I’ll admit it, I’m a little behind on a topic of great importance…I’ve just finally finished up season 3 of Mad Men (thanks Netflix for making binge watching such a breeze).
Once simply a dry fact out of a history book to me, it was an incredibly striking experience to see President Kennedy’s assassination through the eyes and hearts of characters I’ve come to have a massive personal investment in. I wasn’t really prepared for the intensity of reliving the sudden demise of such a loved (to my knowledge) president through the devastated eyes of 1963.
After I’d taken some time to digest this significant perception shift within myself, my next impulse was to interview the elders in my immediate vicinity - my mom and my stepdad - about where they were and what they remembered about that day.
Not surprisingly, it was a crystal clear memory for both of them. They were in school at the time of the television announcement (one in high school, one in college) and caught wind of the tragedy first through word of mouth. Both, interestingly, reacted with disbelief, feeling that it had to be some kind of a prank by classmates.
Once the reality of the situation had penetrated their hearts and minds, their emotions generally followed similar paths, despite holding distinctly different political views. My stepfather was an young and active member of the GOP, yet despite his overall lack of enthusiasm for Kennedy, his response was still “horrified.” My mother, a liberal most of her adult life, said she was depressed for days after the assassination. Inferring that Kennedy’s reign held a similar peace and prosperity to that of the legendary King Arthur, she commented on how it seemed as if some great evil had swooped in and poisoned Camelot.
Indeed it must have seemed a great evil in that golden age, with the abrupt termination of Kennedy’s life being only the beginning in a long line of assassinations of many great leaders of men. Everyone wondered, “what is happening to our society? What is the world becoming?”
Fast forward to our current age, and the next generation will be asking us the same questions of, “where were you? How did you feel?” But they will, of course, be referring to the day the Twin Towers of New York were taken down by terrorists.
Like my folks, I personally can remember that day fairly clearly, as I’m sure do most. I remember turning on the tv that morning to watch something undoubtedly inane, and instead seeing a smoking World Trade Center. Ironically, like the generation before me, I too didn’t take it seriously at first, thinking it to be a stunt of some kind. Certainly it couldn’t be really happening!
Shortly thereafter the dawning of reality left me transfixed for hours, glued to the tv, calling friends and relatives (via a landline, which continued to function despite cellular network failures nationwide). My mom was the first person I called, and I was the first she had heard the news from. I remember saying “I’m not really sure what’s going on, but I think this is real.”
When the dust had settled, society once again started to look around at the aftermath and wonder, “what is the world becoming?”
Now, almost 15 years later, for some the implications of that day have faded to the background, while others have remained on constant guard, feeling that the threat of imminent & massive strife has never truly ended.
Originally it was World War 2 that propelled society into that first golden age, represented by America in the 1950’s and 60’s. Following a severe depression, it was built on sweat and tears and death, on the realization of the horrors that humanity could visit upon one another in the name of politics, power, and righteousness. The American people came out of that hellish period banded together to build a better future for themselves.
But what have we built today’s golden age on? Technology and convenience perhaps, which have only sped up our pace of life and detached us from some many of the things that make us human. “The Paradox of Our Age” essay by Dr. Bob Moorehead pretty much hit that nail on its head.
Today’s generations of young adults may be living in something of a golden age ourselves, many of us raised amidst every modern convenience, a cell phone in one hand and credit card in the other. Keeping up with the Joneses has become the new American Dream for most, regardless of our rising overall debt, which continues to accelerate at an alarming rate.
But the people aren’t the only ones in debt. It’s a lesson we’re easily learning from our big brother - our government.
Indeed, in reality we are living amidst some kind of pseudo golden age, one that is not built of the same quality of it’s predecessor, like so many other things now. The present day middle- and upper-class society reach for the sky by bouncing on some great over-inflated balloon, choosing ignorance in not seeing that it might pop right beneath us. While there are plenty of open-minded people out there, I also hear members of my generation constantly say NO to progress and change, or even in recognizing possible creeping problems, simply because it does not suit them. It does not suit their lifestyle or their convenience.
So my question is, what happens when that balloon does pop, as it will inevitably do?
Best case, perhaps we see yet another recession, similar to the ones we have experienced as recently as 2008. And of course, there are plenty of worst case scenarios circulating like juicy gossip, usually bouncing like some mad ping pong ball between the subjects of environmental and economic collapse.
As if the American soap box needed any encouragement.
I don’t have any answers, although I have some of my own theories. However I do invite everyone to take a moment, ponder this bit of rambling thought, and consider the spectrum of honest realities for the future, from the best to the worst scenarios.
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Filed under: Sparks