For a brief time in my life, I was a substitute teacher and reaching for a connection with high school students. One of my greatest successes was a video, "All In The Family," as Archie Bunker "sought to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns by making them a source of laughter, we hope to show — in a mature fashion — just how absurd they are." (CBS-TV Jan. 12, 1971). Young people witnessing name-calling, they were shocked and outraged. I was delighted that they recognized the cruelty, the thoughtlessness that labeling and name-calling can inflict on others. I will not list the labels mentioned but as I recall it was a lesson that the class participated in with vigor.
We take it for granted that these young people are aware of the progress made by our culture. I am speaking of the young people in the McDonald County schools. It was not that long ago that the Ku Klux Klan met in the cave just west of Lanagan and this unfortunate reputation of our area was well known. When (as recently as the 1980s) a friend of mine, a black man formerly the elected president of the San Jose Police Department Union, Lee Brown (later the mayor of a large cosmopolitan city in Texas, a college president, and a man of great prestige) sent me a Christmas card and I invited him to visit in my beloved county, his answer was a negative. "I think I'll pass," was his response. "Not too friendly toward my color." Reluctantly I had to agree.
I am proud of the progress in my beloved McDonald County. Do they teach the virtue of decency, honesty and truth in homes and schools today? Learning about these qualities were a given when I was growing up. So many things we took for granted. Since then we threw Dick and Jane books out…too unrealistic. But what a fine example to strive toward. A family as a unit. A mother at home, a father who worked. Nostalgia can be sweet. Lessons learned in a one-room schoolhouse can be rich in retrospect.
What other lessons did we hear? When my adored nephew decided to wear earrings and my very special young niece insisted on tattoos., my question to them was "What image are you striving for? What audience are you seeking?" They searched for and did not come up with an answer. When the only bathing suit for sale is a very brief bikini, what image are we providing?
We were encouraged to study hard, be a steady dependable worker, get to work early, be faithful, loyal, responsible and forthright. Stand tall, eat right. Today the mantra is "But I want to be comfortable." No concern for people having to look at them. There was a day when a lady's ankle could be titillating, what are ladies aiming for today in the briefest attire? Briefest of shorts, bare-shouldered wedding gowns, blue jeans with holes in them. Did we lose something in our "progress?"
Page 2 of 2 - Young parents I know, born in the '70s, the '80s, are out there in the business world trying to get ahead, to provide their children with their hearts' desires; as has every parent, striving to protect their children from hard times. Some of the hardest times are when these very young people learned you cannot always do what you enjoy, sometimes you have to decide to enjoy what you are doing.
My county has made great progress, tolerance, acceptance, and for this I am grateful. Did we, however, in some cases throw the baby out with the bathwater? Would we be smart to step back a little and look at where we are going? Proud our young people are scandalized when they recognize prejudices, intolerance, cruelty in our lives and do away with them, concerned when our major goal seems to be to "be comfortable." Anxious that our next aim will lean toward a generous, welcoming spirit, and modesty toward a chaste lifestyle and decency. It could happen. It is said we cannot build a good future if we fail to learn from our history.
We are hoping you will take the time to explore your history. Do come by the McDonald County Historical Museum, on the square in Pineville. Open Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday afternoon. For more information write to P.O. Box 572, Pineville, 64856 or go to www.mcdonaldcohistory.org or email@example.com.
Alberta Anders writes a weekly column for the Daily News.