What will this new decade bring?

A new decade…will this be the “Roaring 20’s” of the second millennium?  Only time will tell.

Any knowledge I have of the previous 20’s is from history classes, television, movies and reading for entertainment and/or enlightenment. Prohibition, organized crime, speakeasies, flappers, Women’s Suffrage, Elliot Ness, John Dillinger, Ma Barker and Al Capone are a few of the things/people who come to mind. I have read that St. Paul and Minneapolis were actively engaged in many of of the illegal activities of the time. Saint Mudd: A Novel of Gangsters and Saints by Steve Thayer is an entertaining fiction read and John Dillinger Slept Here by Paul MacCabee is a fascinating non-fiction book. Both authors are from and live in the Twin Cities area. If you have never taken the Saint Paul Gangster Tour offered by the Wabasha Street Caves, I highly recommend it.

Because of my original question, I did a little Google research*:

    • Following WWI, America experienced a massive economic boom bringing an increased demand for American goods and rapid industrial growth.
    • The Roaring Twenties of the last century had a “surging” economy which created an era of mass consumerism, as Jazz-Age flappers flouted Prohibition laws and the Harlem Renaissance redefined arts and culture.
    • The Roaring Twenties got their name from the exuberant, freewheeling popular culture that defined the decade.
    • The Economic Boom of the 1920s was attributed to the Republican government’s policies of Isolationism and Protectionism, the Mellon Plan, the Assembly line and the mass production of consumer goods such as the Ford Model T Automobile and luxury labor saving devices and access to easy credit on installment plans
    • The Roaring Twenties kicked off with two significant amendments to the U.S. Constitution. It was the only year since the passage of the Bill of Rights that the Constitution was amended twice: The 18th Amendment –  Prohibition (which prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” not the consumption of it!) and the 19th Amendment – Women’s Suffrage. 

Minnesota – or at least one Minnesotan – holds a significant place in prohibition history. Andrew John Volstead (October 31, 1860 – January 20, 1947) was a member of the United States House of Representatives from Minnesota, 1903–1923, and a member of the Republican Party and Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. His name is closely associated with the National Prohibition Act of 1919, usually called the Volstead Act. Which was enacted on January 16, 1920.

One historian labeled the Roaring 20’s of the last century a “cultural Civil War” between city-dwellers and small-town residents, Protestants and Catholics, blacks and whites, “New Women” and advocates of old-fashioned family values.

Is any of this sounding at all familiar to what we know is happening at the beginning of 2020? Where will it lead?

Many other noteworthy events took place in the United States and around the world during that decade a century ago. The economic growth led by the post-war industry made this period famous for science, arts, and social history, as well as, laid the path for other significant events to follow. Here are some things that caught my eye; some causing a smile, others causing a cringe:

    • Adolph Hitler became leader of the Nazi Party – 1921
    • Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister of Italy – 1922
    • Warren G. Harding’s administration was involved in The Teapot Dome Scandal – 1922
    • Time Magazine was founded – 1923
    • The National Origins Act set immigration quotas that excluded some people (Eastern Europeans and Asians) in favor of others (Northern Europeans and people from Great Britain, for example) – 1924
    • Ford Motor Company made the 10millionth Model T -1924 [You could buy one for $260]
    • Millions of radios were in use all over the United States with over 500 broadcast stations – 1924
    • The first Olympic Winter Games took place in Chamonix and Haute-Savoie – 1924
    • J. Edgar Hoover was appointed the first director of the F.B.I. – 1924
    • F. Scott Fitzgerald published The Great Gatsby – 1925
    • The epic, silent movie, Ben-Hur grossed $5,500,000 – 1925
    • Henry Ford announced the 40-hour work week – 1926
    • Hirohito became the emperor of Japan – 1926
    • Gertrude Ederle swam the English Channel – 1926
    • Route 66 was established across the United States – 1926
    • A.A. Milne published, Winnie-the-Pooh – 1926
    • 100 million phonograph records were sold -1927
    • Charles Lindbergh flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean – 1927
    • Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs to set a single-season record – 1927  [that would not be broken until Roger Maris in 1961]
    • The Jazz Singer was the first full-length motion picture with sound – 1927
    • Walt Disney released Steamboat Willie – 1928
    • Otto Frederick Rohwedder created pre-sliced bread – 1928
    • Walter Diemer created bubble gum – 1928
    • The first Oxford English Dictionary was published – 1928
    • Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin – 1928
    • Richard Byrd and Floyd Bennett flew over the South Pole – 1929
    • The first Academy Awards program debuted – 1929
    • The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre occurred in Chicago – 1929
    • And, last but certainly not least, the Roaring Twenties came to a dramatic end with the crash of the stock market – 1929 Prosperity had ended. This marked the beginning of the Great Depression that defined most of the 1930s social and economic history.

So why am I writing this? How does this relate to the hourglass, my metaphor for change? What began with a question, proceeded to curiosity, gave way to some inquiry, and has ended with a sense of dis-ease. Could we, indeed, be re-visiting a period in history from which we have not learned the lessons offered?

Change is the only constant. And things are going to be different, not better or worse necessarily, just different. Our first impulse in the face of overwhelming change is often fear and effort to resist and try to stop it from happening. Best to get passed that first impulse as quickly as possible. My favorite definition of FEAR is False Expectations Appearing Real.

Fear keeps us from being open and moving forward – it does not prevent us from experiencing narrow spots – it only makes the passage more challenging. The secret is not to fight the passage, but to gracefully accept “what is” and embrace the passage with a patient, courageous reconciliation with reality. What realities do we – individually and communally – need to face at this auspicious time?

How would it be if we could transform our fear into energy influencing the inevitable changes of life? What cultural narrow spots lie ahead, requiring a mindful response? I have no powers of prediction or super-power to foresee the future. Are we sticking our heads in the sand and pretending nothing is happening? I sincerely hope not. The only certainty is that change will happen. How we respond, and the attitude we bring with that response, is within our control. Courageous reconciliation with reality; asking and living the questions; creating pearls of resilience from the irritation in our sand; and moving forward. Only time will tell.

*A few of the sources