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Lay off the 1930s

(jordan rice)“Since the 1930s” is the hot new phrase of our time. The banking system is “in a state of peril not seen since the early 1930s.” The housing market is in its worst condition since the 1930s. As President Barack Obama has traveled the country in recent days to promote the bailout plan—which calls for the greatest government involvement in the markets since the 1930s—he has repeatedly reminded Americans that we are in the middle of the largest financial crisis since the 1930s.

With all of these negative comparisons to the 1930s, people are beginning to think that the decade was some sort of disaster. Add reminders about the rise of fascism during the decade, and move over 1860s, the 1930s is now number one on the list of worst decades in American history.

But I say enough of this 1930s bashing. Sure, there was the Great Depression, the outbreak of World War II, the Hindenburg disaster and the Dust Bowl, but let us not forget the charms of the 1930s.

The 30s were banner years for Duke. The Duke Chapel was completed, and prohibition ended, thus making Duke what it is today. Head football coach Wallace Wade’s “Iron Dukes” team of 1938 went undefeated and unscored upon. Unfortunately, unlike free-flowing booze, this success is no longer a fixture of the Duke experience.

The 1930s could be perhaps the greatest decade in the history of film. The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Frankenstein, Dracula, King Kong and All Quiet on the Western Front are all 1930s films. If only we could say the same about the supposedly great films of this decade (that is to you people who do not yet realize that Crash is manipulative and contrived, and anyone who likes any movie with Matt Damon).

Jesse Owens stuck it to Hitler in Berlin in 1936, and the New York Yankees could—for a brief moment in time—legitimately connect the name of their franchise with the word “pride.”

Golf fashion was forever improved by plus fours, Cab Calloway set the standard for vocal performance and the invention of nylon changed women’s and drag queen’s fashion forever.

Despite all these gifts of the 1930s, we today only hear how it compares with the worst of our present situation. The 30s may have had its road bumps, but let us not slander a decade that has few defenders left. After all, the Great Depression in the long run was just the economy feelin’ a little blue.


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