Jubilee in Hard Times

Yesterday, crowds of people gathered to catch a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II standing on a balcony at Buckingham Palace as she celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. Sixty years is a long time to remain in public service (and the public eye) even if the benefits are quite good. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder what all the excitement was about. And then I heard a reporter on the BBC speculate that in this age of “texts and tweets” people are longing for connection. When we look back over the last 60 years, we are reminded of simpler times. We struggle to understand where we’ve come from and where we are going.

Both the U.S. and the U.K. are experiencing an 8.2% unemployment rate. We no longer hear the same optimistic predictions about economic growth as we did at the beginning of the year. Many Americans are wondering how the state of the economy will affect the outcome of the elections. While Obama talks about the growing income divide and the shrinking middle class, Romney says he wants to make America a “merit nation” rather than an entitlement society.

The same BBC radio show also mentioned the hard times the world experienced in 1935, the year that King George V celebrated his Silver Jubilee. At that time, war clouds were gathering in Europe and the U.S. was still suffering under the weight of the Great Depression. Mitt Romney has said that America’s current focus on income inequality is “about envy” and “class warfare.” In his day, albeit from a place of privilege, King George V said he grieved “to think of the numbers of my people who are still without work. We owe to them, and not least to those who are suffering from any form of disablement, all the sympathy and help that we can give.” The King told the children listening to his Silver Jubilee address that “when the time comes, be ready and proud to give your country the service of your work, your mind and your heart.”

That same year, President Roosevelt signed the U.S. Social Security Act that would provide unemployment compensation and pensions for the elderly. The Emergency Relief Appropriations Act was also passed, creating millions of jobs under the Works Progress Administration, and the first public housing project was launched in New York. Ironically, 1935 was also the year that Parker Brothers released a new board game called “Monopoly.”

When we look back on 2012, in addition to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Presidential elections, what else will we remember? Here’s a little inspiration: in spite of the difficulties endured by many in 1935, Benny Goodman managed to develop “Swing” and the world learned to boogie.

(The photos above were collected from the public domain).

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About HomenDunRoamin

Teaching Artist & Writer: fiction, poetry & nonfiction. Recently completed work: a hybrid memoir. In progress: a novel set in an unnamed Latin American country on the brink of war. The book examines violent and nonviolent resistance and the choices women are forced to make to survive.
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