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2/23/2005
THE WAY WE WERE
CATEGORY: History

Twenty-five years is a long time in someone’s life. I realize that many who read this aren’t yet 25 years old or are too young to remember 25 years ago.

But I remember. I was there. I lived it.

I was very much alive when the United States Olympic Hockey Team defied bigger odds than any other sports team in history to defeat the Soviet Union in the semi-finals of the Olympic Hockey tournament 25 years ago yesterday.

As a sports story, the victory would have been big enough. Anyone who’s seen the excellent re-enactment of the game in the movie Miracle knows of the grit and pluck exhibited by a bunch of college kids against the mighty hockey machine that was the old Soviet Union. The Soviets had won the last four Olympic Golds and were unbeaten in 15 years of international competition.

But this was much, much more than a sports story. And for that, we have to examine what kind of country the United States was in 1980 before the Olympic Hockey Team captured our imaginations.

It seems unbelievable looking back on it. The entire nation was held hostage by a group of religious fanatics in Iran who had kidnapped American State Department personnel and were holding them in violation of all tenets of international law and tradition and all norms of civilized behavoir. And while we were supported in a half-hearted way by most of the rest of the world, it seemed that the United States was an impotent giant, a laughable Gulliver being held down by the lillipution-like Iranian Mullahs.

Jimmy Carter was President. Last week, I was taken to task by some who thought I was too rough on Mr. Carter on the occasion of the Navy naming an attack sub after him. If anything, I let the guy off too easily.

It wasn’t the way Mr. Carter handled the hostage crisis. I actually thought that he did about as well with it as any President could. It’s the fact that the hostage crisis with Iran was symbolic of what Mr. Carter had done to the United States of America in less than 4 years of his incompetent, bumbling, sanctimonious, and extraordinarily dangerous presidency.

Carter came to office following the Viet Nam war and the Watergate scandal that resulted in Nixon’s disgrace. Inflation was high-almost 5%-and unemployment was rising. The policies that Carter initiated with the help of the largest Democratic majority in Congress since the time of FDR proved absolutely and totally disasterous. Inflation skyrocketed as did interest rates. And unemployment rose steadily until it reached above 6%, near post-depression highs.

If you haven’t lived through a period of double digit inflation its hard to explain what it was like. Imagine every time you went to the grocery store, the food you buy all the time-milk, cheese, hamburger, fruit-went up in price. And not just a little. Sometimes, hamburger would go up 10 or 15 cents a pound in a week. Sometimes fruit would be unavailable because the store owner knew that nobody would pay the retail price that had doubled in a week.

Imagine watching the money in your savings account (this is before mutual funds and other financial instruments we take for granted today were in widespread use) lose 10% of its value every year!. As a young person, you realize it’s stupid to save money because in a few years, it wouldn’t be worth anything.

Imagine trying to buy a house…with interest rates at nearly 20%! Credit card interest rates topped 35% on unpaid balances. You couldn’t buy a house, or furniture, or a car, or anything else that required interest of any kind without realizing that the value of your money was shrinking almost daily.

When the moonbats try to tell you that the economy we live in now is the worst since the great depression, those of us of a certain age laugh in derision. Either they have selective memories or weren’t alive during the late 1970’s.

Then there was the spiritual decline of America under Carter. I’m not talking about a fall off in religiosity but rather a feeling that, as a nation, we’d reached our peak. That from here on out the United States would be in decline. This feeling was enhanced by the seeming unstoppable march of Communism that Carter allowed to occur on his watch. The list of countries is astonishing; Somalia, Yemen, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia all fell into communist dictatorships either because Carter refused to act or, as he did in Nicaragua, actively worked to bring a communist dictatorship to power.

This feeling of helplessness was fed by Carter himself who, in April of 1978, gave what is considered the strangest Presidential speech in history where he blamed the American people for the problems he was too incompetent to solve. Leftists the world over picked up on this loss of faith in America and the west. From the so-called “Council of Rome” whose experts predicted the world would run out of oil by 1995 to the “Zero Population” movement that predicted mass starvation in the 1980’s on the Indian subcontinent and China because of overpopulation, moonbattery was in full bloom-and all at the expense of America.

The final straw occured in December of 1979 when, after telling us for four years that we Americans had an “inordinate fear of Communism,” the Russians invaded Afghanistan. Americans watched in horror as the Soviets began butchering the Afghan people while Carters tepid response told a sad tale of American decline.

This was the background on February 22, 1980 when the US Olympic Hockey Team took to the ice. And when those American kids beat the Soviets, the entire country erputed into a spasm of joy that, looking back on today, still brings tears to my eyes.

Curiously, the victory didn’t rub off on Carter. By the time election day rolled around, the hostages had been held a year and other Carter blunders had sealed the fate of this, the most incompetent President in a hundred years.

That election featured the landslide victory of Ronald Reagan. And the rest, as they say, is history.

UPDATE: MORE NOSTALGIA

Pat over at Brainsters weighs in with his thoughts.

I don’t know whether the event was historic in the sense that it changed the world, but the Miracle on Ice is something of a dividing line in my life. I was still a bitter and angry young leftist when the USA hockey team took to their skates that night in Lake Placid; by the time they celebrated I was cheering “USA, USA!” It wasn’t the end of my personal cynicism, but it was a major crack in the wall.

Hard to imagine one of the Founders of one of the most influential election blogs- Kerryhaterss- a “bitter and angry young leftist.” Is it any harder to imagine someone who runs a site known as Rightwing Nuthouse being in a similar frame of mind?

By: Rick Moran at 10:07 am
6 Responses to “THE WAY WE WERE”
  1. 1
    Pat Curley Said:
    11:02 am 

    This was the post I had in mind when I wrote mine–great summation of the times and the significance of the victory.

  2. 2
    Cold Spring Shops Trackbacked With:
    1:07 am 

    DO YOU BELIEVE IN MIRACLES?
    On Lake Placid ice, the embattled skaters swirled/And fired the shot heard round the world.

  3. 3
    El Cid Said:
    1:13 am 

    I was there and lived this as well. This event as well as the horrid Carter experience helped form me as a solid Reaganiite. In retrospect what a mistake all of that was and what a tradgedy of lies the last 25 years has been. Sure the economy is better, our poer in the world in solidified but I doubt we are really better. Our problems are those of an empire now and our society, culture and government are changed accordingly.

  4. 4
    Margo Demers Said:
    10:31 am 

    I remember. I had just graduated from high school. I too, believe that this was the beginning of the conservative seed growing within me; although it took many years after to blossom.
    The Miracle On Ice and September 11th are two moments where love of and pride in my country became prominent in my life.

  5. 5
    The Zero Boss Trackbacked With:
    10:10 am 

    Bonfire of the Vanities No. 87: The Dead Poets Society Edition
    Welcome to yet another edition of the Bonfire of the Vanities. This is my second Bonfire, which must mean I have some level of respect and trust from Kevin. Like the man said: what use is political capital if you don’t spend it? Given the inordinate p…

  6. 6
    clonazepam Trackbacked With:
    2:26 pm 

    clonazepam

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