i was born in a relatively small city. our class was the first one in our city to be segregated. i always found the idea of desegregation puzzling because in reality, i don't remember it ever being a forced issue to be segregated in our city. you could go to whatever school you chose. but in any case, officially mine was the first class to be desgregated. i remember the older kids in high school talking about it. i remember the adults talking about it. i don't remember it ever being a major issue. i know it was never an issue to me since i had been in a neighborhood school and we had already breached the color barrier long before it was "mandated" to us. two of my childhood playmates were black and the only time race was an issue is when we argued about who could run the fastest. while racial unrest, on both sides of the color wall were happening in other cities, our small city seemed to cope with it just fine. while other cities were tearing themselves apart with violence, the only violence we experienced were imaginary wars we fought with imaginary guns between two sides in the fields of our childhood.
that's another issue...guns. i had guns all around me during my childhood. some real, some not. the adults had pistols, shotguns and rifles. not to take the life of a human being but to hunt or protect their home from intruders that never seem to come. i had all kinds of guns and weapons. capguns, bb guns, bow and arrows, rubber knives, military assault rifles, western style rifles, bullwhips and various other assortments of things to kill the "enemy." i also had responsible adults who bluntly told me i was never to touch a real gun until i was older and were responsible enough to keep them out of reach, unloaded and out of sight. they also taught me what could happen if you handled a gun without knowing the full impact of what it could do if improperly used.
i spent endless days of playing while the world on the outside was changing. war was ending, riots were taking place to protest all sorts of perceived and real injustice in this country. everything from race, to violence, to womens equality to political unrest were shaking the country at its core as i rode my bicycle around town, yes...around town...anywhere around town. i didn't have to worry about riding in any part of my city. black, white, rich, poor, industrialized, retail...anywhere i felt the wind carry me that day. i went alone, a child on his bike, without worrying or my mother worrying about whether i was safe or whether i would return unharmed. i never thought about anyone harming me, much less someone attacking me or shooting me for some unknown reason. sexual molestation? i don't think i ever thought about sexual molestation except for the boyhood thoughts i had about my neighbor when she sunbathed in the backyard.
my school was blocks from my home. we were taught all the basics...reading, spelling, history, math,science and sometimes art. we prayed and said the pledge of allegiance every morning. we stood up in reverence and respect. we didn't hesitate to use the word god in our school. we also were taught to respect our teachers and our fellow classmates. we were expected to attend school every day and we were expected to learn and be acceptably proficient in our studies, if not, the teacher wouldn't hesitate to phone our parents to let them know there was a problem and even spend the time speaking with them on the best way to correct the problem. i remember our teachers being compassionate, almost loving. i remember them being a part of our every day lives from september thru june. i also remember that discipline and order were expected and kept. not in a prison like environment but more of a simple orderly atmosphere that you would expect in a school.
i never thought about racism. i never imagined our city being the site of racial violence or hatred. i don't remember anyone being homeless. if someone could not support themselves family members would step up and help until they could return to self sufficiency or another avenue could be figured out. i did hear of something called a "poor farm" on the outskirts of town where people who had no money or relatives could go. but they had a roof over their head, meals every day and were never exposed to the elements in zero degree weather. sure...it wasn't a home of your own and i'm sure it wasn't exacty a resort. but it was somewhere to live and somewhere to be safe.
i never knew anything about unemployment. we had several factories in town and people generally worked from hire to retirement. if someone did lose their job, it was only a short time until they were working again. i do remember hearing about welfare and food stamps but only knew of a very small number of people that were using them. it was almost a shameful thing, not something people did on a long term basis or intentionally. they were usually widows or the very elderly who only had a very small income in their latter years who utilized that safety net. i never even imagined having to worry about a career or a job. my toughest choice was whether to go to college out of high school, work for a year then go to college, or just get a job making pretty decent money at one of the plants or factories in town or in a nearby city.
my mother would be in prison today. she would be charged with child neglect, abuse, and other things that for some reason are wrong within a family today. i went miles from home...alone. i came home from school and entered my house...alone. i spent a few hours in the interim time from school dismissal until my mother arrived home....alone, i knew how to prepare my own sandwiches or snacks. i knew how to handle myself alone at home...and how not to handle myself. thing is...i probably only spent fifteen minutes alone in that house. i hurriedly changed clothes and rushed out the door to play with my friends. i would come home, reluctanly, only when my mother would either call me or come looking for me when dinner was ready. when i wasn't outside playing i was glued to the television set watching monster movies, war movies or whatever was showing on the afternoon movie matinee on one of the three channels that were available...well...ok...four if you count pbs. but what child every counted pbs in those days? my mother made sure i went to church every sunday until i reached an age that she felt like i could choose whether to go or not.
gender equality...ummm...forget that one. i'm not even going there. lgbt? never heard of it, although looking back i do remember one or two people being different. but it was never a cause for them being treated differently or them expecting to be treated differently. it was...well....i'm not sure. it just was.
that was a long time ago. too long. but according to what i read in todays world, someone who was raised like me and believes the things that i believe in is the fundamental cause of most of the problems in america. i was taught to and i still believe in those things. but when i think about it, i'm not what's wrong with america. i think what's wrong with america is the fact that there are millions of people just like me out there. they were taught and they believe the same things. the only problem they have is patient silence. they are silent while the minority and the experts tear our country apart at the seams and try to convince us...the majority...that we are wrong. they try to convince us that a fundamental belief in right and wrong, a beief in the christian religion...which by the way is still by far the major religion in this country...are wrong. they try to convince us that the world has changed and working for a living and expecting some sort of loyalty from your employer is too much to ask. they try to convince us that teaching a child right from wrong and the fundamentals they need to survive when they become adults is somehow no longer needed but that another form of education is essential. yes..they try to convince us of these things and much more.
i don't think it's a coincidence that about the time all these people and the experts began to try to convince us of these things is about the time our country began to decline and experience alot of the symptoms that cause todays problems, both socially and economically. come to think of it....i don't think i am what's wrong with america. neither are you. i think we are exactly what's right with america. i think what's wrong with america is only our silence.
see you around town