The other day a friend of mine posted this meme on Facebook. Quite a few people echoed the sentiment, but one woman said she didn’t miss it at all. She made good points. In her words: “Girls were given too few career options. Women were expected to stay with abusive husbands rather than seek help. Lunch counters in the South served only white patrons. Segregated schools provided an education unequal to what white students received. We have made great progress, let's not go backwards.”
But I still miss the America I grew up in. I miss that children could be allowed to go out to play from breakfast until the streetlights came on at night without being hovered over by a parent. That we were allowed to fall down and learn from our mistakes, pick ourselves up and try again, instead of having a parent “fixing” it for us. When children grow up learning from their mistakes and taking responsibility for their choices, they grow into adults who take responsibility.
I miss the America I grew up in because there was a very clear moral compass to our lives. Not everyone was Christian, but the same moral code seemed to be pretty much ingrained in our society. We had a reverence for life, our own and everyone else’s. I’m not claiming that there was no lawlessness, because certainly there was. Before my time the government decided that alcohol was an evil that could be legislated away and prohibition became the law of the land. Obviously this “law” didn’t work, rum running became a profession and crime families thrived. But somehow, we’ve forgotten this lesson and have come to believe that all we have to do is pass a law and the problem will go away.
But the lack of “civility” in our civil society, and the continuous efforts to remove any hint of morality (because it might feel too much like religion) have taken their toll on the America I grew up in. When I was a child, men and older boys had rifles carried in gun racks against the back window of their trucks. And the trucks were not locked. But how often did those totally unrestricted guns get used as they have been in recent years? As I came of age, sit-ins were popular forms of dissent, first for equal treatment for African Americans and desegregation, and later in protest of the Vietnam War. Those were true protests and eventually the voices of those who protested were heard. But today, far too often, what is hailed as a protest is a riot, with intent to hurt, maim, kill, burn and loot. And our leaders have come to call these riots protests and the behavior as acceptable. Not only that, we turned on the very people who put their lives on the line every day to maintain law and order. So far this year alone, 25 law enforcement officers have been deliberately killed on duty, targeted and ambushed just because they were officers of the law, not for anything they have done wrong. I am not defending police brutality, but rather the idea that if you are pissed off with the status quo as you see it, a legitimate way to address your anger is to kill other cops, firefighters and EMTs who are responding to calls.
So, yes – I miss the America I grew up in. I miss that we could find a way to settle arguments and differences of opinion without anything more violent than a bloody nose. I miss that we have lost our respect for life – every life – and for each other regardless of our differences. We fill our children’s growing, learning brains with murder and mayhem in the form of violence on TV and video games that score the kills. We fail to teach our sons how women should be treated and expect the courts to be lenient when they make a “mistake” and rape an unconscious woman. Our schools, all the way up and through college must be “safe” places where no student must ever hear or see something that they find uncomfortable, and when they get out into the world they haven’t learned how to accept others who are different than they are with tolerance.
I am proud to be an American. I am proud to represent what America has historically stood for and I am proud to be part of some of the best things that America still is. But I am ashamed of what American society has become. And I fear that the pendulum will not begin to swing the other way until we accept the fact that a moral underpinning is absolutely required for a civil society to exist. The United States is the most philanthropic country in the world and yet – we still have not learned tolerance and acceptance and respect for life – all lives matter.