“I can remember…do you remember…way back when…” seems to be a common conversational piece shared by members of the same generation for every generation that has passed since the notion of “the good old days” came into conscious. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, this is probably somewhere around the time that humankind recognized our fear of our own mortality.
What follows is a twist on “the good old days.” Picture our children a half decade or so from now sitting in their favorite place. Instead of nostalgia being the mood, the air is fat with simple dumbfoundedness. Their conversation begins with “I can remember…do you remember…way back when…”
…the “first world” watched with much-needed drugs in hand while Africa was devastated by AIDS.
…human beings were denied access to health care because they were U.S. citizens without insurance.
…the U.S. Government was able to find $87 billion to “rebuild” a nation it destroyed, but was not able to find any extra cash to buy textbooks for every student over which it governed.
…teachers were viewed as incompetent by parents because their child was failing class, despite the parent(s) not being home to assist the child with his/her studies because the parent(s) was stuck in commuter traffic chasing the American dream of rich, richer, richest.
…people used the U.S. Constitution to defend their right to own a gun that could fire multiple rounds in seconds.
…flying the Confederate flag was actually considered OK, cool, or worse, rebellious.
…pre-fabricated, cookie-cutter homes dotting the land was called “development.”
…people ordered “Freedom Fries” and “Freedom Toast.”
…there was not sufficient funding for optimal management of public libraries.
“Can you believe…what were they thinking…how could…how did those things happen…” Still in the future, our children are confused in their knowledge of our generation. Will they be able to see through that confusion? Will they be able to learn from it, gaining the know-how to act and react to make just decisions in their lifetime?
(I concede I am an idealist. How else could I allow for a future generation to look back on today’s events and not understand how they ever came to be? There is an assumption that they would not act like us. Of course, I am also assuming that these current events are not going to be manifested as something else in the future. But, an Everest-like learning curve is not insurmountable.)
The “way back when” is now. The scenarios provided are real, and are occurring now. They are few, only a mere sampling of the inequity that permeates our world. While some may want to dismiss them as “being the way things are” or “how the world works,” I challenge you to not be satisfied with such an easy solution. How things were is not how they are, nor are they how things will be. What part do you want to play in the cylce of change? Satisfied bystander with belly full? Frontliner with hungry heart? Confused image in your child’s eye? Hero to your child?
Whether or not “can you believe” will be the voice of tomorrow’s child is completely dependent on us. We are responsible for our actions. We are responsible for our families. We are responsible for our elected leaders. We are responsible for the food we eat. We are responsible for the water we drink. We are responsible for the air we breathe. We are responsible for the jobs we do.
We are NOT responsible FOR each other, however. No, we are responsible TO each other. Understand that, understand change.
(written 9 October 2003)