Photo by Evgeniya Litovchenko on Unsplash

The Roaring 20s vs. the Opening 80s.

My TMs club, the Dawn Busters, was planning on a grand celebration in late Apr. for its 50th Anniversary. Yes, 50 years. The preparation started in Jan.. From dining menus, table design, advertise, to ticket sales, each step took tremendous time and work. Then came along the Covid-19. Everything skidded to a halt. However, as hinted by the name, the Dawn Busters, we will bust the darn confinement one way or another. On May 15, we had a zoom celebration. Instead of the original theme “the Golden Age”, we went with “the Roaring 20s”. Instead of 50 years, we looked to 100 years ago to seek some wild joy.

It totally blew me away. Look what I got in the one hour and half: the Jazz Age, the flappers, Cultural Civil War, the Prohibition, Women voting, Classic novels, and many more. Each single icon on the list leads to some social and cultural landscape that we are still seeing in this country or around the world. A number of female members dressed in flappers despite, glowing through the zoom screens, to honor one of the greatest times in American history that was largely driven by women. The club founder, 87 years or so old, told us the story of how his family smuggled beers from Oklahoma. A league of prominent names was brought up sound and loud, Ernest Hemingway, Luis Armstrong, Charlie Chaplin, the Great Gatsby, and so on.

I was definitely not the only one child in the candy store. But as the only one of first generation immigrate, I run a bit further with some extra excitement. It was caused by the reminiscence of another golden decade in my home country China. It’s on a par with the Roaring 20s in so many ways. Especially when it comes to the profound impact and conflicts to people on the land for generations to come. It’s the Opening 80s of China.

In dawn of 1980s, Chinese people start to peek the world through a door crack. It was after decades of close doors, famine, and the Cultural Revolution. I was still a teenager at that time. Only after years did I realize that so many things in those days ended up cultivating the prosperity of modern China. The overlong flared pants, shoulder-long boy’s hair style, tape player, healing writings, disco dance, and, of course, let’s not forget the notorious One-child policy. Sounds familiar, eh? The Chinese version Prohibition.

I was stoned when I first heard the songs by Teresa Teng the Taiwanese singer. I never knew songs can be more about love and friends than serving the country. She awoke a monster in my body. I tirelessly watched the action movies imported from America and HongKong. I still remember the scene where boys and girls strolled around the street wearing blue jeans and flared pants. They were tailgated by myriads of stares and curses. Gradually, among other youths, I started to see life was not all about serving the country and battling the evil thoughts. Equally important if not more, we needed freedom, individual thoughts, and the rights of saying no to the authority.

Then the Tienanmen Square Incident on Jun 4th, 1989. It has a list of names, incident, riot, killing, revolution, etc. For me it proclaimed the sudden death of the golden 80s. Some doors might remain open after that, business, entertainment, and international trades; some doors, however, slammed shut forever — the free speech, free journalism, free religion, the right of criticizing the government, along with them, the individual value and creativity.

I can’t help but put these two pieces of history together. While Americans are openly celebrating the Roaring 20s, many figures of the Opening 80s can only be discussed in private on that land. Over the 100 years past the Roaring 20s, we saw many walls pulled down on the land of America, like women’s right, racism, and religions. Similarly, the 30 years past the Opening 80s crushed many walls, too, like poverty and cultural scarcity. But I would put them under the byproducts of the economic opening. And I have to admit that by shutting other doors and putting the voices of freedom out of the land, my home country is building a new Great Wall that is probably larger than the Great Wall it built two thousand years ago to resist the invaders from the north.

100 years or 30 years, they may be too short to reflect the human history. But like every single splash in the river, they all have their beautiful colors. I believe one day people on the land will be talking about the Opening 80s with the same rejoice and pride as those on another land talking about the Roaring 20s.

They will be roaring like lions.

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Bond Wang

Bond Wang

Forget injuries, never forget kindness. Hey, I write about life, culture, and daydreams. Hope I open a window for you, as well as for myself.