A new year, as well as a new decade is upon us. The numeral alone symbolizes multiple anachronistic themes. 2020 is seemingly a number out of science fiction that signifies some far-off futuristic time period with flying cars and colonies on other planets. It also brings with it a sense of nostalgia, a sense of the past. The “roaring twenties” have returned with jazz parties and a swingin’ sense of style. 2020 is the past and the future all twisted together right here in the present.
While we haven’t gotten flying cars or off-planet colonies just yet, the electronic age is in full swing. There are cellular phones where actual voice calling is probably the least used feature, other contraptions that you need only speak to for them to perform many different tasks, and communication to every country around the globe is possible in multiple ways. A vast amount of information is at most people’s fingertips and can be found in mere seconds. All these things seemed impossible not that long ago, but the swiftness in which technology has evolved and continues evolving is staggering. Technological advances during the 1920s were a main feature of that decade as well, but there are some more frightening ways in which our present is like the 20s of the 20th century. That era saw increased restrictions on immigration, politicians who used slogans such as “America first,” a decline in labor unions, and increased consumerism and corporate control. Today we see harsh restrictions on immigration and refugees, slogans like “make America great again,” and union busting on a national scale with increased corporate power.
Women gained the right to vote in America in 1920 but there was still a host of restrictions and discriminations that continued to work against them. Women could participate in “appropriate” professional fields but could legally be fired if they were pregnant. There were restrictions placed on what was appropriate for women to wear at work as well as in public spaces, and these are only a couple of examples. Today women are still struggling for paid maternity leave and reproductive health coverage. They are still criticized on how they dress in public and sources from the White House have indicated that the president instructed female staff need to “dress like women.” The trend of women in the 1920s gaining minor advancements yet still struggling for full equity continues with increased female representation in many spheres but with the battle for basic bodily rights and general respect ongoing and becoming more urgent every day.
Racism and other forms of bigotry were rampant during the 1920s with the Ku Klux Klan having an estimated 6 million members. There were lynchings, race riots, a rise in anti-Semitism, and a trend towards the belief in eugenics. Segregation was still prominent and zoning rules dictated where non-white families could purchase homes. In entertainment, the jazz craze was gaining popularity and dance halls were a main attraction for youths of all races. Jazz was a musical genre created by African Americans and mostly played by African Americans, yet the dance halls were segregated, and the music itself was eventually co-opted by whites. America today has seen racism, anti-Semitism, and hate crimes rise again to startling heights. While we now have laws against race discrimination, there is a strong movement of white nationalism. While there are hate crime laws now protecting people from certain forms of abuse, anti-Semitic attacks and the murder of trans men and women have seen an uptick across the country. Hateful ideologies which were once out in the open eventually simmered, although never disappearing fully, eventually became outlawed and outdated. But now the hate that was driven underground is once again out in the open. The KKK and other neo-Nazi organizations are openly holding rallies and recruitments, swastikas are graffitied in public places, anti-LGBTQ laws are surfacing in our state and federal governments, and laws to control female bodies are sweeping the nation.
Religious conservatism is another area where our present is emulating the past with its ideologies seeping into our laws and government in alarming ways. Religious conservatism reared its head throughout the 1920s fueling the drive towards prohibition and denouncing science. An important example of this is the famous Scopes trial in Tennessee in 1925 with the banning of evolution from being taught in schools. John T. Scopes was put on trial for teaching it anyway despite the law and was eventually found guilty. The details and basis for this trial no longer seem like distant history. An Ohio bill that prohibits penalizing children who answer scientific questions incorrectly if those answers align with religious beliefs has passed in their state House of Representatives. Indiana is currently attempting to pass legislation that requires schools to place “In God We Trust” in every classroom at the school’s expense. Dominant religious doctrine is infiltrating our public lives in numerous other ways with strong political backing and widespread public support.
Living in a future that in many ways is emulating an America of 100 years ago is exceedingly distressing. But there were forces like John T. Scopes, the numerous suffragists, W.E.B. Du Bois and all the contributors to the Harlem Renaissance and anti-segregationists, the pioneers of the “Pansy” and “Sapphic” crazes that celebrated the LGBTQ community of the time that all created, danced, educated, and defied their oppressors. They dared to live their truths freely which made the roaring twenties a joyous time despite the terrible challenges many people were facing. The roaring twenties of today also has many inspiring individuals and communities who are striving to make this world a more accepting place for all of us. There are leaders among us refusing to give in to intolerance, religious oppression, and hate of all kinds. We belong to one such community. The Satanic Temple is filled with like-minded individuals who value and respect the adversary of unchecked authority. We will continue to defy oppression and seek justice. We will continue to dance, create, educate, pursue knowledge, and defend our freedoms. Welcome to the new Roaring Twenties. Happy New Year and Hail Satan!