When I was young, my father used to tell me stories about growing up in Birmingham. He rode streetcars around town by himself at a young age. (That was typical for kids then.) And he would tell me stories about his early jobs working as an usher for movie theaters downtown.
The best theaters in town were on Third Avenue North. Today, the Alabama Theatre and the Lyric Theatre — seen in this 1955 photo — are wonderfully restored and regularly used for concerts and movies. I’m pretty sure my father worked at both of them in the late 1940s.
He never told me that the years of his youth in Birmingham were “the good old days,” but he was clearly nostalgic for them. He enjoyed his experience of growing up in a bustling and active city, living around a vibrant downtown.
I hear a lot of people longing for the days of their past in similar ways, but many of them take it much further. They openly long for “the good old days.” They believe that the days gone by were great. They believe the America of their memory was great.
This nostalgia — combined with a fear of constant rapid change — makes some of them eager to to return to the past they imagine. To these people, “Make America Great Again” is an emotional call to a past which they imagine was idyllic.