There is a saying older than any of us: For every new invention we lose something.
And what does that mean? That whenever some new convenience comes along it shoves something else out of the way. As I approach 96, I’ve been doing a lot of research lately about the diminished rewards in nearly a century of observing the human condition and its progress and have come to some shocking conclusions. Here, then, is my analysis (and I welcome input):
When the Great Depression hit us, millions of my generation lost everything and became as my grandma used to say, “As poor as Job’s turkey.” I never knew Job’s poultry but like most of my clan, poverty became a way of life and we endured, despite less food, hand-me-down clothing, outdoor plumbing and well water. Also there were the oil lamps and big black iron cook stoves that provided heat for the house and food preparation.
To some of my readers this may sound too primitive to have been real in a civilized country. Trust me, it was the lot of millions of Americans throughout the 1930’s.
Prior to World War II men were, for the better part, the wage earners. Women rocked the cradle, ran the household and inspired religion and morality in the family setting. Then, when war broke out in Europe, Americans began to arm for reality that lay just across the Eastern horizon. The draft was initiated and America’s young men were being scooped up for conscription to build an armed force that would soon face the dark clouds of Hitler’s Nazi’s.
By December 7, 1941 the United States was forced into a war it did not want. The president’s programs to bring us out of the Great Depression worked and suddenly we were thrust into a different kind of battle that would, for four years, thrust us into a different kind of dilemma.
America’s men left the factories to take up arms on foreign shores. Their women went into defense plants to support the war efforts. Rationing replaced the deprivation of the Depression.
The Nazi regime fell and we celebrated D-Day in Europe on June 6 1944 and it was on to the Pacific. The most mighty weapon ever created rained down on our Japanese foe and World War II ended. A peace treaty with Japan was signed on the U. S. Missouri in Tokyo Harbor.
Men came home from the wars to find a different country. They faced a new kind of situation. Women had worked in factories doing jobs previously held by men. Women felt entitled: they saw their role as something besides bedroom, kitchen and living room.
Our pre-war way of living went out like a puff of smoke. Women were no longer maintaining the home fires as they did prior to the war. Baby sitters became fashionable.
We almost immediately found ourselves at war with North Korea. Men went to war again, but not in the numbers they had during World War II. Then came the Eisenhower administration, Little Richard and Elvis Presley. TV dinners replaced the family’s evening sit down meal where the family’s events of the day were discussed. “Do your own thing” replaced any semblance of order tacitly handed down by a family who ate..and prayed, together, although the Eisenhower years did bring peace to our country. That is until the end of those years when a new president was confronted withe the most unpopular war we were ever involved in, which dragged us down into the mire. The Vietnam War split this country right down the middle. Compromise became, “My way or the highway,” and a hatred not seen since the Civil War swept over this country like a black cloud preceding a tornado. We have never recovered.
The early sixties brought promise and brotherhood through the Peace Corps, but it became a decade civil unrest and assassinations.. Due to youth rebellion we were introduced to sex, drugs and rock and roll, led by the hallucinogenic LSD. And so it went throughout the rest of the 20th Century.
Today we are once again a divided nation; the haves vs. the have nots; a new generation challenges the old rule.
So what have we given up for what we have attained? To go back to the roots of it all, my generation wanted a better life for the baby boomers, so we gave them more leeway than we ever had. The boomers, although they didn’t really need to, began to relinquish control over their offspring. Laws were passed to give children more rights, whereas the only rights previously held by the young folks were those endowed by their parents.
New laws went in to effect which took away most parental rights unless a lawsuit brought money into the family coffers. We became a litigious nation. Teachers feared even consoling a student with a problem. Parents no longer raise their own children. Television and x-boxes have become our baby sitters. For most families it takes two wage earners to support a family. Kids are raising themselves.
As I said in the beginning, every new thing replaces something very comfortable. Kids out of high school want an adult wage when they are still in the apprentice stage of life. We have become a “gimme” generation, emphasized by all the one thing we cherished most – family.
You may disagree, but family is no longer the family we’d like to remember. We are a nation that says, “”if you don’t give me what I want, I will take it. That’s my opinion, anyway. Just sayin’
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