I am by nature a very positive person; I have been blessed with a good family, close community ties, a successful career in the military, reasonable health, and the ability to wake up every morning (so far). I am, however, very concerned about where my country is going in 2016. I was born in 1954 and I started to become aware of my surroundings from a very early age, and would be considered quite precocious even by today’s standards; I was reading and writing at 3 ½ years, and was definitely ready for kindergarten before I was 5. Even though life wasn’t perfect in 1959 for everyone in America, those were halcyon years.
Both my parents were college graduates–Dad with a journalism degree and Mom with an RN degree–and thought it very important that I was educated well, which they started doing early by introducing me to the printed and spoken word. Dad especially stressed communication skills, and would correct my early forays into creative writing by pulling out the editor’s blue pencil–I might have been 4 at the time–and I never regretted his guidance. Consequently, I have been able to communicate effectively at various levels throughout the years with some success.
Although there were some exceptions–after all, the Civil Rights movement hadn’t blossomed yet–America in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s had more freedom available to its citizens than we do today. Nobody questioned your right to speak your mind; if your opinions were offensive, then someone usually confronted you, or would eschew your company. Not everybody wanted guns, but no one questioned your right to have them; heck, you could even order them in the Sears catalogue and they would mail them to your house. The right of an unborn child’s to life wasn’t questioned; abortion wasn’t legal in most places in the US. Divorce was rare among the common folk; that was Hollywood tabloid stuff. Dad went to work and Mom mostly stayed home and the family meal at supper was when everyone caught up with each others’ lives.
Government was big, of course, but it didn’t seem to intrude on everyone’s life on a daily basis. There were no statutes that wouldn’t allow us kids to be out for hours on end, unsupervised by adults, until it was time to get back home for a meal. We were free to climb trees, explore “haunted” houses, climb into barn rafters, pick raspberries in the swamp, and ride on rutted dirt roads on our Schwinns without helmets or kneepads. We played in cornfields, walked to visit friends who lived miles away, traversing farmers’ property without prior permission, and none of us got hurt or got in trouble. I feel you would be hard-pressed to find these freedoms today.
We were taught to use our imaginations and to get outside and play; no play dates and supervised group activities. If we decided we wanted to play a game of baseball, we’d just get together and do it, until we moved on to some other activity. The folks in the neighborhood understood that we would do kid things, and were cool with it, unless something seemed too extreme; but if that was the case, parents were called, not Child Protective Services. Parents had the right and responsibility to deal with how they raised their children, not the State. The same went with public schools.
Back in the days when you could still recite the Lord’s Prayer–first amendment, anyone?–in school, teachers would either take care of disciplinary issues on site, and the parents would be notified. No lawsuits in the early 60’s about corporal punishment; in fact, you were lucky if you didn’t get a second helping when you got home. With the personal freedom came personal responsibility and you were given the opportunity to learn those rights and responsibilities through, sometimes, trial and error. No amount of government oversight can teach the hard lessons of life better than allowing a citizen to live that life, unfettered by overweening regulation.
Where are these freedoms now in America? Vast pages of rules, regulations, laws, government busybodies, helicopter parents, nosy neighbors, and schools that don’t teach self-reliance and personal responsibility, are all complicit in giving up these precious freedoms that so many have fought and died for. I wish Americans could be as free today as I was when I was ten years old; the crystal ball looks dim this year though.