Recollections of America
Many people, reading this, will probably think that it's the ravings of an old man...and they'd be right. America today is a technological wonder, but seems to have lost the meaning of America. That might be confusing to someone that isn't in my age bracket, or near to it, but if you read on, you'll understand. My father was a product of a time when education was something precious, yet he didn't get a formal one because he had to go to work when he was in the third grade, to help support the family. Families were large back then because childhood mortality took a great toll. My father had 3 brothers and 5 sisters, and all lived to, and through, adulthood. Today large families are an exception and we look at them and wonder why? You have to be family-oriented to appreciate things like that.
In recent gatherings with my family, and extended family, one thing was omnipresent...the smartphone. Yes, that amazing technological wonder which seems to have replaced the computer, the television, the telephone, and even conversation. Most people today starting when they're youngsters, even into their 40's and 50's, are involved in life only through their smartphones. You see them everywhere, head down, thumbs moving to write...and they're not writing full words, thoughts or sentences, no they're using abbreviations for just about everything. In my day, and that's a phrase that irks most people, but, in my day we learned how to write...real handwriting, which they used to call cursive writing, and now have coined the term "conjoined writing". My recollections are of classes in which we had to practice swirls, arcs, and bows, in order to have a nice, legible handwriting.
The computer is a marvelous device and that should go without saying, but it is also responsible for a major portion of the dumbing-down of America, in my opinion. When schoolwork demanded that you know the answer to something that wasn't in your textbooks, you had to go to the library and look it up. By going through several drawers of things related to that item you might discover something else that piqued your interest. That's not going to happen today because you go on the internet, look up the one thing and then...you're finished. Crouched down in the library, like several other people, you pulled out a drawer with hundreds of file cards in it and began leafing through them to find the thing you're looking for. When you found it, maybe you wrote down the information about it, put the drawer back and went to the librarian and they then pointed out where that BOOK could be found.
Books are software for the mind. You read it, and you can put the book down, never look at it for years, and the information is still there. Reading a book and exercising your imagination...oh wait, the computer took your imagination and dashed it on the rocks. Now you can see everything on the computer and your mind's eye is closed for the duration. Books allowed you to fly, to visit strange exotic lands, to picture in your mind exactly how YOU wanted them to be. I remember listening to a radio program called "I love a mystery" and the central figure was Doc Savage. My mind pictured him as tall, blonde, very muscular and always with his shirt half on and half off. Imagine my disappointment when, years later, I discovered that the voice of Doc Savage was a short, fat man. What does any of this have to do with America? I'll tell you.
America was the Great One. America could do it all, and we did. The twentieth century belonged to us, as we stretched from ocean to ocean, and our minds and industry expanded with it. No country on earth was as we were, and everybody emulated us, our mannerisms, our slang, our movies, our clothing...nothing that was American could be bad...but it was. We had black marks on our history, but we owned up to them and tried to atone for those marks. It gave the rest of the world a moment to think about us...maybe we weren't the greatest. Thoughts like those came and went because America kept right on moving ahead, making things, and making things better for the people of the world. I recollect that Americans overseas were held in awe sometimes because we came from a country that was exceptional.
Outside was a marvelous place and we used it to its fullest potential. When Mother said to go outside and play, we didn't ask with what, or why, because we knew the outside...it belonged to us. Summer vacations were spent outside from dawn to dusk and sometimes even after dark. We played on the sidewalks, in the streets, in the vacant lots...anywhere, because it was the outside, and it was our world. One of my vivid memories is asking my mother for a couple of potatoes, and cooking them in an open pit in the vacant lot around the corner, and sharing them with my friends. You used a small branch to hold them over the fire, turning constantly so neither the branch or the potato caught fire. They were delicious, skin, ashes and all.
Times, and people, change. That's a fact. It doesn't make it any easier, knowing that what we once were, we no longer are. We're not as free as we used to be. We're not as smart as we used to be. We're not as economically strong as we used to be. We're not the superpower that we used to be.
Are the recollections of a bygone America never to come back? Will we ever be the shining city on the hill again. I certainly hope so. Perhaps it will come in my lifetime…but I won’t hold my breath.