When I was growing up

I’ve always been surprised by people who say they don’t like being old, who don’t want to admit their age, who act as if it’s a defeat rather than a victory to be on the right side of 50. I’ve never understood shame over longevity, because while the future is uncertain, the past is the fabric of history.

When I was growing up, I couldn’t believe my good luck. Everything was changing for the better, all the time. Living in the 1960s was like being on a train heading for paradise, in my view. Yes, horrible things were happening. We watched the wars in Birmingham and Southeast Asia on television, so you couldn’t pretend. But apparently bad things always had happened. Our babysitter had memories of Nazi Germany, my father was arrested protesting a Nazi rally in our own comfortable neighborhood. But like the insipid fare, that we knew was insipid, served up on television, everything turned out all right, always in the end. Our father not only got off, and made good friends with the cop who arrested him, but never had to serve jury duty again, because he had been arrested. On a larger scale we saw the arrestees of the civil rights struggle become heroes and examples. And through all of that our world got better. I remember when the newspapers suddenly stopped listing Help Wanted under separate male and female columns because of the Civil Rights Act, when acting on sexism, as well as racism, became legally wrong. It’s sad now that those things had to happen, but it was momentous to watch that, at least, and at last, they did. The Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was cruel and unusual, and that women had the right to decide if they saw a pregnancy to term. It was a wonderful thing to grow up and see our world growing up with us.

Then the 70s came, and I’m still not sure I would wish continuing to grow up during the backlash they brought on anyone. The death penalty came back, racism and sexism found new languages and stages to legitimize themselves, the war on drugs began and continues to leave carnage on the battlefields of our towns and cities still. The disillusionment, for a child of the 60s was a train wreck.

But while that was happening, children of the 60s were getting ready to make the world what it should be, instead of what it was. And today we saw the outcome of that, as Barack Hussein Obama, our president, began his second term, praising the heros of Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall, and making me proud and happy, again, to be here, now and to see where the years have taken us.


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