of mass culture with the advent of the chain store as well as mass production of goods. Remember A&P Supermarkets or Woolworth's. That started the homogenization of our culture where wherever you go you see the same stores, the same restaurants and the same architecture. All that slowly put the family-run business out of business and created the boring rinse and repeat culture we occupy.

The 1920's also gave us the 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. At the same time the diaphragm became widely available along with the Washing Machine and Vacuum Cleaner that gave women less babies and less housework so they could be freed up to---- work! Prior to that the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed making it illegal to manufacture and sell alcohol but not illegal to drink it. Then on 12 A.M. on January 16, 1920, the federal Volstead Act closed every tavern, bar and saloon in the United States. From then on, it was illegal to sell any "intoxication beverages" with more than 0.5% alcohol. Of course, all that gave rise to bootleggers, racketeering and organized crime. And if you lived in Chicago, you would have known the name of Al Capone. Here we are 100 years later still dealing with the ill effects of alcohol plus legal cannabis and the latest iteration of Organized Crime, the Drug Cartels.

The '20's also saw large migration of blacks from the South to the Northern cities and they brought with them Jazz and Blues and an increase in the visibility of black culture. That was aided by the production of the phonograph record and new Radio Stations that blared the music into your car or home. The Charleston, the cake walk and the flea hop along with flappers created a dance craze that would morph into do-op and later hip-hop. Today we have another large migration from the North to the Southwest of everybody, bringing blue state ways to red states creating purple states.

There was lots of tension between countryside dwellers and city slickers as the cities expanded and so did the culture that came with the expansion. As we enter the 20's again we see a similar tension with "flyover country" and the coastal areas of our country. The 1920's also saw the passage of the National Origins Act of 1924, which set immigration quotas that excluded some people (Eastern Europeans and Asians) in favor of others (Northern Europeans and people from Great Britain, for example). The impetus behind this was the anti-communist "Red Scare". So here we are at the threshold of the 2020's still debating immigration and Russian influence.

One popular song in 1926 entitled Masculine Women, Feminine Men tried to use humor to gain acceptance of homosexuality. Some of the lyrics might very well apply to today's push for acceptance of transgender persons:

Masculine women, Feminine men
Which is the rooster, which is the hen?
It's hard to tell 'em apart today! And, say!
Sister is busy learning to shave,
Brother just loves his permanent wave,
It's hard to tell 'em apart today! Hey, hey!
Girls were girls and boys were boys when I was a tot,
Now we don't know who is who, or even what's what!
Knickers and trousers, baggy and wide,
Nobody knows who's walking inside,
Those masculine women and feminine men!

As much as things change, a lot remains the same. Still one thing for sure: Jesus Christ remains the same, yesterday, today and forever. May He be praised in 2020! Happy 2020!

Love, Fr. John B.

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