Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
Published: Monday, Sep. 15, 2014 – 12:00 am

Those entering old age – psychologically, not necessarily chronologically – often embrace rose-tinted nostalgia, a yearning for times past when, they believe, life was better.

Jerry Brown, at 76 California’s oldest-ever governor and seeking a fourth term, revealed that tendency in an interview with Bloomberg News as he recounted his efforts to establish a military-oriented charter school as mayor of Oakland.

“I wanted discipline,” he told reporter Michael Marois. “I wanted the Army in the classroom, uniforms, marching, yes sir. I wanted to re-create the Catholic school of the 1950s. When I went to school at St. Ignatius High School, Eisenhower was president and Pius XII was the pope and we had a Republican, Elmer Robinson, as the mayor of San Francisco. This was a world that worked and it worked well.”

Say what?

It may have worked well for the pampered son of a prominent political family whose father, Pat Brown, was attorney general and soon to become governor.

But it didn’t work well for black Americans suffering the indignities and violence of segregation in the American South, for their cousins under apartheid in South Africa, for the hundreds of millions under repressive communist regimes in Asia and Eastern Europe, for low-caste Indians or for peons in Mexico.

It didn’t work well for gay and lesbian Americans who were jailed for their sexual orientations, for women in abusive marriages or who sought birth control or for migrant farmworkers in California.

How about Pope Pius XII, whom Brown sees as part of that better world? His Holy See included World War II, and while he certainly was not a Nazi sympathizer, scholars are still debating why he maintained a public silence as Adolf Hitler’s regime systematically murdered 6 million Jews.

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