How "interesting" are current times in the US?

A poster in the SCt Dobbs thread observed that we certainly do live in interesting times.

What is your assessment as to exactly how (fill in your adjective of choice - perilous/tumultuous/troublesome…) the past and future couple of years are? When I look at the 2 recent SCt rulings on guns and abortion, the 1/6 hearings, the trends under Trump, and the possibilities for this year’s and 2024’s elections - things look awfully bleak. (And I haven’t even mentioned global warming, COVID, inflation…). But I do not want to be a chicken little, overstating the current condition.

So what do you think? How “interesting” are current times compared to - say:
-the 60s
-Civil War
-other discrete time periods since our founding?

And what do you suppose the realistic outcomes? Will the current issues just cool off, and we will all get used to a “new normal”? Or will there realistically be some healthy - or unhealthy - response? Will there be election reform such that our institutions begin resembling those in developed 21st century nations? Or will discord and dysfunction increase?

Times are always interesting. Things are always under threat. All in all, the 1930s might have been the most interesting times. That is not to sell the 1960s short.

Still, I have to admit these times seem quite dangerous. One damn thing after another as they say.

1980s to 1990s was relatively calm. Things were looking up overall as the Wall came tumbling down and shortly after the Cold War at last ended. China looked like it was liberalizing. The environmentalist were making progress. Apartheid was pressured out of existence. Of course this is from a US point of view. Reality worldwide wasn’t as rosy.

I don’t see anyway a time could compare to the Civil-War and its leadup. But we might be building up to something as bad, boy I hope not.

I think we are probably on par with the 60’s. But we are no where near the level of disruption of the civil war (yet) which I would say would be the most “interesting” of times in the US.

Good call. There was a lot of unrest, especially with folks trying to stop bigotry and preserve civil rights, but we weren’t literally killing each other on a mass scale. That’s probably a good comparison to now.

Yeah - pretty much what I expected. But essentially in the running for the SECOND most challenging period, just short of freaking civil war?

The Depression/WWII were challenging times, and there was disagreement as to FDR’s policies and isolationism. But from my view of history it is not clear to me that there was such a hard bifurcation among groups of Americans.

The 60s are kind of a depressing comparison, because where is al the peace and love those young folk were fighting for? Instead, they have become the wealthy, selfish retirees of today, demanding all the medical care SOMEONE ELSE is paying for. And what lessons did we learn from Viet Nam? Just makes me dubious that current strifes are a road bump on the continual path towards a better tomorrow. Yeah, civil rights. But today I’m not sure I hear any single topic more than racial unease/injustice.

Your first sentence gave me a double-take, but upon completing this paragraph I see what you meant. No way would I have called the breakup of the USSR or Tiananmen Square anything like “calm”, but those fell under the less-rosy worldwide realities. During that time in the USA, we felt like we were the biggest winners in the entire world.

After 9/11, though, I’d say we came pretty close to 1960s-level “interesting”, and then the 2008 financial crisis moved us close to a 1929-level “interesting”. That said, these comparisons hinge on what made those other times “interesting”.

On that note, I would have to say February 24, 2022, made our times as interesting as the events beginning September 1, 1939. We’re not quite at December 7, 1941, though, and as much as I hope it doesn’t get to that point, we seem to be dangerously close to that.

My impression of the 60’s, having lived through it, is that it is easy now to believe that the Youth were all about anti-war, free love, drugs, back to the land, civil rights, but the reality was that these were often separate from each other, and it was a minority of young people who participated in any one of them. It was mainly the stark contrast between these movements and the staid, aspiring, conforming post- war middle class that made it seem like the whole world was suddenly on fire.

Most of the wealthy selfish retirees, as you describe them, didn’t do any marching at any time, and at best were in it for the sex, drugs and rock and roll.

For some people. But a lot of the issues exploding today were very much simmering (Rodney King and OJ, anyone?), but apart from the flashpoints, were basically ignored otherwise.

I’ve had this half formed notion that a lot of 90’s nostalgia comes from (wait for it) privilege, and I’m not sure if there’s a way to objectively compare eras except in the roughest way (as already pointed out, I’m not denying that the Sixties felt like a more turbulent time than the 90’s.) I guess I’m thinking there’s a difference between it feeling calm/peaceful and the core state of things actually being “good.”

Am I making any sense?

I lived in the former Soviet Union shortly after its collapse. The US feels very similar to that time. I think that we’re collapsing in much the same ways as the USSR.

Economic and technological developments are interesting. Political and cultural trends are stupid.

I’d rather go back in time to 1848 for politics, the 1920s for arts and sports.

So, pre-emancipation?

You think I’d waste all the excitement and hope of 1848 in North America slipping on tobacco cud?

I’m going to be the heretic and not name the Civil War as #1. Not that I’m minimizing the importance of the war or its lasting effects in any way. I just want to raise a point that always seems to get lost because 99% of the history concentrates on the fighting. The North didn’t fight a war. Yes, technically there were two major battles, Antietam in Maryland and Gettysburg in Pennsylvania, but both were counterproductive because Lee’s incursions created hysterics in the North and made a disproportional response inevitable, just like Pearl Harbor.

Just like every succeeding war, the Civil War was fought somewhere else, on alien territory. The North was vastly larger in population than the South, with a wholly different economy and culture. Only by the end was the North fully emotionally involved. By then, strange things happened, for a war. The North grew in population. About a million immigrants arrived in the North during the war, many of them young Irish men who would gladly accept the $300 bounty (about a year’s salary) for taking the place of someone being drafted. No old men and young boys saw service unless they wanted to, unlike the desperate South. And the economy boomed because all the devastation occurred in somewhere far away. See WWI, WWII, and Viet Nam. Other people and other countries paid the price; America prospered.

By contrast, the Depression era was far worse everywhere. It slammed New York City and the tiniest rural hamlets. Every profession was harmed, every class sank, every region of country hurt. There was no place to go that was better. Conditions were indescribably bad; the more one reads about the era the more sickening it becomes. Not to mention that blacks were harmed even more because no white wanted them to get help while a white person needed a job or money.

WWII reversed that by giving the US the greatest economy the world had ever seen, and all the harm took place safely out of sight. I don’t minimize the war as a whole - it may be humanity’s greatest disaster. But Americans again prospered and came out of it on top, better off than the rest of the world combined.

The human toll of wars must always be considered. But the human toll of everything needs to be considered. Far more workers lost their lives to unsafe mines and factories than died in all American wars combined. Far more children died of food-borne illnesses than all American war losses. The Spanish Flu killed more than WWI and WWII combined. Unnecessary deaths are just as important as deaths in war, even though people spread a thousand times as much glory on those.

Are we in interesting times today? Global climate change will be affecting every American sooner rather than later. It is an existential crisis that will outdo the Depression. Everything else, though much of it is extremely urgent, is secondary. How interesting is that?

What do you mean by this statement?

Dunno for sure, but I figure all times seem dramatic and catastrophic while they’re happening, and then most of the stuff that seems massively important in the moment loses salience in retrospect. Honestly, it wouldn’t surprise me if Americans in a hundred years look back on the early 21st century as one of those vaguely boring periods where they’d have a hard time naming a single historical event. (Just as few people today would be able to name any event between Lincoln’s assassination and the Spanish-American War, even though, objectively speaking, those were far more interesting times than we have right now.)

I disagree that everything else is secondary. You need to protect democracy in order to make sure you have a voice in addressing climate change.

While it’s possible there would be incremental progress in energy efficiency due to research, and maybe even some strongarm dictators who reduce carbon emissions as a pet project, if we continue the global trend toward isolationism and illiberality, we will have even less of a chance of cooperation on climate than we did in the previous decades, and that’s even if the anti-democratic movements are not anti-mitigation.

Now, the good news is that elsewhere in the world, anti-democratic movements are less tied to pro-carbon ideology than in America, but that still doesn’t mean that they will work together as well as democracies nor even prioritize global warming as opposed to just focusing on remaining in power.

This thread is explicitly about the US. Maybe you should start a new one if you want people to talk about the whole world instead.

Interesting perspective, but I don’t think I can agree. The South was “enemy territory” once it seceded, but as far as the North was concerned, it was still part of the US, no? Using your thinking, could we say current abortion/race issues don’t affect the nation, because they are more of a problem in red states? And even if the battles were fought in the South, I think a pretty steep number of northerners died. ISTR hearing about draft riots. And after the war, the entire nation - N and S - had to pay to rebuild.

I think the Civil War was the “most interesting” because it came the closest to endangering the existence of our country as we knew it. The Depression? Weren’t things pretty bad worldwide? Was there a threat of the US breaking up/ceasing to exist? A quick Google does not readily reflect vast numbers of increased deaths following the crash.

The argument is even stronger for the US. Notice that I said that elsewhere, authoritarian movements are less anti-mitigation? Whereas the authoritarians here are firm climate “skeptics”. So, even moreso than the rest of the world, a response to climate change depends on preserving democracy.