During the ‘60s when lunch counter demonstrations, firehosed American citizens, and peaceful black demonstrators corralled by police dogs were on the evening news, I watched in awe as a confused teenager during soup at dinner. There would be a commercial and then pictures of horrifically injured soldiers taken off helicopters in Vietnam became the main course. American citizens marching against that awful war, with guns drawn against them, were follow-ups during dessert.
I asked my mother, “Has the world gone crazy?”
Her answer: “It’s always been like this, but TV brings it closer.”
For some strange reason I found an odd kind of comfort in knowing that the insanity I watched on TV, while eating baked chicken and mashed potatoes with Walter Cronkite, was not unique; it’s always been there.
But now, as I lean my sign up against the fence on which I perch, I won’t even go into the maelstrom of the pants suit vs. small hands last election. That which has been cast upon us, the new world order of TV to Twitter, in my mind, has changed everything.
The plus and minus of instant response, without due diligence, has me quaking in my Uggs.
So I’ll ask Mom, “Has the world gone crazy... again?”
Her answer, if she were still alive: “Build a bomb shelter.”
I remember the day I was home from school with Mom in Elizabeth, New Jersey (Soprano country), during an air raid test. We had the duck and cover drills in class and the trips down to the air raid shelter in the basement of the school, where food and water were stored. But the town wide test was a new thing. It was all over the news (three stations on TV, only two worked).
We were told to go to our basement when the sirens started and wait for an Air Raid Warden to check on our whereabouts and not to leave the basement until the all clear sounded.
Sirens went off on schedule, and Mom and I scurried to the basement and waited in the coal bin. A neighbor, Mr. Connelly, an old guy in a funny Air Raid Warden hat, went from house to house checking on mothers and children huddled in cellars. It seemed like we stood there forever.
Finally he tapped on the window of the coal bin, mom waved, he waved back and he wrote something on a clipboard. Sure enough, a few minutes later the all clear sounded and we went back upstairs for lunch.
The whole experience at age 7, to be saved from annihilation on a mound of coal in the basement of a house on Dayton Street in Elizabeth, New Jersey, meant little to a kid my age back then. But when President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev went at it I was old enough to understand the ramifications of exacting communication. Negotiations regarding nuclear life and death consequences were tricky then, and I know now, more than worth 140 characters.
I used to believe that it really didn’t matter who our leaders were because in the end they either get replaced or continue their good works. I used to believe that politicians, regardless of party, all want the same thing: to serve and do what’s best for us and our nation. I used to believe in Santa Claus.
Well, actually, I still believe in Santa Claus.