1 August was my birthday. I heard they also had a big stonkin’ bigot party at Chick-fil-A. I spent the day at home with my exceptionally smart trophy wife and my two clever and funny children. There wasn’t a homophobe in the room. This birthday got me thinking about my 18th, 39 years ago, and of what I thought the world would be like by the time I was pushing 60. One thing I never imagined was that bigotry, racism, and sexism would still play such outsized roles in our public life. However, they sure did back then.
To give you some idea of how much other things have changed, in 1973, I used a newly-available “correcting electric typewriter” to write something. After going through the five-step process to change an errant “s” to a proper “a”, I remember thinking to myself, “Wow, it can’t get any better than this!” It’s been a wonderful life. I’ve skydived under old Korean War surplus parachutes, crossed the Continental Divide on a motorcycle during a snowstorm, been lured to Arizona by a cult, and been rescued by good friends. I came to love the West and its people, most of whom aren’t racist like Joe Arpaio or dumber-than-a-cactus like Jan Brewer. I was just in Tucson last week, so, even the cult experience had an upside.
Nevertheless, my history precedes even me. My Pop, Henry, saw electricity, the telephone, and the automobile arrive at my grandparents little family farm in Capitol Heights, Maryland. He lived through the Great Depression and always feared we would make that mistake again. I thought he was being silly. The Vietnam draft ended 30 June 1973, just one month before my 18th birthday. Before that, they chose draftees by “lottery” drawing from a glass jar, then, shuffled envelopes, then, a rotating raffle bin. If they picked your number early, you simply prepared to go. Lottery Day always felt like a national day of mourning. Mothers agonised and cried. After living through the upheaval of Vietnam, I never imagined we’d attack another country in a pointless exercise of American imperialism. We’d lost so much by destroying Vietnam and losing the war, and we damaged so many tens of thousands of our young men. I was sure we’d never forget the cost of our foolishness.
Having witnessed the correcting typewriter, I was kind of expecting big things to happen… they have. I’ve lived through the birth (and now death) of the desktop computer and the emergence of the internet as our new town square. Automobiles have gone from lasting about two years to lasting ten. Clothes, which used to be expensive, are now cheap. Gas, which used to be cheap, is now expensive. I also came of age during a time of both introspection and birth control pills. There was a lot of sex, a lot of sex. I wouldn’t call it “casual”, but it was friendly, and it was liberating. I don’t know anyone damaged by it. I remember saying I’d quit smoking if the price ever got to 50 cents a pack. Of course, by then, I was hopelessly addicted, so, I ended up quitting quite a few times. I didn’t quit for good until a miracle drug, Chantix, came along. It blocks nicotine receptors. Back in 1973, we wouldn’t have understood the brain well enough to even head in that direction.
A few problems continue to haunt us. We still haven’t figured out how to keep rich guys from using their money to tilt democracy in their favour. If anything, we’ve gone backwards, what with Citizen’s United and all. The other thing that really hurts my heart is our incomplete progress in ending bigotry and racism. Of course, we’ve made significant progress. However, when I was 18, I believed that intolerance would end when the old rednecks died. Instead, dumb uneducated rednecks raised dumb uneducated children, who continue to hold dumb uneducated views about black people, Muslims, women, Hispanics, and people who love the same gender.
This brings us back, I suppose, to Chick-fil-A. They’re “Christians”, they say. One religious group or another endorses so much bigotry and hate these days. Besides, we now have something called “Prosperity Theology” that teaches that God speaks to you through profits. Still, we’re heading in the right direction. My 19-year-old daughter encounters only a minority of bigots her age (mostly men, she says.) Recently, my 9-year-old son explained to a friend that “gay” isn’t an effective insult. It was his only experience with bigotry so far. I wonder what things will be like when those kids are pushing 60.
2 August 2012
Tucson (AZ) Sentinel
I grew up in this world. I’m only one year older than Mr Zuma… he was born in 1955… me, in 1954. I’ve seen the same changes. Some people scream that the “good ol’ days” were better and more moral. I remember hearing that as a kid, too. I don’t think that’s true. There’s always been evil and skulduggery afoot. There’s also always been goodness and right about, too… generally, most of the changes were neutral, though. I disagree emphatically with those who wish to use to use the law to punish those whom they disagree with. I also disagree with those who want to repress the “different”. The worst of that lot are those who confuse Real Religion with Mere Respectability. They obsess over gays, abortion, teenage sex, and condoms. Indeed, they’re VERY concerned about the world’s sins… but don’t do overly much about their own! As for me, I’m going to work on my many faults. That’s why I can’t abide sorts like John Whiteford or Freddie M-G… one gets the impression that they’re not only busy-bodies, but repressed persecutors. Of course, I guess what most rankles me about Whiteford, Freddie M-G, Rod Dreher, and Paffhausen (to name a few) is that one can tell that they’re putting themselves up as exemplars. I’m far from that… I know what I did (and I know that the sorts that I named have just as many sins on their plates).
This world would be a MUCH better place if religious people would remember the point of having a religion. It starts with working on YOURSELF… ’nuff said…