I read recently the results of a current poll that finds most Americans on both sides of the aisle feel the country is headed in the wrong direction. Well, there is very little I find myself in agreement with today, but this is one of those times I nod my head, “yes.”
If you know me this comes as no surprise. I have never been much of a joiner of anything. Really, only those groups I sort of had to like being in my grade in school. Joining always seemed highly overrated to me and kind of took away my being me.
Let’s get back to the mutual agreement that the country is headed in the wrong direction. Due to the timing of my birth in the early aftermath of WWII, I grew up as a “boomer,” sort of a silly tag, but I was never asked about what to call the generation born in the first years after the War. Statistics have long said there are lots of us. You have to remember tv was in its infancy then, reception was poor to none existent in many parts of the country, and we had a lot of parents damn glad to have survived the War. “Buffalo Bob,” “Howdy Doody,” “Ozzie and Harriet,” and “I Love Lucy” were our reference points. Listening to my parents and grandparents talk, it seemed a common phrase was “…during the Depression…” I had no idea what this meant, but it seemed to be a time that had a strong impression on the adults in my life, especially my grandparents. I could connect enough dots to recognize that it was a hard time and one nobody wanted to go back to – that would have been the “headed in the wrong direction…” for those that lived through it.
In New England, and especially Vermont in the 1950s and early 1960s, we were kind of insulated from much that was happening in other parts of the country and the world. Some of the insulation for my peer group also had to do with we were still kids and not really ready to understand what was going on. For me, the turning point was the assassination of President Kennedy. This tragedy was very real and I was also at an age (12) to begin to understand that events away from us could be very bad. Let’s say I started paying attention. I started paying attention to the news coming into our living rooms, I watched folks, mostly black, being beaten by State policemen on horseback swinging night sticks and whips, using big police dogs to attack them. It seemed their crime was having a parade of some sorts. And then, the lynchings and poor people swinging from ropes hanging down from trees while a crowd watched their deaths. I did not know what the folks lynched did that was so wrong to deserve this. It seemed it was about them being black and not about some crime committed. Let’s say my eyes were open and I was paying attention to what was going on.
And then, in 1969, sort of a real mile marker year, I graduated from high school, watched Neil Armstrong take those first steps for mankind on the moon, and registered for the draft on my eighteenth birthday as a freshman in college. I was fast becoming aware of a place called Vietnam where many of my age group was going off to fight, and many die, and I did not really know why? Still don’t. I think the country is still waitng for an explanation – don’t hold your breath.
Ok, by the end of 1969, my roots of cyncism and skepticism are getting well establised. Let’s say the events that followed did a good job nurturing these roots and helping me get to the point where my reaction to most of what is coming at me from people in power is to question everything and accept nothing at face value. The sad thing is this perspective has been reinforced by us, meaning our leaders, so many times over the years that I have no other system of cognition other than to question and suspect. Nixon and Watergate cemented the capstone in my cynicism and skepticism. Some other flawed leaders that followed gave me no reason to abandon my operating system.
So, is the country heading in the wrong direction? Yes, it has been for a long time. It should not take a lot of convincing to accept this. I lay the blame at our leaders, and especially the political parties. I don’t suppose it will do much good to mention some history, but Washington tried to warn us about the danger of political parties. I find most politicians to be some of the most selfish people walking the earth. They are in politics for themselves, the power they accrue, and of course, the money. It is always about follow the dollars if you want to understand.
My vote goes with wrong direction. But, and a big “but,” (a good axe handle across kind of butt), outside of New England and my native Vermont, I do not see much to encourage me in changes of direction. A lot of the country seems to have dropped their moral compasses a long time ago and are just following some blow hard slob leading them to more of the same – hardly a direction to take up in my opinion.
I think I’ll go fishing and think about all of this in a peaceful place where nature still can add some decency to my life. Or, there is “…always the garden when the world wearies and ceases to satisfy…” (Minnie Aumonier). Working to grow food is taking on great importance and also satisfaction in my later years, especially this one.