September 15, 2001

Perspective


Four days.

Not enough time to get used to the new order of things.

Society has slowed to a crawl in a way that I've never seen before.
By Monday, the U.S. stock markets will have been closed for six days.
Most professional sports events have been postponed through the weekend
. People are walking around with a glazed-over, distracted look about them.

My son Mark has been watching CNN and other news for the first time in his life.
He's very worried about a war.
He's 20 and single and only in school part time.
He asks me questions that nobody can answer.

Much as the Mommy part of me would like to, I won't reassure him beyond what I believe to be true. I tell him that he might very well have to be in the army but that he probably wouldn't see combat because his eyesight is poor without glasses.
That's if there even is any combat in the classical sense of the word.

He is watching the news like he used to watch Seinfeld and the Simpsons, drinking in every word. I tell him he can't believe everything he hears, that most of it is opinion, that people just don't know.

I don't want him to panic but I do want him to face some reality. Until now he's lived in a nice orderly world of sports and video games, punctuated by the occasional girlfriend and the necessary evils of school and work.

I realized yesterday that his childhood was different from mine.
He was born in 1981.

I was born in 1951.
When he was 8 the Berlin Wall came down.
When I was 9 the US invaded the Bay of Pigs.

He grew up with Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street.
I grew up wondering why my parents wouldn't consider building a bomb shelter in our back yard, and wondering how hiding under my desk at school would help when the fireball hit.

When he was ten the Gulf War passed by in a matter of weeks.
The Vietnam War went on all through my teens.

The current situation is terrifying but I am accustomed to the notion of a hostile world ready at a moment's notice to push the red button. Adjusting to it again is depressingly simple.

This isn't a perverse good old days kind of thing, where I'm bragging about walking five miles to school and back, barefoot in the snow uphill both ways. I'm glad my kids had a more peaceful childhood than my generation did, in this context, anyway.

But in view of that, this change is all the more jarring to them and I need to understand this in order to try to guide them through.

For some contrast, I report on recent conversations with Rob:

Rob: Mom, if there's a war......

(long pause during which I prepare for the "am I going to have to fight" question)

....... will it help the stock market recover?

Me: (after regaining my composure) Well war is good for business....

Later, in the car:

Rob: Now I'll have something to tell my kids about, some history that happened during my lifetime.

Me: Yeah and they'll roll their eyes just like you do.

Rob: Have they put a name to the date yet, like "Black Tuesday"?

Me: I don't know.. when Pearl Harbour was hit, they spoke about a "day that will live in infamy"... (thinking).... you DO know about Pearl Harbour?

Rob: I've heard the name, they made a movie about it.

Me: Do you know where Pearl Harbour is?

Rob: No.

Me: Guess.

Rob: England?

Me: (Proceeds with a concise history lesson although grossly underqualified to do so. At least this time he listened.)

If there is any good coming out of all this, it's going to be to educate our kids and to educate our educators who have fallen abysmally short of fulfilling their mandate to produce functional adults out of the impending generation.

I offer up Rob as an example here because he is a *student* . He was at (or close to, we're not sure yet) the top of his high school graduating class. He had no mark under 80 and his average was over 90.
For him to have such a poor grasp of recent history is indefensible.
Sure I've tried to slip in a lesson here and there but it hasn't stuck. He didn't think it was important.

He had heard of my school committee activities in support of an increase in the number of hours of history instruction and the creation of a world history course (which, incredibly, does not exist past grade 8) but just the fact that it WAS a struggle speaks volumes. If the school didn't consider it essential, why should he.

Now he knows.

For more perspective, this time about the role of sports in the evolving universe, see this article which is from a Seattle paper but was reprinted in the Montreal Gazette today.

I've often written about my fascination with certain sports but it falls under the heading of escapism which doesn't seem appropriate just yet.

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