Preface a statement in a debate with, “Time was…” and you lose me — immediately. Why? Because “time was” usually comes before a comment that has little or no bearing on the present. Consider these “time was-es:”
- Time was when UGA coeds could not wear pants on campus. In fact, I was in the last freshman class (1968-69) to live under these restrictions. We had to wear rain coats — preferably London Fog rain coats — over our P.E. uniforms. And P.E. was required. If you wanted relief from the winds that whipped around North Campus, you had to wear tights and boots. And neither of those fashion accessories were in style — yet. So we just froze our buns off.
- Time was when we never locked our doors except at night. And in the thick of summer’s heat, we only latched the screen door after the sun set.
- Time was when women were seldom doctors, lawyers, judges, scientists, school administrators, bank presidents, CEO’s, or elected officials. Women were either secretaries, nurses, school teachers, or housewives.
- Time was when young women could not go to college on athletic scholarships.
- Time was when little girls didn’t play organized recreational sports.
- Time was when folks told their sons and daughters to keep family secrets to themselves, even though the secrets imprisoned the victims and released the perpetrators.
- Time was when spouses beat spouses and no one thought anything about it.
- Time was when parents beat their children and no one thought anything about it.
- Time was when African-Americans were tortured and lynched because…well, just because.
- Time was when women couldn’t pray in church or even worship at the same time men did.
- Time was when some Southern judges had one Bible on which white folks placed their hand and swore to “tell the truth, the whole truth, so help me God,” and another Bible for African-Americans to use.
- Time was when Old Testament law instructed the children of Israel to take their disobedient, impudent offspring to the gates of the city and stone them to death.
- Time was when the interior courtyard of Harris County High School was reserved for the male students who wanted to smoke cigarettes during recess. Female students were out of luck.
- Time was when I could buy a Coca-Cola for a nickel.
And on and on.
“Time was” doesn’t matter because the phrase is inherently false. Time is. And time is yet to be.
And when we attempt to justify the sins of today by the rules of the past, we lose the debate. What we did or had or believed when “time was” has little or no bearing on now.
Because you see, the rules have changed and the “time was” game is over. It’s today.
And time is what we have…now.