Showing posts with label Life in our nation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Life in our nation. Show all posts

Sunday, April 8, 2012

We've Come a Long Way, Baby

A hot issue
        We have come a long way but it’s taken two hundred years, the persistence of some very determined women, two World Wars, and an explosion of technological advances. after World War Two. All these have combined to place women in their present position. 
  We’ve moved from the washtub, rub board, and clothesline, to automatic washer and dryer sets, with numerous settings to control each phase of the washday chore.
  We’ve exchanged the fireplace and wood cook stove for sophisticated stoves that cook when we want, and how we want, without our oversight, although one that will stir the sauce, or turn the bacon, doesn’t seem to be on the market.
   Freezers and microwaves have changed both shopping and meal preparation time, and changed a lot of eating habits.
   In addition to all that, air conditioning has changed the kitchen from a sweatshop to a rather pleasant place for the family or guests to congregate during the meal preparation.
   Yep, all that’s nice. In fact, it’s extremely nice, but also absolutely necessary in the society that has changed as rapidly as technology. Women’s work outside the home would not be possible without the helping hands of their improved appliances and often those of their husbands. No longer “just a housewife” they were upgraded to “homemaker.” So what are they now?  

      There’s a bit of a political controversy going on that may show that they’re a mean, mad, fighting machine. To say they’re stirred up over some recent actions and opinions of our lawmakers is an understatement. They are furious. After years of struggling for recognition as persons of great capabilities, and having proved that fact time and time again, many women are insulted by laws that are being enacted that affect their personal decision-making, and even the future of their family.

      Women have long been involved in controversies over their rights. It’s a depressing issue. Is it a carry-over from our pre-historical days? The cartoonish image of a guy with a club dragging his chosen mate by the hair back to his cave comes to mind. We really have come a long way! So have the guys, thank goodness.
      Putting fun thoughts aside, today’s woman has had none of the frustrating experiences of those early women who fought so hard for women’s suffrage.  And it started while the Revolutionary War was in progress – even while leaders of the colonies were meeting to draw up the guidelines for the independent country they were hoping to become.
      Records show that a 1776 letter from Abigail Adams, written to her husband, John Adams, who was meeting with that group, made the gentle suggestion that they “remember the ladies”  in the new code of laws. She got this reply: “The men will fight the ‘despotism of the petticoat’.” This came from a man who became the first vice-president, and the man who became the second president of our country. Was this a bit of humor? Quite likely it was. In his reply he may have been using a humorous approach to disguise the harsh truth – that the women would not have equal rights in this newly formed country.

Another point of view
      Old records show that  from the beginning of our nation, women were asking for the right to vote and be allowed to shape this new nation, It was not to be. State after state denied them that right. In the 1800s, the ladies began to organize. Even so, it was a long battle. Those women who persisted in being at the forefront of the issue of women’s rights, were sneered at, arrested, jailed and fined. Why? Why did it take these activist and reformers almost 100 years to win the fight that they, like men, deserved all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
Imagine this:
        In the early 1870s, when  Myra Bradwell applied for admission to the Illinois state bar in accordance with that state’s law that permitted any adult of good character and sufficient training to be admitted, she was refused.
      Because she was a woman the state’s supreme court denied her admission on the grounds that “the strife of the bar would surely destroy femininity. Bradwell appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court decided it was within the power of Illinois to limit membership to the bar to men only. One Justice dissented.  Another wrote:

        “ Man is, or should be, woman's protector or defender. The         natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.... The paramount destiny and mission of woman are to fulfill the benign offices of wife and mother. This is the law of the Creator. And the rules of civil society must be adapted to the general constitution of things, and cannot be based on exceptional cases.”
    Our dignified and learned gentlemen of the court seemed to overlook some important facts in their ruling. Women had been doing whatever was necessary for their families since the dark ages. In the more recent history of our country they fought Indians, nursed the ill and injured, and were instrumental in establishing schools, hospitals and charitable institutions.
     Apparently the considerable strife involved in these activities did not destroy their femininity, for they continued to give birth and raise large families. No wife and mother, then or now, would classify these as a “benign” occupation. In addition to these obvious facts, many women did not have that protector the Justice spoke of.

       Finally the long battle was over. In 1920, millions of women were proud and determined to exercise their right to vote.  Ninety-two years ago!
      That’s a short history of women’s fight for equality. Our present-day laws give women the right to vote, fight, and work at whatever we’re qualified to do – although most people will agree that many jobs are filled by persons of either sex, who are far from qualified

      Today’s women are descendants of those who entered the work force en masse when WWII broke out. They worked as mechanics, painters, riveters – whatever needed doing, they did it. Those who had never dreamed of driving that wild monster of a family car, learned to do so, and learned how to keep it running, when it started acting persnickety. Remember, this was in the days of the Great Depression, and the family vehicle was a very distant relative of those of today. So were the roads.
      Then, sadly, with thousands of men killed in that war, a large number of women continued to use their new skills to support themselves and their families. So the die was cast. Women entered many fields. They became laborers, business owners, members of Congress, Governors and diplomats. They have proven they deserved that right to vote and were most capable of assuming the rights and responsibilities of citizenship that their predecessors fought for.

      So here we are in 2012, and another battle is brewing. With all the advances that have been made, women are aghast and infuriated by recent laws or proposed laws that limit their right to decide what course of action is best for them and their families. These issues are being brought forth across the nation, often promoted by legislators and candidates, who have never experienced or thought deeply about the consequences of the laws they are endorsing. 
      It has become a very emotional time for many people. Not only for women. Religion, health, financial situations, and the freedom to direct one’s personal life, are all involved. In one way or another, the effects of these laws will be widespread and touch the lives of almost everyone.

Think carefully in the coming months. Encourage our Leaders and the Wannabes to consider very carefully the results of all they promote, and let’s hope for some good old
common sense decisions

Certainly the Voters need to exercise theirs.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Looking Back

I was not old and had no immediate plans for arriving at that state until the day I began meditating about the general discontent that was sweeping across our nation.  On that day, I began to wonder what had been happening while I had been busying myself being a homemaker and raising our children the best that I could.

It was apparent that although I had been dutifully voting in all elections, I had been oblivious to much that had happened afterwards. Over the years a very large number of people had become very unhappy with taxes and what they considered increasing infringement on their freedom of choices. Were they justified in their feelings, I wondered? If so how had it happened? 
Why had such unrest suddenly erupted? Was it the proverbial straw that had broken the camel’s back? Obviously a large group of citizens had had enough, already.
      At this point, my thoughts meandered back to my childhood when I had listened to my father rave and rant about the government’s city slickers telling him how he had to conduct his business, which was farming.

      Now this couldn’t have been too terribly long ago, could it? I remember it all so very clearly. So, I thought back to those days and went a step farther…I counted the presidential administrations  of my lifetime and suddenly I became old.  No, that is not correct: I became ancient!  I counted fifteen of these. I counted again and then I made a list. The total did not change. I wondered if the ones I did not remember clearly, counted, but of course they did. One must be honest about such unavoidable issues, especially since others can also count. Of course, I have only made it through a portion of the present Obama administration, so I guess one could more accurately say I have lived through fourteen administrations, Sounds better, somehow.

In fairness, or to diminish, to my suddenly advanced years, I do not remember Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover. In fact, I seem to be continually referring to my list to remind myself of their names.

Now Franklin Delano Roosevelt is entirely another issue. He was a person of impressive presence. He conveyed confidence and assurance to a nation floundering in desperation. When he spoke, his voice rolled out from the radio in a distinctive tone and an accent that could never be confused with that of a Texan. Not only did one listen because it was the President of the United States speaking, his was an enthralling voice commanding attention.Surely as FDR campaigned for office he was aware of the scope of the problems he would face if elected, for there were daily dreary news updates, and from the countryside to the large cities, there was desolation.

What type of man would voluntarily campaign for the position of leading a country with so many people practically starving, with no jobs, no homes and no hope? It took a very confident man; a man with great vision and determination. He may have had private doubts but he never hesitated as he proceeded to put our nation back on its feet. In the first 100 days of his administration he managed to get 15 legislative proposals passed into law.  Private interests were subordinated to public policy, and the federal government took on the mission of doing what no other interest could do on its own. The role of government was transformed.

From his first proposals, to today’s reviews of his administration, there has been controversy about Roosevelt’s actions. Historians still debate whether FDR’s programs were helpful in ending the Depression, or whether it was WWII that lifted the economy out of its slump.
It's also become clear to researchers, that FDR fundamentally expanded the reach and power of the federal government, a role which most Americans now accept, especially in times of crisis. And that marked a monumental change in American life.

This was confirmation of a suspicion of mine that the Roosevelt years had marked the beginning of the larger role of the government in the lives of the American people. From this administration forward, Government has continued assuming more and more authority over more and more areas, in what we can hope has been a well-meaning attempt to better our lives. Were these actions the first straws to be laid on the backs of the people?

To be fair in our assessment of those years, FDRs famous statement of “all we have to fear is fear itself” and his declaration of a “Bank Holiday“ which closed banks for three days, staving off a panicky run on the banks, were master strokes.

Perhaps the most valuable actions for future generations were the conservation measures that went into effect. At that time, there was little understanding by those using our land, of the means or value of being good custodians. This attitude, combined with a period of unseasonable winds and droughts, delivered a double-whammy to a nation already in bad trouble from the 1929 stock market crash . Fortunately for the nation, Roosevelt, or his advisors, knew the answer to that problem.

Although they may have been surprised that they could not provide the needed rain, they immediately set about salvaging what was left of our soil.
This was good, for the blinding dust storms were sending a frightening amount of our nation toward the oceans.

Farming practices that are now considered the normal and sensible way were generally unheard of until the Roosevelt policies went into effect. Terracing and contour planting stopped the terrible erosion that was scaring our farmland with head-deep ditches that were getting deeper with every rain. Cover crops were planted to hold the remaining soil in place despite the strong winds. Soil enriching crops were planted and crop rotation was encouraged.

Today, I can drive by my old home place and look at level fields where once there were once deep intersecting ditches showing layers of red clay, scarring the land. And I can mentally vision the young surveyor laying out the contours the terraces needed to follow. I can see my father with his horse-drawn scraper or scoop, moving dirt across low places to stop the flow of water or with a team and plow going back and forth, gradually making a ridge of soil that formed the terraces that also controlled the runoff. In particular, I can remember heavy rains that filled a terraced low place to the top with muddy water and then breaking through, leaving an impressive gap three or four feet deep and at least five feet wide, that had to be rebuilt.

How would our landscape appear today had President Roosevelt not instigated the programs to save our land. In those efforts we can see the value of caring for our environment. Without that wonderful top soil which was disappearing at an alarming rate, what would have happened to our food supply?

 Other programs of the FDR administration proved extremely successful.
A Civilian Conservation Corp or CCCs was created for young men to enter. They were paid about $21 per month, with the biggest part of that amount being sent home to assist their families. The young men, some mere boys, kept a small amount for their personal use.

CCC camps were established across the nation with barracks and tents for housing. The training and discipline were thorough and strict and usually administrated by army sergeants according to army standards. Many kinds of training prepared these groups to do environmental work where needed or to build community centers and other facilities for towns in need. They established many of the parks we are presently enjoying, much of their masonry work still available for use.

       In recent years, the Parks and Recreation Department has held reunions of CCC members, to show their appreciation for the great work they did. In chatting with one old fellow (well, he appeared to be a few years older than I), he reflected the view of most of the attendees: they were the ones who appreciated the help the program gave to their families, and the discipline and training that they received. There is no doubt that we who appreciate the preservation of the special places that have become our state and national parks, have these men and the  CCC program to be grateful for.

Another work day 
The CCC s were not the only family relief program. There were soup kitchens and food subsidies for a starving people and work programs were created. One, the WPA, provided work at various projects, at the government’s expense. I remember seeing participants carpooling on their way to work, while my dad went about his independent ways, harnessing his team for ad pay the mortgage and buy a pair of shoes for a growing child.

Ah, that father of mine; honest and law-abiding in all ways, but with an independence and confidence in his own ability to provide for himself and his family that after years of hard work, finally paid off.

He continued fuming at the Roosevelt polices, often in colorful language, until the attack on Pearl Harbor. With the president’s words, in his unforgettable voice, “We are at war,” my dad turned to me saying, “You’ve heard me cussing this man and you know how I feel, but we are at war and he is our Commander-in-Chief and you won’t hear me say another word.”
And he didn’t!

Fourteen years of varying political shenanagins cannot be covered in a single posting. The Roosevelt years, alone, are worth another post. As my beginning words indicated, my interest in the discontent of so many citizens, led me to delving into what actions (or lack of action) of past administrations had brought this about. Surely we must have been asleep at the wheel.  Unfortunately, those years of sleep, have brought about sudden awaking to a world that is causing a great amount of  political  unrest. 

The question is: will it be to little too late, or will good things happen because of this unrestThe first 100 days


Friday, July 16, 2010

The Call of the Road

I read once that we, as a nation, are fascinated with the names of places, as used in songs, more than any other people in the world. True or not, it started me thinking about songs of this type…..and there are different types.
Early ballads provide a musical history of the longing for home, and songs of the Civil War period also sang of home and of a lost way of life.

Our modern day “On the Road” type of songs could have their roots in the old Route 66 highway that crossed 2448 miles of the nation, reaching from Chicago to LA. Migrants traveled this route during the dustbowl days, their ordeals immortalized in john Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Although travel was exceedingly tedious in the days following the opening of Route 66, in 1926, other daring travelers began to undertake the trip.

Route 66 saw every kind of traveler: The more affluent, traveling to see the sights, and worn-out vehicles and trucks such as this museum item,piled high with household goods, their owners hoping to find a better life.

Perhaps it was Bobby Troup’s lyrics to Get Your Kicks on Route 66, that first captured the spirit of traveling through the cities and states along this legendary highway. Written soon after WWll, it quickly became a hit, and as Route 66 became improved and other highways were built, cross country travel became more common.

There is a bit of loneliness as well as excitement in the multitude of trucking songs such as Six Days on the Road and 500 Hundred Miles Away From Home. Then there is Kansas City, a rollicking piece that quickly filled many dance floors with it’s first notes.
Songs about Alabama, California, Oklahoma, and Texas appear to be in the majority, and cities such as San Antonia, Tulsa, New York, and San Francisco head a long list of many more. The names seem to hold a special mystic … one of the excitement of the wild west, or being on a mountain top, looking down on a misty valley, smelling the scent of the pines the ocean on a damp breeze.
In retrospect, it seems that it has been our highway system that has spawned so many songs about being on the road.