This country is just not what it used to be. How many times have you heard that. This country is just not what it used to be – and it never was. It never was the way I was taught to believe when I was in high school. Remember those good old days. The days of pretty girls in poodle skirts and cute boys with buzz cuts. The really cool ones always carried their pack of Camels rolled up in the sleeve of their sparkling white T-shirts.
Everyone was happy back then – well not exactly everyone. Lynching continued in the south but we never talked about things like that. I went to high school in the 50s in a small coal-mining town in the north. Talk about lynching was never heard. Many years later, when I learned that lynching continued through the 60s, I wondered why Mr. Kopetz never taught about it. I still remember Mr. Kopetz. He was a tall, distinguished looking man. He was highly respected in the community and was well known for the no-nonsense way he ran his classroom. He taught the Problems of Democracy class to seniors at Luzerne High School. Maybe it was my fault that I did not learn about extreme racism in my PoD class. Maybe it was taught one day during the 5 minutes that I was sneaking a smoke in the girl’s room.
Facts about lynching were not the only gaps in education in the old days. While I was in high school being taught that this country never did anything wrong, the CIA was in Guatemala killing the people there. Many years later, when I eventually learned about that, I knew that I had been deceived by the educational system. I was not alone. Most who went to school during that era were similarly brainwashed.
Are things any better in schools now? Are students taught about covert CIA actions, about how the US got its base at Diego Garcia, about the atrocities at NoGunRi? When I evaluate history textbooks, one of the first words I look up in the index is NoGunRi. Usually there is no mention of that war crime.
It still amazes me that I never heard the words "conscientious objector" while I was in high school. WW2 was a big topic. Most of us knew the official version of that war. We learned those lessons well. The Saturday matinee was the big event of the week. Any kid with 12 cents got in. Kids without the 12 cents usually were smart enough to figure out alternative methods of entry. The movies were often war films about the "Japs". Hating them was a patriotic duty. We were never taught about the hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese civilians who were needlessly slaughtered by the atomic bombs. About the fire bombing of Dresden – well that didn’t matter either. After all they were Germans.
Kids grew up playing cowboys and Indians. We were taught to hate Indians. We never gave a thought to the fact that Columbus could not have discovered a country that already had a native population. Logic would indicate that maybe the native people had been the real discoverers. The European explorers, who were heroes to us, had blood on their hands. We never learned about their criminal acts.
In the 50s kids grew up hating Indians, "Japs", Germans, and black people. Kids now grow up hating Muslims, "rag heads", and an assortment of other groups. Recently, it has been interesting watching and listening to the hate talk that has been directed toward people from other countries. Glen Beck, Lou Dobbs, and a few others lead the pack. If we label people "illegal", it is socially acceptable to hate them. New York Governor Spitzer has suggested that those from other countries be allowed to get drivers’ licenses. The backlash and hate from ordinary citizens has been mind-boggling. Hazleton, Pennsylvania is another hate zone.
The term "illegal alien" is loaded with prejudice. No human being is illegal. Sometimes the law can be wrong. Remember, slavery was legal – that did not make it right. Why should the geographic location of person’s mother at the time of his birth give any special privileges or penalties? Am I the only one who still believes that all men are created equal. Prejudice based on geography is no more acceptable than prejudice based on race, creed, ethnicity, or economic status.
It all goes to show that this country is just not what it used to be. What it used to be never was, and what it is becoming is even worse.