GROWING OLD IN THE 21ST CENTURY

By James Turnage

If this article is too personal, I make no apology. I decided to write it not only for myself, but for many of my friends and coworkers.

I was born in 1946. That time period is known as the age of the “baby boomers”. My father was in the Navy during WWII, and my mom was “Rosie the riveter” at the Boeing plant in Seattle Washington. When my father was discharged in Seattle, and he met my mother, I became the twinkle in his eye.

I remember family gatherings from the time I was about four years old. Times were tough. Jobs were scarce for young men returning from a horrible war. Switching from a wartime economy to a peacetime economy was difficult. Patriotism and joy over the defeat of Germany and Japan created certainty that our Country would prosper once again.

The jobs were being created in California. Most of my mother’s family, she, my father, my brother and I caravanned to Los Angeles from Idaho in search of work.

Things did get better, but very slowly. Economic change does not happen overnight as many seem to demand today.

I went to Catholic school. It was rigid, but I learned to be kind, respectful, tolerant, and to have a clear sense of morality. We said the “pledge of allegiance” every morning, and took turns with the honor of leading it. I remember my face feeling a flush whenever it was my turn.

I went to public high school for my last two years. My teachers overall were very good. We had dress codes, and were not allowed off campus until the bell rung after our last class.

It was in the first semester of my senior year when disaster happened. John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The school was quiet, not a noise anywhere was heard. We were soon sent home and watched television constantly. The past and current events of the tragedy were repeated over and over again, and we watched. In the senior court of Venice High School a bust of JFK stands to this day.

Adults and children shared time together. Political discussions were frequent, but never turned to angry confrontations. For the most part everyone had faith in their government. They believed that government would always, eventually, do the right thing for all of the citizens of our great country.

Jobs did come back by the early 1960’s. If you wanted to work, you could find decent employment. There were manufacturing jobs everywhere in textiles and machine shops. Times got better. There were thousands of new jobs being created in the electronics industry. For my parents, things were happening too fast, they couldn’t keep up with the new “gadgets”. Forecasts for future electronic toys and tools seemed completely impossible.

I was interested in politics at an early age. I enjoyed reading about the debates in the congress and senate. Compromise was the key word. When both sides worked together good things seemed to be accomplished that affected the American people.

No one cared which religion his neighbor practiced. We actually studied the Constitution in school, and were taught that our Country was founded by our forefathers in protest to the Church of England. There was only one church they were allowed to belong to, and it belonged to the leaders of the country. Therefore, the main premise of the Constitution was religious freedom and separation of church and state.

So here we are today in 2012. I live in a country I don’t recognize. The ads for this presidential election are the ugliest I have ever seen. Nothing has been accomplished by our legislative bodies of significance in almost four years. There has been no compromise. Even the health care law is insufficient. It did not include provisions that would help everyone. The insurance companies will still control the care we receive.

Teachers are more concerned with security and keeping their jobs than educating our youth. I’m not blaming them, the system and its controls restrict the form of education I received. I was taught not only facts, but to think and research various topics that might affect my life. College is almost unaffordable for the majority of our high school graduates. The last statistic I saw showed we were 14th in the world in education.

The jobs that were available in the early 60’s don’t exist in this country anymore. The companies exist, but they are making bigger profits employing the citizens in other countries. Companies that are offering jobs have lowered wages they offered five to ten years ago, shortened hours, and eliminated benefits, or reduced them greatly. And for people my age, there is discrimination. I know, I know there is a law against it, but it will never be enforced.

I worked for the 2010 Decennial Census as a manager in the Reno office. All of the 100+ employees in the office who were in my age group had stories of age discrimination. Most of them were highly educated. We had lawyers, architects, chemists, accountants, computer programmers, almost all areas of technical expertise.

I don’t understand how it came to be that a person is un-American if he or she is not Christian. From what I’ve witnessed in 66 years of living in this country, I have decided I don’t believe in organized religion at all. I will follow no man. I refuse to be taught what to believe and how to believe it.

It’s easy to blame others when times are bad. It didn’t seem hard for our government to work together in the past, why is it impossible today? I don’t like it, and I have lost all the faith I had in those we elect. I had that hope when I was much younger. I didn’t actually lose it, it was taken away from me. Where did my USA go?

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