I thought yesterday’s post was a no-big-deal, nice little reminder of times past and most particularly, that we - just maybe, but not for sure, might if we wanted, not necessarily, conceivably, though I could be wrong, but still not impossible, once in awhile - give some small thought to a few of the things modernity has snatched away.
Instead, I woke up this morning to a not inconsiderable number of emails and a few public comments about how awful the good old days were and what a nincompoop I am for publishing such drivel. Children died, you know, in the good old days.
I want to thank each of you who reminded of that. I’d forgotten, you see, that a girl down the block bought the farm after contracting polio one summer. Another, a boy, died of diphtheria. One kid was killed by a car when he ran into the street to retrieve a ball. (If I’m not mistaken, this particular calamity is still not preventable, but perhaps a researcher somewhere is working it.)
It’s good to be reminded that several kids in my school couldn’t play in gym class because they had club feet. A lot of kids had scars on their faces from smallpox, a disease some had barely survived. Cleft palates were, if not common, a condition we were accustomed to among our school friends. My own brother received a severe head injury in a bicycle accident because helmets were not required then.
I appreciate all who helped bring these memories to mind (most particularly the private email letters hiding opinions from public view and open commentary) and showing me that I’ve been living in a fairy tale about the past and not appreciative enough of the improvements we’ve seen in our lifetimes. Although, come to think of it…
…while school kids today are protected from a large number of fatal diseases that plagued my youth and we have mandated kid protection in certain circumstances, parents have new ills to worry about for their children: drugs at younger and younger ages, school, play yard and street shootings, and one that concerns me a great deal - the constant atmosphere of potential violence with cops checking for guns at the schoolhouse door and surveillance cameras in every hall and lavatory. All day, every day, kids are reminded in school that something awful might happen at any moment. I wonder what that does to young psyches?
Carefree summer days of crashing go-karts, broken arms or legs and shared soda pop are gone from a childhood now focused from the cradle on cramming enough information into kids’ heads that they can snag a spot in an elite school that will ensure they become masters of the universe pursuing the only acceptable professional goal left in the U.S. - wealth. I wonder what that does to young psyches?
And so on…
Not one word I’ve written here should be construed to mean I long for the good old days. As the piece I published yesterday states at the end, “The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas,” that have changed the world for the better in remarkable ways.
However, in some cases, we have not put our new knowledge to its best possible use, and equally important, it is not prudent, as modern culture seems to believe, for the past be obliterated by the new.
The idea is - or should be - to take along the best ideas from previous eras as we build on them to create better futures. One simple example - has it occurred to anyone yet that given recent studies on levels of childhood obesity it might be a real good idea to figure out how to get kids away from video games and back outside playing all day in the summer?
It is elders who, in their judgment and, sometimes, wisdom gained from decades of experience, can see more clearly than younger people what modern innovation has wrought on the culture - the good and the not-so-good - and what from the past might be applied as we fling ourselves headlong into the future. Humankind could not possibly have survived into the 21st century if our ancestors hadn’t been doing that all along.
And please, in the future, all you folks who spew your misguided interpretation of my intentions in private email, have the courage of your convictions: get them out in the light of day in the comments section where everyone can read and discuss them. It’s okay. I have fairly tough hide.