The fifties are a blank signifier.

The attitudes people have toward the fifties are very odd things.

In the Colbert Report appearance I mentioned earlier, Miller commented that "in the fifties, people trusted science."

Those people in the fifties must have trusted everyone.

I've heard religious leaders talk about the fifties like they were a holy land.
I've heard politicians talk about the fifties like they were the sanctified times of politics, when roads were built, back when the government did good... when they expanded the space race, the arms race, expanded an already failing Social Security system, and when scientists worked for and backed this expansion, when religion was its cheerleader.

The fifties have become the blank signifier (a literature term referring to a symbol that, like a white whale, can mean just about anything) of trust and goodness.

Now we have smog. Now we have nuclear waste. Now we have no post-war excesses. Now we can't oppress blacks and prisoners.

Is it any wonder we're a little more cynical when it comes to all these things, a little less respectful?

Not saying it's fully justified, not saying all our histories may be correct, merely trying to see where we think we have been, so I can know where we think we are going.

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