Kent Treiber: Yes, things have changed |

Kent Treiber: Yes, things have changed

A recent column in The Union reminded me of my father. Beginning in his 60s, my father became fond of talking about the many changes in our country that distressed him. Now that I’m of advanced years, many of my contemporaries are doing the same thing.

I love this country and feel incredibly lucky to have lived here and in this time. That said, we are not, and have never been, perfect. I hope that we continue to strive towards a “more perfect Union.”

It’s easy to sugar coat the past. Before we criticize the world and young people of today, let’s consider some of the things that occurred during our youth and middle age. We can begin with rampant racism in the 1950s. Virtually everything was segregated in the south, more subtle segregation occurred elsewhere. Racial, ethnic, and religious epithets were commonly heard. People who were different were treated with anger and fear by many Americans.

You think terrorism is scary? From the 1950s through the 1980s we lived under the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction — nuclear war. All of us knew that a madman pushing a button could trigger the destruction of human life on this planet. This fear peaked for me during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962.

It’s easy to sugar coat the past. Before we criticize the world and young people of today, let’s consider some of the things that occurred during our youth and middle age.

In the 1960s, our country stumbled into the Vietnam War which killed as well as physically and mentally maimed some of my generation. A significant minority of our population strongly objected to the war, staging massive marches and demonstrations, sometimes treating soldiers badly. We were a polarized country. About the same time, LSD, marijuana, and other drugs became more popular — remember “turn on, tune in, drop out?” Attitudes towards sex changed significantly.

In 1963, President Kennedy was assassinated. In 1968, civil rights icon Martin Luther King and presidential candidate Robert Kennedy were assassinated. The 1960s saw the summer of love as well as a dozen race riots, some triggered by alleged police brutality/shootings.

From the 1960s into the 1980s, the “second wave” of feminism created significant changes in our society. The process continues today. In 1973, we dealt with the oil embargo — long lines for limited fuel at gas stations. From the mid ’70s until 1982, we endured massive inflation, peaking at almost 14 percent in 1980. Borrowing costs went through the roof and people on fixed incomes were financially destroyed.

You get what you pay for. Beginning in 1978 (Proposition 13) and 1981 (federal tax cuts) we began to back off on paying for government. Our justice system costs a whole lot more than it used to, thus there is less money for other functions. We’ve seen a trend of minimal highway expansion and maintenance and rapidly rising college tuition. Popular demand for ever lower prices and business demand for profit has led to drastically reduced customer service over our lifetime.

After World War II we saw a spike in divorce rates; they settled down until the mid-’60s when they climbed into new territory, peaking in 1981 when marriage rates also began to decline.

So yes, our country and our young people are different compared to when we were young. Our parents made the same observations in their time.

Some of the changes may not be so great; some probably are.

Let’s just remember what the world was like when we were young and the changes our generations wrought before we get overly critical.

Kent Treiber lives in Penn Valley.

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