Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Living In The Past

OK. So I've borrowed the title from a Jethro Tull album.

All around I see signs of wishing for a return of the past.

A friend e-mailed me a collection of World War II posters. They weren't campaign posters for a political party. They weren't about an upcoming election, the promotion of a new product or to announce the
concert appearance by American Idol stars or the latest gaggle of ice skaters on tour.

It was a different America. The people in the pictures were all white. None were overweight. Ideal. If we were honest about the "freedom of speech poster", we wouldn't want to hang with 75% of the ideal people in the picture. We wouldn't want them in our cars or homes today. Why? Because their clothes, fingertips and breath reeked of cigarette smoke.
I remember family Christmas gatherings that rotated around the homes of aunts and uncles. I always hated it when it was our turn to host Dad's side of the family. My uncle Elmer smoked cigarettes, and he would do so right in our living room. It was expected that hosts had to accommodate the smoker, not the other way around. We had this metal ashtray on a stand that you could set alongside whatever chair Elmer was seated in. It had a bowl on top with rests for the smoldering white paper tube of dead plant leaves. Once the butt was finished, you could push a button to open a little trapdoor in the bottom of the bowl so that the butts and ashes would drop into a larger bowl below.
Outta sight, outta mind. Or not. My uncle Rudy liked to smoke a cigar after a meal. Whoa, baby! To a family not accustomed to smoke at all, those dog turds were like setting off poison gas canisters in your house.

Now we wonder what to do with our elders. It's a growing problem, especially since they don't look like so many of the youngsters that will someday be responsible for producing all the goods and services and revenue it takes to run this country. And many of these youngsters don't look so hot. Huge numbers are overweight, obese, have type II diabetes--in elementary school.
They don't come from families where brothers would lie about their ages in order to get into the armed forces when a world war was going on. They think "meals" consist of opening a package of something whenever the urge comes, walking to the convenience store, hitting the vending machine at school. They haven't actually sat down at a table where prayer preceded the munching, all electronic devices were extinguished and adults and youngsters who had been together all their lives engaged in the two most basic activities of survival besides breathing: taking nourishment together and renewing their familial bonds. Or at least their associations.
The lofty concept of freedom is not secured or nurtured by war. It cannot be. It can exist only in fully formed and functioning human beings. Don't get me wrong. Fully formed and functioning human beings can be of any race, creed or color. All it takes is, as my uncle Obert used to say, "some fire in the pants".
How's the battle going on that front today?

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