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 The America I once knew

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Abe F. March
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Location : Germany

PostSubject: The America I once knew   Thu Aug 31, 2017 7:59 am

I’m disappointed, confused and concerned.  I wonder what happened to the America I once knew.  Birth may define ones citizenship, but does it define what it means to be an American?  With the troubled times we are experiencing, it caused me to examine the question of what it means to be an American and why it is different today than it was in my youth.
 
I grew up in rural America, in farm country, living in a modest home with a mother that was a strict disciplinarian and a Bible believing Christian.  We were taught respect for our elders and those in authority.  We called Policemen, Sir.  We referred to our teachers as Mr. or Mrs. never using their first names.  Our relatives were referenced as Aunt or Uncle as appropriate.
Visiting with relatives was a tradition allowing us kids the opportunity to play with our cousins in games we often manufactured.  We all had chores to perform, especially those who lived on the farm.  Child labor was not an issue.  We were expected to help and did so as a natural part of our upbringing.  Play time was available after the work was done.  We spent out time outdoors engaged in exploring the surrounding countryside - the woods and streams. There were accidents/injuries due to climbing trees or from work-related functions.  Doctors were sought in extreme cases where broken bones or severe cuts were involved, otherwise home remedies were used.  The Doctors never demanded payment before or after their service.  People paid what they could afford.  Sometimes the payment was in food.
School was viewed by many of us as an escape from labor.  We had homework and our parents insisted that it be completed before we engaged in any other activity.  Our parents supported the teachers and if we were disciplined in school, we could expect more punishment at home if our parents found out about it.  We were expected to help our neighbors and that often had to do with harvesting.  Neighbor helping neighbor was a normal thing to do.  If a family fell on hard times, neighbors pitched in to help out.  We didn’t expect to receive compensation for this help.  When we as children did receive some compensation, it was appreciated.  Compensation was most often a share in food from the harvest.  At home, we were given a weekly allowance, as much as .25 cents, so that we had money to spend for candy or that we could save for something of greater value.  Some kids got as much as a dollar and we envied them.  My first bike was purchased from the money I saved from my allowance and gratuities received from helping others.  It was a used bike and valued highly because I was able to buy it with my own money. 
 
These were the post-war years.  Women who worked in factories to assist in making war materials during the war were now back in the home as housewives.  Jobs were taken over by men who needed work when they returned from their military service.  Some returned as cripples.  Stories about their experience in the military were rare.  They simply didn’t want to talk about it.  Some would wake up at night screaming having relived some part of their horrible experience in their dreams.  As young men, we expected that someday we would be drafted into the military to serve our country. We played war games using wooden sticks and verbally yelling bang, bang.  Other games were mimicked with Cowboys and Indians, using improvised weapons. 
 
Upon graduation from High School, there were several options.  One option was to enter college; however my parents could not afford the cost of college.  The two remaining options were to find a job or to join the military.  It was a chance to select the branch of the service or be drafted into the army.  (The draft ended in 1973) Recruiters came to the High School (Army, Navy, Marines and Air Force). I chose the Air Force.  It was also a time when many leaving High School got married.  It was not always a choice as some were married under the “shotgun wedding” designation.  They got the girl pregnant and it was their duty to take responsibility for their actions.  It was a time when children left home either by choice or were forced out to make it on their own.  For those who didn’t go to college or enter the armed services sought employment in the city since local work, except for farm work, was not available.  The security of living at home was over.  Moving into the city contributed to the break up of family life. Some enjoyed the freedom it offered without parental supervision.  Crime was rare.  One did not fear for their safety when going out alone.  Children could roam without worry for their safety.  Guns were not in the hands of anyone except the police.  The exception was during hunting season when shotguns or rifles were used and then stored for the next hunting season.  Handguns were not used for hunting.  The only handguns were to be seen in western cowboy movies and on the hips of the police.  If a stranger moved into the area, everyone knew about the person and his/her family.  They were welcomed and invited to the local church.  Religion played a major role in family life.  The Christian principles, for the most part, were practiced real life.  There were the backsliders who were the subject of much prayer and visitations to get them back on the “right path”. 
 
Acts of God, (natural disasters) were rare, but when they did occur, everyone pitched in to help.  Most disasters I experienced had to do with fires.  Neighbors helped to rebuild homes lost due to fire.  They provided food, clothing and temporary shelter until their homes were rebuilt. 
 
The America I knew came together as one people when disasters occurred or the country was threatened.  That same spirit is being shown by some with the flooding in Texas.  Some churches have shown their good will while the biggest church finally opened their doors after much pressure on social media.  That is such a sad thing.   It’s another example where actions speak louder than words. 
 
Socialism was a part of America’s history.  It was not something government mandated, but simply the right thing to do – neighbor helping neighbor.  There are some government social services such as the police department.  The Fire department consists primarily of volunteers, but they are also supported by the government as well as road service crews.  What is lacking is a Universal healthcare program that many want to paint as something evil and refer to it as socialism.  Democratic socialism saves lives.  Many of those who oppose helping their fellow man social programs support the military machine that takes lives.  The invasion of Iraq was a blunder that will stay with us forever.  The repercussions are still being felt.  If our country needs to be defended, there will be many who will voluntarily risk their lives to save others.  The downside is not caring for the veterans when the war is over. 
 
We can take pride in our resilience to bounce back from adversity but be ashamed when those who risk their lives are ignored.  Calling America a Christian nation sounds good, however actions don’t support that view.   One does not need to be religious to be spiritual or to have compassion for their fellow man.


In conclusion, I believe that the change occurred when pure capitalism took over.  “What’s in it for me”?   How much will I get paid if I perform a service?  That attitude is prevalent in our society today and even in politics.
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Shelagh
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PostSubject: Re: The America I once knew   Thu Aug 31, 2017 5:42 pm

America is a vast country, Abe. Much of what you remember still exists across the states in terms of American standards. Technology has changed everyone's lives, and things have moved on in much the same way that your life is different from that of your grandparents and great grandparents. The biggest difference is in the way that minority groups have emerged and become powerful lobbyists out of all proportion to their size. They make demands on the silent majority, who just want life to continue as it was, albeit with the new technological advances. The majority are losing patience and are becoming less silent. This is causing strife and division. Something has to give. America has reached a tipping point. It will be interesting to see which direction it takes.

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Abe F. March
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PostSubject: Re: The America I once knew   Thu Aug 31, 2017 11:01 pm

Agree, Shelagh.  As you said:  "This is causing strife and division. Something has to give. America has reached a tipping point. It will be interesting to see which direction it takes."
My guess is that the tipping point has much to do with the current administration.  Deep-seated feelings have been exposed.  Racism still exists and runs deeper than most thought.  Posts on FB have exposed charlatan religious leaders using religion for their personal gain.  I expect that things will get worse before there is a change for the better.  Before positive change can occur, we must face the truth of who we are and/or what we have become.  Facing truth can be painful.  Recognizing/admitting that there is a problem is the first step to a cure and its only vaccine.  Remaining silent contributes to the problem.
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