Gently We Slip From Prom Night Into That Good Night

We have a love affair with military terms, as in the nation’s war-on-poverty, the patient’s fight-with- cancer, and the world’s population-explosion. Why such militancy is a conversation in itself, but lets just consider the last one. In fact, only part of the world’s population is exploding [mostly the southern half] whereas it’s diminishing in the north [especially in West Europe and the United States].

The causes are many and complex. But the consequences can be seen singular and simple. Instead of a population explosion, what’s happening is a health explosion. More of us old people will be around longer to crowd ERs…strain national health-care…be here as a boon or burden to our children.

In a Europe in need of young labor forces, this means the mixed blessings of more workers from the Islamic world. In the United States, this means the specters of Medicare-sucking seniors draining the young, overwhelming hospitals, and even Sarah Palin’s mad dreams about death panels.

Uncle Harry had a saying in Italian. Translated: “There are times when we’re completely worry free. Those are called panic!” Right now there’s a wave of panic in budget offices here in graft-ridden Illinois all the way up to the nattering nabobs in Washington. What to do with these old folks…?

At the other end of the age-spectrum are this spring’s senior proms. Tens of thousands will be priming and primping for the annual passage from adolescence into young adulthood. Unlike the frillier Mickey Rooney & Judy Garland proms in the old MGM movies, the 21st C versions are more fierce than frilly. The music is edgier, the kids are tougher, and the after-prom agendas are wilder. Which helps explain why what cost my generation about a hundred bucks, now costs on average $1,078 [up from $807 just last year]. What recession…??

If you happen by one of these coronations, study the story right there before your eyes. Teens — body to body and plans to plans — criss-crossing the floor. Seniors — parents & faculty chaperons — sitting on the sidelines. The distance between them only a few yards; but a giant generation. The seniors are nearing the end of a journey that now usually ends up in a senior home. The teens…? Well, they’re not thinking about that. Or its future costs, and consequences, or even implications for them.

Tonight is a night with no tomorrows. Their teachers, parents and relatives…? Say, that’s not the kids’ worry. Only it is…!

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