There’s probably not a person around over 60 who has not received one of those emails from a friend listing things to remember about days gone by. What was the name of the Alka-Seltzer boy in the advertisement? What was the Ipana ad jingle? What the real question should be is … were things that much clearer, sharper, much less complicated?
Take education for example. Every student in every school across America learned to write in cursive, read Dick and Jane books, followed math from simple addition to division and percentages up to algebra and geometry in upper grades. We were taught Civics and Social Studies along with the mandatory Gym period. Our path to success was as clear as the yellow safety line painted on the floor of wood shop. Today’s educators across this country are in chaos. Each state believes it has found its own formula for academic success. Education leaders cannot find the yellow line to follow anymore. Teachers do not know the “how to” path to success for their kids. Cursive is out the window. I don’t know the last time a class on citizenship and responsibilities as an American was taught in schools. Try and find a wood shop in high school. It’s probably been converted into a computer lab. Is there a test to be taken for graduation? What exactly is the “it” a student needs to know?
My president when I was younger was respected. The “process” of electing a new president or any political office was competitive of course, but not disrespectful. My president did not go around with his pants around his ankles. I don’t think my president would ever say hateful words against a religious people or an ethnicity just because of the actions of a few. The office of the president is the pinnacle of professional success and a position of great honor and not a room in a house up to the highest bidder.
When the Beatles took New York in the 60s and their songs shot up the charts, the words they used in their songs as well as others were not hateful, disrespectful, cursing, expletives. Nor years later, and analyzed many times played backward, slowed down or sped up, were there satanic messages or drug messages in them — and I don’t care who says there was, it was not meant to be taken that way.
The idea, years ago, of a person walking into a store and shooting people was abhorrent and would only be the action of a completely deranged person and not an able-bodied American. Nobody’s religious beliefs were so off-center to allow, as a community, a person to grow up amongst the people of that community, unnoticed, and allow him or her to lash out at people for some “radicalized” belief.
I am by no means saying, that we were better off yesterday than we are today. Too many good things have been discovered, life made easier for many, our planet safer than it was in years past. It’s just that in some ways we have lost the kindness, the respectful, honorable way of doing things with and to each other. That we have diminished the offices of the powerful to cliché’s of the way it used to be when we at least believed that those we put in charge really cared for us. As a kid my family had a doctor, Dr Jankowski, who would come to our house with his little black bag and cure our illness. Today doctors work for the insurance companies, not by choice of course, and it’s the insurance companies who decide what medicine you can get or what type treatment you are afforded based on a policy that covers you. Which is the best for me? Through the eyes of time looking through much younger eyes I liked the doctor who cared for me not the insurance companies who decide what I’m allowed to have treated, based on my age, sex, and premiums paid.
Monica and I have “escaped” to my sister Pat’s house and piece of land in upstate New York for a week. I just got back in from walking the dogs in her back yard, enjoying the total silence except for the wind through the birch trees and the birds singing their morning song all around me. The farmer’s field behind her house and the woods even further behind that shelter the deer and turkeys that live in peace here. The time to reflect and just breathe in the clean air is so wonderful it’s no surprise the residents of these small towns stay in these remote areas where life is much slower and the main event is karaoke on a Friday night in a campground restaurant. I used to tell my students the story of a young boy growing up in a small community and how he was raised and asked them to guess where he was from? Most guessed a town or nearby state where in fact the young man grew up in Turkey. They were so surprised at how alike they were to him and his family. How even his religious beliefs were not that far off their own. I think everyone ought to travel to and be immersed in another culture and religion to understand that we are all the same on this planet. That if we could only understand each other more, to look through the eyes of another, that perhaps we could regain some of the respect and regard for each other’s beliefs and culture and maybe help resolve some of the hatred and violence that scars our daily lives and makes all of us so anxious and fearful of everyday life. Going to a ballgame used to be so exciting, now after passing through a metal detector, we worry about others in the crowd. Flying was a wonderful experience not stressful and feared watching for people dressed in muslim attire. Education was a wonderful passage through youth, learning about oneself, and how to live a good life and be a good citizen, not a gauntlet of tests.
So is it me? Am I asking too much? Am I foolish to think that my grandchildren have inherited a country and a world incapable of common decency and respect? I pray that we will return to a time of greater peace and understanding. The irony of it all is our fear of others and their beliefs is often because of religious differences, the very same religions’ beliefs that at their heart, teach peace and love for each other, for their communities, and the dignity of life.