Millions of people all over America find their teeth grinding in the night and their stomachs churning with shock and disgust as they awaken to the reality of the sad transformation the “cultural revolution” of the 1960s (Radical Feminism, Liberalism, Political Correctness, “Free Love” and the consequent abandonment of responsibility and destruction of the family, etc.) has wrought upon our once-great nation over the last 40 some years. If you were searching the Internet on anything that brought you to a link called How The 1960s Ruined America, and you felt compelled to click on it, chances are, you already know exactly what I mean by the title of this essay. So I won’t rehash here what’s been said many times and more eloquently elsewhere. You already “get it.” It’s time to talk about solutions. It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get busy renewing America.
But before we can begin talking realistically about renewal, there is one critical point concerning our present state of decline as a People and a Nation that I would like to make, one that I don’t think is being sufficiently emphasized in the public discourse on this topic:
It has become popular these days to challenge the patriotism of anyone who uses a term like “once-great” to describe the United States of America (as I did in the opening paragraph of this essay). “How dare you…” people grumble, and then go on about how you’re not supporting the troops or some other such nonsense that shows they not only didn’t hear anything you said, they’re not the least bit interested in opening their ears or mind to any opinion but their own. I call that sort of reaction Blind Patriotism, as opposed to Visionary Patriotism, and I’ll have a lot more to say about the distinction between the two ways of loving one’s country in future essays. But for now, I will simply point out that I consider the root delusion driving Blind Patriotism in our times (there are several, but this is the most important, to my mind) to be a core confusion as to what America actually is. Blind Patriots, on the Left and the Right of the political spectrum, universally confuse America with the politics and policies of the Federal Government. So, in their minds, if you disagree with the policies of the present administration, you must be a traitor…
America is not the Federal Government. It’s not the President or the Congress, not the political parties, the entrenched bureaucracies, or even the mayor or local school board. AMERICA IS THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, the average guy or gal like you and me, multiplied by our millions, busting our tails every day to do right by our kids and our consciences, and all of those government bureaucrats, whether they like to admit it or not, work for us. And a lot of them are doing a lousy job of it, too – in part because they, like the Blind Patriots, believe that they are America, and so are not only not accountable to We The People, they are somehow Divinely entitled to boss us around… I’ll have a lot more to say on this subject in future blog entries, as well.
But the America The Government VS America The People distinction matters for this essay because I want make clear that when I talk in the next section about The Better Days Books Mission to Renew America I am not talking about changing the government. The Constitutional system of Government handed down to us by the Founding Fathers is far and away the finest such system ever devised by the mind of man. American Government as designed by Thomas Jefferson and Co. is not causing the decay within our culture. Rather, our nation is coming apart at the seams because, since the “cultural revolution” of the 1960s, We The People have betrayed the Founders’ ideals – or stood passively by while other did so – on just about every front. We have abandoned all of the common morals and Traditions that once defined the American character and vouchsafed the quality and cohesion of our society. And as a result, we have devolved over the last 40+ years from a nation of self-reliant, responsible citizens working together to build strong families, mutually-supportive communities and an America seen by the whole world as “…a shining city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere” into a self-serving, amoral mass of low-functioning, TV-and-Prozac-addicted, government-dependent mewling kittens, biting and scratching one another for the opportunity to suckle first at the swollen teat of the “Nanny State…”
Present company excluded, of course. The fact that I am writing this essay and you are reading it puts us both in the small but important camp of people working to become the solution rather than the problem. But this is the reality of the challenge we face. To effect real change, we have to start where we are, which requires us to accept the situation in 21st Century America as it actually is.
My favorite Better Days Books release so far is You Can Be a Great American! 39 Steps to True and Lasting Greatness, by W. F. Markwick and W. A. Smith. Originally published in 1900, You Can Be a Great American! is a manual, actually used in public schools at the time, for training children in the meaning and importance of such classic, All-American virtues as Obedience, Honesty, Ambition, Self-Control, Courtesy, Self-Denial, Conscientiousness, Humility, Faithfulness and even Patriotism. The long list of core values that most Americans agreed were indispensible to a free and civil society in 1900, as outlined in You Can Be a Great American!, is both comprehensive and, by modern standards, quite remarkable. What is even more remarkable (in a sad way) is recognizing that the each and every one of these All-American virtues, the most fundamental traits of character that decent folks like you and me still acknowledge as definitive of that very word – character– were systematically and very effectively attacked and subverted, one by one, by the Baby Boom purveyors of the Leftist, Hippie-Yippie, socialist “movements” of the 1960s. The Hippies won the “culture war” of that and subsequent decades, and our present American society in ruins is the natural long-term consequence of that victory.
Look around as the 21st Century dawns on America: Parents and teachers cowering before the tantrums of incorrigible kids (and their lawyers), “situational ethics” being taught in our schools, “slackerhood” elevated to a “lifestyle,” rudeness, self-indulgence, “me first!” selfishness and criminal irresponsibility redefined as “being yourself,” lifetime dependence on parents and government considered normal, the institutionalization (especially in our public schools) of the narcissistic cult of unearned “self-esteem,” lack of adult commitment to anything beyond cynically berating one’s country while pushing to the front of the handout line…We The People, in 2008, have become a frightening fun-house mirror caricature of the “Ideal Citizen” described in Markwick’s book. The average American today, behaving as we do, would probably have been jailed as a dangerous lunatic or pervert in 19th Century America. You couldn’t have gotten away with any of this stuff in the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s, and even well into the 1950s, when, for every Beatnik Alan Ginsberg or Jack Kerouac planting seeds of the insurrection to come, there were literally millions of traditional American families who set their moral compasses by the values affirmed from the Sunday pulpit, in the Boy Scout Law, and on hugely popular TV shows like “Father Knows Best.”
And then the 1960’s ruined America. More accurately – and this is the critical distinction that must be made if we hope to find real solutions that lead to lasting change – the countercultural left wing social movements of the 1960s, expanding and evolving over the course of the 1970’s, ’80s and ’90’s, very successfully undermined every core value that once defined the very fine and good and strong individual and collective character of We The People. To renew America, it is not our government that must change – We The People must be transformed. We must wage a new “cultural revolution” committed to the rediscovery, restoration and enduring preservation of the Traditional American values (especially self-reliance and personal accountability) that undergirded American society for most of our first two centuries, before the “Boomer Blowout” of the 1960s turned everything on its head.
Lest you think from what I’ve written so far that I am just some wily politician spouting generalities, I want to introduce you now to the “brass tacks” of what I, personally, am doing to renew We The People (starting, of course, with myself), and how I hope my work can be of service to you in your own quest to build a more satisfying, self-reliant lifestyle, a more secure and value-centered family, and an all-around better America.
Better Days Books is a publishing company I started in 2007, an idea born at the crossroads of two important “personal awakenings.” The first was thinking my way through to the reality of how the “cultural revolution” of the 1960s ruined America, as described above. I consider that process, and the disturbing conclusions to which it brought me, my “dark awakening.” The second insight, my “light awakening,” came when I began carrying out deep research into the history of the United States of America, not just our nation’s political record, but the personal histories of ordinary citizens, in the cities and on farms, in government and business, in professional positions and the ranks of unskilled labor, and in the once-all-important occupation of mother and homemaker, a much-denigrated job nowadays, that just a few generations ago was considered the most significant profession in the land. I collected and studied a treasure trove of long out of print antiquarian books, mostly published between the late 18th and the early 20th Centuries, written by or about the real pioneers who sweated and sacrificed to make this country great, the true Americans who built our “shining city upon a hill” brick by brick with their own hands and hearts and labors and lives. In those volumes, I discovered that the values so recently stolen from us by the Hippies and their 1960s cultural legacy – all the Traditional virtues, skills and customs required for living the All-American, self-reliant, healthy and wholesome “good life” – are alive and well and waiting to be resurrected and renewed in the inspiring preserved writings of past generations. Bolstered by a clear vision of who We The People were for the first two centuries of our American journey, I stopped worrying that my yearning for long-lost “better days” made me some kind of anachronistic “freak.” It was the Hippies and their unreasoned desire to destroy the foundations supporting our American right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness that were truly freakish. All anyone needed to awaken to that reality, to cast the long shadow of the Leftist “cultural revolution” of the 1960s out of their lives, and to renew themselves, their families, their communities and nation in the image and spirit of our pioneering ancestors was access to this same great legacy of books I had gathered in the course of my own studies. But most of the books that had so transformed my life were long out of print and, in their original editions, difficult to locate and expensive to acquire…
So I started Better Days Books. One by one, with my own hands and heart and labor and life, I am bringing the life-changing testament and treasure of the great American writings that changed my life back into print, so that you can quickly and affordably build your own library and begin for yourself, your family, your community and for America, your own personal process of transformation. My greatest hope for Better Days Books is that it will enable me to provide caring, decent folk like you and me with the essential tools we need to remake ourselves in the proud image of our ancestors and, together, to reclaim the future of this great nation.
Let the “new cultural revolution” begin!
Better Days Books is a one man operation, and even though it reflects my deepest personal passion and sense of mission in life, it is, at this moment, an activity which I can only give the “spare time” I have left over after attending to my 40 hour day job and my full and satisfying family life. So, in order to make the greatest contribution in the time available for pursuing this mission, I have narrowed my publishing focus to books relating to four areas I believe are key to the successful revitalization of America:
Since the days of the Founding Fathers, American boyhood has been honored as a vital training ground of manly vigor and wholesomeness – a time for building character through honest industry and competitive sports, through camping and forestry, through learning the ways of Indians and wildlife. All of the great men of pre-Sixties American history grew up before the passive poisons of TV, video games and the Internet brought boys indoors and chained them into slavery before the shifting dream images of “virtual reality.” If America is to have any future at all, boys today must be led to “unplug” and reconnect physically with the great outdoors and with their own natural inner strength, pursuing the path of wilderness and wildness within every boy that alone can lead him to true greatness in his adult years. The Better Days Books series of Growing up Great Guides for American Boys (and the Parents and Teachers Who Love Them) offers a wide assortment of classic manuals for boys and for their parents, devoted to morals and ethics, games, sports, camping and woodcraft, building skills, science and nature, civics and more – the essentials for creating the kind of wholesome, dynamic boyhood on which the achievements of all great men are constructed.
In 21st Century America, the vast majority of adults are completely dependent on corporations and government for the maintenance of every aspect of their daily existence. If the nationwide network of retail stores, gas stations, electric and water utilities, etc. ever shut down, even briefly, there would be chaos. Few Americans have any idea how to grow their own food or grind their own wheat (or how to cook with the flour produced, for that matter). Fewer still would have the foggiest notion of how to store fresh foods (without electricity) so that they keep overnight, let alone through the winter, or how to make their own candles, soap or clothing. Fiber arts, knitting, sewing, cooking, gardening, caring for livestock, building with hand tools – these are all lost arts in our so-called “information age.” But no American who lacks the skills necessary to live fully and well without the “blessing” of Big Business or Big Government can ever be truly free. Only the self-reliant organic gardener is free to say “no” to prepackaged grocery store offerings of genetically modified foods grown and preserved in a bath of poisonous chemicals. Only the man who knows how to dig a well drinks clean water when the tap runs dry. Only the skilled “campfire cook” eats well when the power is out. This is a very important area, and several series of Better Days Books are dedicated to the preservation and renewal of Traditional Skills, including the Better Days Books Origiganic Gardening Guides. (What does “origiganic” mean? Click here to find out!)
In 21st Century stores, Christmas Trees are renamed “Family Trees.” In schools, Christmas break is now “Winter Break,” Halloween and Thanksgiving are combined into “Fall festival,” and holidays celebrating our rich American heritage – Independence Day, President’s Day, Memorial day, Veteran’s Day – are simply ignored. Manger scenes are banned from the public square. In Missouri, Republican Governor Matt Blunt made headlines in 2007 when he announced that State Workers would not be punished if they chose during the Yuletide season to greet one another or the public with the words “Merry Christmas” – an executive order that was newsworthy only because of the crazed anti-religious environment that made such a proclamation necessary. Our Traditional American holidays have been under such successful assault for such a long time that, even when we try to defend them in our own homes, we struggle to gain our children’s attention long enough to share with them the true, deeper meanings of our most-beloved celebrations. With little more than our own childhood memories to guide us, we find our voices drowned out by the incessant commercial roar of TV, radio and Internet advertising, and shouted over by the Politically-Correct sloganeering of public school teachers and administrators… But none of that was true before the 1960s. Lots of richly instructive and inspiring books about our treasured holidays were published in the 18th, 19th and early 20th Centuries. The history and meaning of every holiday, whether religious, cultural or patriotic, was even taught (and openly celebrated) in schools as an indispensible prerequisite for understanding our shared heritage as a People, for becoming grounded, successful citizens and all-around happy individuals, and for sharing common community and identity with one another as Americans. The Better Days Books series Our American Holidays brings the best of these educational and inspiring works back into print as essential resources for everyone seeking a firm, historical foundation on which to take a stand for American Tradition in our homes and communities.
Quality education is a vital element of individual opportunity and happiness, as well as of community and national success. No child can hope to fulfill his or her full inborn potential and grow up to be a productive, creative and free-thinking citizen of a democracy like ours without first gaining real proficiency in the “Three R’s” – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic – to which I would also add Science, History, Civics and Ethics. But our public school system, the government bureaucracy to which we have foolishly delegated responsibility for teaching our young, is a dismal failure and an embarrassment to our nation before the world. Where the “Three R’s” are addressed at all in 21st Century American schools, they have too often been warped into uselessness by social engineering experiments like the now thoroughly debunked “Everyday Math” (Google those three words – “Debunking Everyday Math” – and you’ll see what I mean). The US Department of Education reports that “only 32% of graduating high school students qualify to attend four year colleges” and, “13 percent of all 17-year-olds in the United States can be considered functionally illiterate, while functional illiteracy among minority youth may run as high as 40 percent.” American parents appalled by this shameful state of affairs have but two realistic choices – to send their kids to expensive private schools, or to take their children’s quality education into their own capable hands and homeschool. Better Days Books provides the homeschool parent with a wide variety of classic educational texts, including Readers that illustrate morals, civility and personal responsibility in the stories they use to teach reading, History texts that tell the real story of our Nation, free of the ’60s-born anti-American bias of modern “Social Studies,” and “how to” books for parents describing time-tested methods for successfully educating children in a wide range of subjects.
You can purchase Better Days Books titles in quality hardbound, affordable paperback and super-economic e-book download formats, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at www.BetterDaysBooks.com. In future blog entries, I will announce the release of new titles as they become available, post book excerpts that I think you may find interesting, and, of course, wax eloquent on the subjects promised earlier in this essay – and many more that come to mind in the course of carrying out this great work in service to the renewal of America! Please join me! Subscribe now!
Samuel F. W. Alger, Publisher
Better Days Books