[I'm not sure that much of this is comprehensible to younger generations, but many of us older people do hearken back to some grand years in the good old US of A. Granted, time has worn off some of the rough edges. Nevertheless, here're some ramblings to mark another milestone that we pass in an age that is so different from the America of days gone by.]
For those of us born in the 1940s, it’s already in the bank, and no one can take it away. We have been blessed to live in the iconic America that reached its apex during the 1945 – 1965 period. It was an age when America was the world’s white knight, having emerged victorious from vanquishing two global foes, then pouring its enormous wealth and productive capability into rebuilding a shattered world, and setting itself to stand guard against the surviving evil of communism. We had a common public culture, boundless energy, and a pragmatic vision of how we would continue to make ours a more perfect Union.
But best of all, most of us were free and working to bring such freedoms to all. The beguiling bamboozle of 1930s socialism cum communism, that so enthralled America’s leftwing elite during the Depression, finally showed its true face as the Iron Curtain divided Europe into the history’s largest prison camp on one side, and thriving nations reaching new levels of prosperity and quality of life on the other side. In schools we learned about American exceptionalism and then lived it as we hit the streets when school let out.
We were also free to work our butts off. As kids we could get about any job we could talk ourselves into. We flipped burgers, carried papers, mowed lawns, or even worked as field hands doing stoop labor on farms. As we got older we could get jobs using the skills we learned in high school shop classes. My own jobs path was going from a farm laborer into aerospace light manufacturing as a sixteen year old cutting and brazing jet engine electrical conduits. My next stop was an aerospace draftsman drawing awesomely complex functional diagrams of submarine combat systems as a teenager in college.
There was no government to tell employers that they could not hire me, and no government telling me I could not work here or there, or taking my parents to task for ‘abusing’ me if I decided to work long hours months at a time. In fact, I bought my first car, a used 1957 VW bug. After arriving in Los Angeles, I registered with the California Youth Employment Agency in Hollywood. They sent me on called-in daily jobs located from Orange County to the canyon country north of Los Angeles. I did whatever my boss for a day (or more) would tell me to do, whether it would be to wash windows, clean out the garage, rake leaves, polish floors, or paint a porch. America’s youth was then enabled by the state, not inhibited.
And fearing government was something we learned about in school and saw in other countries, but none of us experienced government overreach in our own or our parents’ lives. We could go where we wanted and do what we wanted (within reason of course). Public lands were then truly public lands. We could throw a backpack and gun (it had to be visible) into the back seat, and before the sun set we’d be in a very remote spot sitting around a campfire with a dubiously cooked meal warming our bellies.
Our entertainments were salutary to God and country. Coming out of a movie – whether a grand western, a biblical epic, filmed version of a Broadway musical, war story, or comedy – you invariably felt uplifted. Hollywood was on the case, giving us a gratifying respite from our daily labors which were many. And television echoed all that during its ‘golden age’, those shows whose recorded kinescopes are still entertaining and somewhat unbelievable to the current generations.
And when we screwed up, which we often did because we were allowed to live at the edge of the envelope, the nearest adult had no problem in stepping up to straighten us out. There were no concerns about ‘abusing’ kids who were not your own, or getting sued by parents. When Mrs Smith told us to quiet down, stay off her lawn, or not play guns in her shrubbery, you did that or she’d take a broom after you, or worse, call your parents. In short, our days were self-supervised, and not like today’s youngsters who are only free when they can sit alone in front of their monitors blowing heads off of ‘bad guys’, having a remote exchange in an abbreviated dialect with an unseen ‘friend’, or surfing through ‘adult websites’ for kicks to learn something new. Today letting a kid have the freedom we had would most likely land the parents in jail, and the youngster in court custody.
We now live in a world transformed in equal measure by technology and politics. Kids learn very little in their K-12 experience from teachers, many of whom majored in self-esteem, inclusivity, and America’s unacknowledged guilt. Young people are graduated with yawning deficits in the most basic things that we would consider a minimum kit of knowledge. Their common denominator is a firm belief that they are all special, college material, and convinced they will benefit from majors that were laughable forty years ago. And guess what? such majors are still laughable today when they go to find a job.
Our youth today don’t know they have been screwed in more ways than we can list. And the reason that they aren’t aware of their own dire straits is that the state has imbued them with the indelible belief that all of their just deserts are being denied them because of capitalistic greed. And that the ongoing redistribution of unevenly accumulated wealth will finally bring social justice to a new land in which personal gain is no longer the discriminatory byproduct of enterprise, intelligence, and effort. Instead gains will be equally distributed to all with no regard to the recipients pre-existing conditions or post-entitlement behavior.
So it is with those memories – evoked and corroborated by photos, letters, newspapers, movies, books, family documents, … - that we can face the new year in which we gird for fiscal cliffs, debt ceiling abrogations, gun confiscations, nationalized healthcare, privacy receding in the rear view mirror, reduced retirement payouts, new layers of extra-congressional diktats, ‘global warming’ in the face of global cooling, galloping criminalization of traditional conduct, vilification of the European contribution to our nation’s birth and growth, and an ever larger government that will continue to hire the ignorant and incapable to watch, monitor, and punish the rest of us.
Our life stories and ‘world lines’ are in the indelibles that we have banked. We know beyond what passes for argument today that we have witnessed governance that has worked and will work again, and also governance that hasn’t and never will. And what we try to revive through our current efforts is not a photocopy of days gone past, because today is different and tomorrow will be more so. Our counsel is at a higher level and based on human fundamentals which have over and again shown their foibles and failures before finding the right combination of individual enterprise and collective effort. It is today’s version of that path into the future on which we encourage our kids and grandkids to walk.
In any event, those are some thoughts that pass through older noggins as one more time we break out a new calendar. We think of the age that we were blessed to live through, and continue to believe that such an age may again be possible for the benefit of all.
Kinda reminds me of the song ‘They can’t take that away from me’.