Times they have changed
By Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell
Summer is here, and I have time to sit back and relax, spending time contemplating my life and my kids’ possible futures. As for background, I was born in Miami, Florida in the 1960s. When I compare that time to the turn of the millennium when my children were born, all I can say is: Times they have changed!
When I was a boy, television was relatively new. Therefore, it was not uncommon for my family, like many others, to eat dinner on trays watching the tube. Unfortunately, this was the time of the Vietnam War and the horror was played out on the nightly news. In addition, we watched programs like All in the Family where intolerance was paraded for all to see. In defense of our parents, there were only three channels, but they should have known better, turned off the television, and used this time to discuss our days. Reflecting back, if families had talked more, I bet more than a few marriages could have been saved. On the other hand, today there are hundred’s of channels plus DVRs, DVDs, and streaming, all of which allow parents to choose educational or at least age appropriate programs for our kids.
On another note, while wars still rage, today they seem more distant and less threatening with conscription gone and fewer of our friends and neighbors under arms. Additionally, with the end of the Cold War, half a century of fear is gone. Our children do not face the constant threat of instantaneous annihilation. When I was a boy I remember my parents discussing underground bunkers, and my father went as far as to spend thousands of dollars on survival necessities such as freeze dried foods, powdered drinks, and other emergency supplies which were stored in our garage. He acquired weapons and took the family to the Florida Everglades and taught us to shoot rifles and handguns.
As I look back on it, I wonder what my parents’ plans really were. If the apocalypse came, what were we going to do? Bunker down in the double garage and mow down my neighbors and next door girlfriend when they came asking for a cup of powdered milk? Were we going to hold off the commie tanks with our pistols as they tried to occupy the suburban community where I lived? At least my kids are not subjected to this type of paranoia.
Another youthful remembrance was seeing an endless sea of street protests and riots. Nearly every oppressed segment of society rightfully challenged the existing order. The price of demanding equality was that African-Americans were beaten in the streets, Native Americans were shot on hilltops, gays and lesbians demeaned for seeking recognition, women were mocked for asking for equality, and migrant workers were abused for demanding fair wages. This speaks nothing of the killings at Kent State, the Weathermen bombings, the anti-war marches, and the chaos of the political conventions. The world seemed to have gone mad. Today, our social and political issues are more often than not played out in the courts. However, when disputes do spill-out into the streets like the recent teachers’ unions disputes, these tend to be peaceful—devoid of tear gas, riot police, and National Guard intervention.
21st Century children certainly have viewed scenes of modern horror such as 9/11 and are aware that future atrocities are possible. However, these are of a more limited scope, not a fait accompli as such as the doctrine of assured mutual destruction dangled over my head as a child. Further, the riots and street battles that were the agents of change in my youth have today been morphed into more subtle tactics like court cases and Internet driven boycotts. Sleazy politicians and corrupt bureaucracies are forced from power through Wikileak type of exposures. Consequently, while my children are unlikely to face the force of water cannons or police dogs, they will feel the sting of cyber attacks and cyber bullies.
Times they have changed. Whose world is better? For me, I will take my children’s world over the one I grew up in any day. While bigotry and violence still exist, overall they seem more localized and limited in scope – thus, potentially more easily eradicated. However, I guess in the end whose world is better is more a matter of perspective only to be determined by the eyes of the beholder.
Dr. D. Jackson Maxwell is a National Board Certified Teacher at Downtown Elementary School and a freelance writer. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Dr. Maxwell via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.