America In My Rear View Mirror; Learning From Our Past
Perhaps it is time for some Stone Soup.
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Then and Now
My grandfather died of heart disease while in his mid-60s. Besides a memory of saying goodbye at his bedside right before he died, there is another memory I share with family members. The New Deal was out of intensive care and Social Security was already paying out to folks who had had little opportunity to contribute. Americans were finally going back to work following the Depression, and Europe's turmoil was set on Simmer.
Grandfather Jasper bemoaned Social Security saying: "They'll never get the country back the way it was."
The interpretation of his remark (and he himself expanded on it) was that self-reliance had been dealt a death blow, while state-reliance had been made the new standard in America. Another way of saying that is: "In the past, when times got tough, people moved back to the farm and took care of themselves. Now, when times get tough, folks move to the cities and expect the government to take care of them."
My dad spent the majority of his working life working for the government and retired with an adequate civil service retirement income. He lacked a few creditable months under Social Security in order to also qualify for some Social Security retirement income. At first he decided to use his skills as an engineer to also qualify for Social Security retirement, but soon decided that becoming a "double dipper" was not in keeping with his and his father's values. He contented himself with what he had already earned. He did so not out of laziness, but in accord with his sense of fairness and civic duty.
Times continue to change. We are not going back to my grandfather's days, nor to my father's days.
So where are we now?
Lyndon Johnson's declared "War On Poverty" is encountering some current bumps in the road. Single parents, a growing segment of the population, are currently finding they can't get the help some previouslyu had. Income inequality is also growing, and the "Full Employment Act" which Hubert Humphrey claimed as his legacy rests dormant while millions of Americans who lost their jobs to Wall Street mismanagement and corporate flight have given up even looking for jobs. They are currently denied the previous government checks they had to rely on during their search for employment.
Meanwhile, the most commercially productive acres of American farmland have been bought up by agribusinesses and the family farm of my father's and grandfather's lifetimes are all but gone.
Oh, yes, we could add in all the purely social changes of drugs, divorce rates, urban gangs, unwed mothers, absent fathers, reduced religious attendance and adherence, scrapped sodomy laws, and enduring divisions in the body politic which seem to defy compromise, progress, and our former sense of unity.
It's unreasonable to think that we can return to "the good old days" as seen in the rear view mirror. But it is not unreasonable to believe that we can still search for the most important things we lost along the way.
I would suggest we start by trying to recover our unity. If we can recover that, the road ahead need not be marked with a "Dead End" sign.
© 2014 Demas W. Jasper All rights reserved.
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