I Worry about Becoming

As a general rule, I don’t read Salon. I rarely find it interesting, useful, or entertaining. I see stuff shared everywhere, start to click on it, notice it’s Salon and don’t bother (unlike when I notice something is Jezebel & I nuke the link from orbit). I read this article, though:

In real life Archie Bunker isn’t that cute. . . . I don’t recall my father being so hostile when I was growing up. He was conservative, to be sure, but conventionally and thoughtfully so. He is a kind and generous man and a good father, but over the past five or 10 years, he’s become so conservative that I can’t even find a label for it.

If you consumed a daily diet of right-wing fury, erroneously labeled “news,” you could very likely end up in the same place. Again, this is all by design. Let’s call it the Fox News effect. Take sweet, kindly senior citizens and feed them a steady stream of demagoguery and repetition, all wrapped in the laughable slogan of “fair and balanced.” Even watching the commercials on Fox, one is treated to sales pitches for gold and emergency food rations, the product cornerstones of the paranoid. To some people the idea of retirees yelling at the television all day may seem funny, but this isn’t a joke. We’re losing the nation’s grandparents, and it’s an American tragedy. . . . I do not want to watch my father and his entire generation spend their remaining years enraged at utter nonsense.

I don’t know–it’s a good enough theory, I guess. But haven’t people always gotten more conservative, less inclined to change with age? That’s what I fear happening to me when I get older.

Not that I’ve watched television news since I was a teenager. Even when I catch glimpses of it, I’m very put off by the carnival atmosphere, the teasers, the salacious stories about local/individual sorrows, not to mention the lack of depth, nuance or utility.

News should either be pure utility (“the weather will be a high of 12 degrees today”; “2 lanes outbound of the Eisenhower are closed for construction”; “the primary election is next week”) or it should require active thinking to consume. Everything else is polemic and entertainment. Everything else is Robocop.

That’s the digression. What am I concerned about is that the pace of change in life will start to baffle and outpace me in an uncomfortable way. I strongly fear becoming a person who cannot understand or relate to the world as it is and thus becoming angry or afraid, like the person described in the Salon article.

Sometimes I also list the differences in day to day living between me and my mother. She did not have a refrigerator–but an ice box–as a child. She was not allowed to enroll in the courses necessary to become an architect because she was a woman. Children in her school died of diseases no-one gets anymore. She went from a party line to everyone she knows having a personal phone (sometimes multiple personal phones) in their pockets. Her schools, trains, public water fountains were segregated. She does not seem angry about the new things–although often dismissive of some things and a little judgmental about the public-facing selves of Millennials.

I compare that to the differences between me and my kindergartner-nephew, which seem to be incremental in comparison. He’s always had videotelephone calls, his gay uncles will always been allowed to be married, organ transplants, 3D-printing, an African-American president.

Some vast advances are details (skype, facetime, cell phones) and some are profound (vaccinations, improved civil rights). Then I tend to recognize that it’s the details which seem scary (because it’s such an adjustment having to remember a log on and strong password for every detail of my life) and the sea changes (gay marriage, women in power, neonatal medicine) which only make me more impressed with the depth of humanity.

I guess you have to engage in the wonder and accept that you might not know how or why.

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