Monday, January 18, 2016

The Same World?

I grew up in a simple world. At least, as a child and preteen, it seemed simple. I think we can                                                        agree that once you enter your teens, nothing is simple.

It was world in which the elderly folks in the community showed interest, and often affection, toward the youngsters in the neighborhood. They didn’t hesitate to caution a child about its behavior, and offered snacks of teacakes or hot bread and butter.

It was also a world in which parents worked from dawn to dark, and children were part of a family’s workforce. They worked according to their ability— and sometimes beyond. So I worked; got hot. tired, and whined  and complained. But I never walked off the job.

We did not lock our doors. We lived among good people. Mostly. Some drove a hard bargain in a trade, but they weren’t bad.  Some were less energetic than others and were suspected of occasionally appropriating something that was not theirs for their own use. It wasn’t a great problem. A barking dog, and a farmer with a shotgun is a strong determent to thievery.

Sometimes, some young fellow became known as being rather wild.  He often got drunk. He soon moved on to greener pastures. Or wetter pastures, to be more accurate. Occasionally, a young woman was spoken of in whispers. Not something young children needed to hear. They also, moved away, and we kids learned things not taught in the classroom.

There were Saturday night parties. Sometimes they were in someone’s house in another neighborhood, and we often walked a mile or two to get there. Nearer home, our favorite place to gather was on a large sandy hill in front of the home of some of our friends. That it was also in the middle of a county road didn’t matter. No cars were abroad at night.

On Sunday, we children attended Sunday school in the same building we learned to read and navigate the intricacies of math. For some it was a walk of less than a mile; for some it was twice that. Church services were held in the same building. There was no membership roll, but I suppose someone was in charge. Some people attended regularly—some occasionally.

We traveled on dirt roads; we cooked on wood or oil stoves, read by the light of kerosene lamps, and if there was no windmill, we either drew water from a well with a rope and well bucket or used a water pump that sucked air for an exasperatingly long time before bringing up water.

This was life in the country in the 30s and 40s, and if you have forgotten your history, this was still in the Great Depression days.

News was dominated by the war in Europe. England was entered in a desperate battle, and our country sent aid. President Roosevelt signed the first peace-time conscription act, and all men between the ages of 21 and 36 were subject to a lottery type drawing that inducted them into military training.

On December 7, 1941 lives changed. Our nation was attacked. Over 2400 Americans were killed, and                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           20 ships and 300 airplanes were loss in a surprise attack from the Japanese; an event so staggering—so atrocious—that the nation was stunned.  President Roosevelt’s speech to Congress the next day was broadcast to the nation, and one hour after the speech Congress passed a formal declaration of war.

Our eighteen year-old brothers and boyfriends were drafted and thousand more across the nation volunteered for military service. For the first time they were seeing the evil that existed in the world. They experienced the horrors of war. Planes were shot down; ships exploded, burned and sank, and those of us at home watched it happen on the newsreels that ran before each movie.

Our army was fighting on two fronts—the Japanese in the South Pacific, and Hitler’s Nazi Germany in the European struggle. Except for knowing which front a soldier was on, their whereabouts was a closely guarded secret. Infrequent letters were closely censored with black stamped bars covering any word that might give away the location of the sender.

Women went to work building airplanes and ships, and other jobs the men had vacated. They learned to drive, change tires, and coax dilapidated old cars to drive fifty miles or more to work.

Rationing went into effect. Meat and butter were rationed. So were shoes, gas, and tires. Many other products disappeared or were scarce. And we scrimped and saved to buy war bonds to pay for the guns and ammunition; the planes and ships, and food and clothing for our servicemen.

 Our nation united in the fight to save our way of life. And we won the war.

Seventy years have passed. An unimaginable evil is cutting a swath through country after country. Literally. One we are not prepared to fight. We have an enemy and argue about its title. We must not offend. We are being attacked, but it’s not a cause for war. There is no frontline. Instead attacks pop up like a case of chicken pox. No warning. Deadly.

Over forty years of hostage situations; attacks on our embassies, on Marine barracks, the USS Cole, hijacked and downed passenger planes, Benghazi did not end with the most horrific of all —the destruction of the twin towers. Now, the massacre at San Bernardino has rocked the nation, and there are threats of of more to come.

How will the history of this war on our country be written?