I’ve finished Time and Again, by Jack Finney, and I’d like to share my thoughts. The protagonist, Si Morley, compares the New York (and world) of 1882 to his present day, and in the end he finds 1882 a better time to be alive. He cites the terrible events of the twentieth century: two horrific world wars, the dropping of the atomic bomb, the pollution of our earth.
But Si’s feelings reflect HIS time. In 1970 New York was suffering from years of fiscal irresponsibility and neglect. The Central Park that he loved was unsafe and its beautiful landscape and buildings were in disrepair. The subway cars were ancient and painted with graffiti. Crime, poverty, and racial tension were all around us.
But would one really want to return to 19th century New York? What about the terrible poverty of immigrants on the Lower East Side — the unsafe and unhealthful living conditions, the abuses of workers (especially children), the high infant mortality rate, the virtual re-enslaving of African-Americans, despite Constitutional Amendments, and the limitations placed by society and government upon women?
Visitors to New York who have returned after 30 years are astounded by the changes in the city. The change they cite the most is the friendliness of its citizens. I think that as the overall quality of life here has improved, we are less stressed, less angry, and more proud of our city. We treat one another with greater kindness and respect, and that spirit extends to the way we treat tourists.