Mt Pleasant News
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Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Jan 19, 2018

Are our best years ahead of us?

By Brooks Taylor | Sep 16, 2016

Ronald Regan often said during his presidency that America’s best years are in the future.

Really?

I am certain that Reagan and others who have uttered the prediction before and after Reagan believed those words and undoubtedly from their vantage point, they saw the country flourishing. However, it has been over a quarter of a century since Reagan’s presidency and much has happened in the world — most of it not conducive to a better world.

I grew up in a small town — about the size of New London — on the South Dakota prairie. I spent a good share of my youth riding my bike throughout the community, not having to worry about a drive-by shooting or a pedophile lurking in the shadows.

Today, kids can’t have that care-free attitude, not even in small communities.

Drugs back then were called aspirin, Tylenol, Alka-Selzer, cold and flu remedies. Although marijuana and LSD came on the scene during my latter years of high school, you never heard of heroin or cocaine addiction. Marijuana, it was feared at that time, was about as evil as you could get. Advertisements and public service announcements said pot killed brain cells and could harm you for life.

Alcohol does the same thing, but since it was an accepted norm, was not subjected to the fear stories.

Perhaps living in a small town in the Midwest, we were isolated from the problems faced in big cities. That being said, the metro newspapers and television news weren’t filled with stories of violence in the cities. We were told of the Boston Strangler and Richard Speck, but Chicago never had 20 murders over a weekend.

My college days were during the height of the Vietnam War and Watergate. There were a couple of small anti-war protests on campus but we weren’t Berkley, Calif., or Kent State, Ohio.

Rap music and suggestive lyrics weren’t a thought. We loved our campus band, “Birnam Wood,” which graduated a guitar player to “The Who,” one of the top rock bands of my era.

Reflecting on those long-ago days, life was much simpler in the 1960s and 1970s. Granted, we did not have the technology today’s kids have, but that may not have been entirely a negative.

We had to find ways to entertain ourselves rather than be entertained through Xboxes and video games. That meant we spent a lot more time outdoors than sitting inside staring at a computer screen or television.

Cellphones were unheard of, so you didn’t see us texting while driving. Al Gore hadn’t discovered the Internet either. While some people today could not live without the Internet, it has opened the door to scammers, fraud and deception.

My parents’ driveway served as the basketball court for pick-up games in the neighborhood. Those games weren’t confined to the nice-weather months, either. We played when dribbling the basketball was a challenge because the temperature was hovering near zero. So many games were played that the cement on the driveway showed wear from use.

Summer activities were dominated by whiffle ball and baseball. Baseball was played on a vacant lot a few feet from the railroad tracks. A creek ran between the lot and railroad tracks. If you were a right-handed pull hitter there was a good chance your hit would find the creek. Water is rough on baseballs, so rough that we used to put electrical tape on the baseballs to extend their life span.

Since the creek was a landing spot for right-handed pull hitters, we learned to switch hit because it extended the life of the baseball.

Yes, we didn’t have the medical technology that we have today. Out-patient surgery was unheard of and an appendectomy generally meant three or four days in the hospital. We didn’t have AIDS and Zika either, or some of the health hazards that have surfaced today.

Despite the Vietnam War, it was largely a time of peace on earth. There was no 9/11, ISIS, beheading of people, Taliban or constant turmoil in the Mideast. Iran was still ruled by a Shah and North Korea was just the division of a former country called Korea. We never feared that either country would nuke its neighbors.

When I look at today’s world, I fear for my children and grandchildren because their world will be much different — and that doesn’t necessarily mean better — than mine.

Recently, I talked to Mansel Beavers of Mt. Pleasant, a veteran of World War II, and the Korean and Vietnam wars. He said life for him was the best in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. I agree.

And I beg to disagree with those who say America’s best days are in the future. While we may have more conveniences and advances in many areas impacting our lives, it is a tradeoff for the safety and liberties we are losing.

 

 

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