These are not the best of times In America. Our country is in tatters. It feels like the greatest experiment in Democracy the world has ever seen is dying a slow and ugly death. Perhaps it cannot be helped because great societies flare and flame, but their soaring flight has always been fleeting.

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Lee Pitts is an independent columnist for The Atascadero News and Paso Robles Press; you can email them at

Sadly, great societies are never born again.


But let it be remembered that there was once a time when we could grow our own food, make our own clothes, cars, and tools; when the words “Made in USA” meant something. During the throes of World War II, when over 291,557 American soldiers died on foreign killing fields, five million American civilian women were helping to produce two-thirds of all the Allie’s tanks, planes, ships, and armaments. We won the war because we suffocated the Nazis and Japanese with a barrage of production, the likes of which the world had never seen before or since.

Now we can’t even produce our own baby formula.

There was a time in this country when kids could walk to school safely, or parents could drop them off without having to worry that they might be massacred by a deranged classmate that day.

Believe it or not, there was a time when we could live without cell phones, there were no robocalls, you could get a cup of coffee for a dime, and refills were free. When criminals went to jail, socialism was disavowed, comedians could be funny without being filthy, and you didn’t go into debt to go to college but got a job instead. There was a time that when you went to work, you worked, and you didn’t talk on the phone while getting paid. When kids did not sit indoors all day texting imaginary friends on the Internet and playing video games, most of which involved shooting things.

There was a time in this country when grandma or grandpa got old and needed help we didn’t warehouse them, but they came to live with us. We knew that climate changed, but we didn’t shut down our economy to “fix” it. There was a time when there were two sexes, males and females. Sure, we’ve always had our share of loafers, deadbeats, oddballs, tramps, and misfits, but for Heaven’s sake, we didn’t elect them to Congress.

There was a time when we said the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school and ALWAYS stood for the national anthem. We left our backdoors unlocked, and a middle class family could live off one income, even if it was driving a truck, owning a small business or being a cowboy. Kids weren’t “gravitationally challenged” because they played baseball in the street all day, dug in the dirt or climbed trees. We were allowed to have heroes. Admittedly, we were a melting pot and that pot sometimes boiled over. Sure, bigots lived amongst us but never forget that 360,222 Union soldiers, 94 percent of them white, paid the ultimate price and died violent deaths so that black people could have their inalienable right to live free.

There was a time when immigrants came here LEGALLY by the boatloads. They worked and studied hard, learned our language, and took a test to become citizens, and on that day, as they stood with their fellow new American citizens and took the oath, they often cried and said it was the greatest day of their life.

There was a time when we read books by Twain, Steinbeck, Shakespeare and Emily Dickinson. I wonder, how many Tweets or Facebook posts will be remembered or quoted 50 years from now. Where will our inspiration, sense of adventure or knowledge come from, Instagram? Remember when we listened and sang along to songs with melodies, notes and soaring choruses instead of rapper’s hate-filled speech and F-bombs?

There was a time when whole families uprooted themselves in the dust and depths of The Depression, loaded up the old jalopy with four bald tires and headed out across the country with little else but hope for a better future. Where did all that faith and hope go?

Yes, there was a time when we thought our country was at least headed in the right direction. We weren’t always perfect but we were proud to be this once noble, hardworking and creative creature called… “AN AMERICAN.”