Like when I was a kid…
Growing up, we played… a LOT! And, mostly OUTSIDE, sometimes even when it rained and our parents let us do it.
It was OUR time, completely unstructured. We made up our own rules for applications and social protocols whenever it was appropriate to do so—and, it was appropriate whenever WE said so.
Sometimes our methods of social interaction were harsh, but mostly they weren’t. We’d get mad at one and other, but never for very long. We’d ostracize in the blink of an eye, but forgive just as quickly.
We boys—we didn’t care about girls at that age—played baseball in any one of 15-different vacant lots liberally distributed throughout our respective neighborhoods. Some days we’d play from sunup to sunset.
And the grownups stayed away, too, except whenever one of the fathers would volunteer to pitch to both sides. We didn’t mind THAT at all.
We did other things, as well. We climbed high trees just for the bragging rights, especially the one in old man Stuttard’s yard—and, he hated it. I don’t think he hated us; he was just afraid we’d fall. And, sometimes did.
We’d swim all summer long, but swimming pools had bad health reputations and cost money to get into. My father vehemently refused to let me go to one. “You get polio from those things,” he’d say.
The fear of polio was enough to keep us away from swimming pools, chiefly me, because polio was a real threat back then. I regularly visited a friend confined to an “IRON LUNG.”
Swimming holes were plentiful, clean, and free. There were no sides to jump in from, but we made do with swing ropes that would toss us out to the middle where we’d DROP in.
If you didn’t have a bicycle, walking and running were standard modes of transportation. But, those that had them rode them everywhere. My uncle thought they were stupid and called it “peddling your legs off just to give your ass a ride.”
Even with all of our activities, we still had lots of time to just lay around doing NOTHING, other than plain old daydreaming and thinking about stuff.
We got dirty, broke bones, got sick occasionally, and sometimes got bloody noses—mostly by accident, but not always. Sometimes they were part of our very own social justice system.
And, for those whose parents had a little extra money, there was the ever-desired summer camp. “Hello Muddah… Hello Faddah. Here I am at camp Granada…”
Our parents worried, but not to the point of obsession. But through it all, we survived nicely. And this was in spite of the fact that our moms often made us sandwiches using WHITE bread… ON PURPOSE!
Also, as hard as I’m thinking about it, I can’t remember ANYONE giving a darn about how much fat was in the ice cream, either.
Please note, also, that ALL of us were well aware of how upset the “older” generation was concerning OUR (the “younger” generation’s) apparent lack of “brains” and our increasingly DEVIANT social behavior.
For sure, most of them were convinced that the country was going to hell in a hand basket and WE “younguns” were carrying the basket!
It’s different now. The kids of today have a lot more to worry about than we did. I doubt I’d enjoy being a kid today.
Exaggerated fear of the “possible” rather than the “probable,” holds today’s parents in paralyzing death-grips, due mostly to the fact that catastrophe is all that newspapers, TV, and radio stations report nowadays. It sells, BIG TIME, you know.
Parents often end up overprotecting their kids. It’s definitely a topic for a separate article.
But, for now, I’ll just say that I’m not very worried about the “younger” generation. They’re going to grow up just as we did and take their rightful places in worrying about the “younger” generation.
Or, about judging today’s behavior by past standards…
People have to STOP comparing MY war, Vietnam, to Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re not the same.
The stakes are much higher today than in Vietnam. The weapons are much more accurate and devastating, but, simultaneously, we enjoy far more sophisticated medical expertise.
Wounds that ALWAYS killed in Vietnam don’t always do so today. While in many cases that’s a good thing, it’s not ALWAYS a good thing.
Today’s troops have, on average, more formal education and much better training than those in Vietnam had. And, the mission in Afghanistan, no matter what they tell us, is keeping Pakistan’s nuclear weapons out of the wrong hands.
But, to the military personnel doing today’s fighting and the families who have sent their children off in harm’s way, nothing has changed since the Civil War; it’s still a living nightmare!
I served two combat tours in Vietnam. It was long ago and, even when it was recent history, I was not one to wear reminders of the fact.
Of course, others, STILL, will NOT shut-up about it. They wear baseball caps that say things like “Vietnam Veteran,” or bumper stickers or license plates that proclaim their status as a previous POW, etc.
I thought doing this was a crock 40-years ago, and I think it’s a crock today. Regardless, though, people continue asking me what it was like, especially whenever they’re attempting to establish parallels to our participation in Afghanistan.
Even though I don’t talk much about it, I still remember it. I can remember every microsecond I spent in that God-forsaken jungle hellhole.
As I recall it, the misery seemed perpetual, and often in the company of sometimes paralyzing fear. At times, I was convinced that the only way I’d be leaving the place was in a body bag. At other times, I’d be filled with hope and anticipation of returning home.
Often, the highs were incredibly breath taking while the lows would plunge me deeply into depression. And, the rapid-fire psychological peaks and valleys sometimes drove me to the brink of emotional chaos.
A few times, if I were lucky, only deep anxiety would consume me. And, compared with the rest of the time, the anxiety—though deep—would be a welcome reprieve.
Overall, though, the entire experience mostly sucked big time. I wouldn’t want to do it again and I sure as hell don’t recommend it to the youth of today.
I imagine that our young people fighting today’s wars, once the overrated glamour of it wears thin, feel pretty much the same way.
Of course, some emotions NEVER wear thin, like the perpetual grip of terror loving families and friends experience while worrying over the safety of sons, daughters, etc., as they fight on our behalf.
Or about Freedom and Liberty…
Finally, understand that I have overwhelming gratitude and admiration for all of those who have fought and died in the defense of this nation. And, it extends, as well, to future patriots who WILL fight and die in its defense.
But, I have had my fill of people with nothing else to do than constantly rah-rah me with patriotic slogans and admonitions to THANK our troops by forwarding an unending stream of stupid emails.
First, GET THIS! America’s “bravest and brightest“ are not GIVING their lives for anything. They’re LOSING them. Throughout my entire stay in Vietnam, I never once thought of dying in a firefight or an ambush as an HONOR.
I was fighting a war on behalf of MY country. As such, I was willing to die rather than give an inch of ground to the enemy. And, herein is the honor of it all and the reason for a nation’s gratitude for its troops.
Speaking for MANY of the military troops of MY time, maudlin public displays of sugary gratitude embarrassed the daylights out of us. We were simply doing our jobs. We didn’t think of ourselves as heroes; today’s troops don’t, either.
A quiet, sincere “thank you” is a much-appreciated gesture. One of the most memorable for me was when an elderly man (about 70) slipped up behind me, gently patted my back, and whispered; “Thank you, young man.”
As well, the mindless drones that prattle on with status-quo sound bites about our Constitutional/Bill of Rights GUARANTEES to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, religion, redress, etc. need to shut up and think for a minute.
Our Constitution and Bill of Rights are simple pieces of paper. And, if EVER people forget that freedom and liberty are concepts… a way of life that exists in the hearts of PEOPLE searching for it, we’re well on our way to losing everything we have as a nation.
We’re FREE because from the day we decided to make it so, about two and a half centuries ago, we’ve shown the resolve to die rather than give it up. But, resolve without the MIGHT to back it up is useless. We’ve always had an abundance of both!
The ONLY rights that nations have—Constitutional or otherwise—are the ones they’re both, WILLING and ABLE, to defend. Lose either of these, and we can kiss our rights goodbye, God AND the paper version of our beloved Constitution notwithstanding.
Joe Walther is a freelance writer and publisher of The True Facts. You may comment on his column by clicking here.