One of the soldiers out here has a word a day calendar, and recently the word was nostalgia or nostalgic. The calendar went with the definition “homesickness” even though I am much more familiar with the word when used to describe someone looking on the past as better than the present or reminiscing about the good old days (okay, so I’m not so good at defining things). As a result, we had a few soldiers trying to use the word in a sentence meaning one thing while the XO and I were interpreting them according to the second definition.
While they may have wanted to say that they were feeling homesick, some of the older soldiers also tend to express a sense of nostalgia for the old Army, back when privates still respected their sergeants, etc. I realize that the Army has recently dropped its standards to meet recruitment goals, and rushes people through training. I mean, I was worried about passing BOLC II because of all the physical aspects, but it’s not like they wanted to fail people (or did for that matter; all 300+ LTs that went at the same time I did passed, no matter how many times they had to go to the range or land nav course). Yet, I am skeptical about the idea of the good old days. I don’t believe that history is progressive by any means; (if anything I’d be much more likely to say that history is cyclic, and there are always actions and reactions or backlashes – a liberal time is followed by a more restrictive period which is followed by another liberal era etc, etc.) just because time advances doesn’t mean that things are going to get better or more tolerant. Despite that, I still dislike the idea of looking back on the past and wishing things to be like that again. Just look at the ‘50s, for example: some people like to look back on the ‘50s as a time of good values, strong family ties and good work ethics, and these ideas are helped along by the popular culture of the time, such as the sitcoms that are shown on Nick at Nite and other classic television channels (even some people who don’t want to return to the ‘50s have this idyllic view of the period). They forget about the other things: the need to fight for Civil Rights, McCarthyism, women’s roles, etc. Actually one of the things that really stood out in The Feminine Mystique was Friedan's comment that the teen pregnancy rate was the highest it had ever been, and these were stats based on the wholesome ‘50s. It seems like people make that argument every decade, but it's just particularly ironic that the decade everyone looks on as so strong in family values would have the same issues as now, when according to some, family values are under attack or deteriorating.
Anyway, my point is that it’s hard to look at something and say it is better or worse now than before. I remember my dad always used to say that if he had been in the ‘90s Army when he first joined, he probably wouldn’t have made it because he was a bit of a trouble maker – as far as he was concerned, the standards had increased. Maybe they have gotten lower since then but no matter when or what the profession, there’s always going to be someone that isn’t as respectful as expected, or disappoints their leaders/mentors/teachers after they’ve placed their hope in them. No sense in getting nostalgic about it.