Dennis Campbell
September 30, 2003
Yes, we did things better then
By Dennis Campbell

There is something to be said for living a sheltered life. Not to be pampered and coddled, but to be protected from the ugly, grimy and destructive things of the world until such time that one must confront the world alone.

I attended high school in suburban Southern California during the '60s. The school wasn't particularly large or small about 350 seniors.

Things were not perfect then, but dope was something you used to glue model airplanes together and pornography was mostly limited to little comic books that showed cartoon characters in explicit acts.

To my knowledge, just one girl became pregnant before graduating. Now, trends indicate that in 12 years one of every two babies in America will be born to an unmarried girl. Recent statistics in my state, New Mexico, show that more than 46% of all babies are born to unmarried mothers.

I find the implications of that disheartening, since unmarried motherhood is the leading cause of poverty in this country, and 70% of juveniles in state institutions come from homes without fathers.

Back then, we had two gangs, and if they were angry with you they would trash your car. Now, in that same small neighborhood one dares not walk the streets at night. Several years ago in an adjoining town that has grown from 6,000 to more than 60,000, police identified more than two dozen organized youth gangs Hispanic gangs, white gangs, black gangs, Asian gangs.

And if they get angry with you, they shoot you. Or they may shoot you just because you are in the wrong neighborhood.

At my high school graduation, a local pastor gave the benediction and was greeted with cheers and applause when introduced, and no one mentioned "separation of church and state" when he invoked the name of Christ.

Today, valedictorians often cannot mention God, much less Jesus Christ, in a graduation speech, and federal judges routinely tell local and state governments how they may practice their religion a right we all thought was guaranteed by our Constitution.

When I was young, I knew there was death, murder, rape and robbery, but I did not have to deal with it every day.

Yes, there were bad schools in bad cities with bad kids doing bad things. But they were not the norm. Most schools back then did not need metal detectors and on-campus police or zero-tolerance policies.

If you misbehaved, you were punished or expelled. If you were in junior high school, you likely would be led by the ear to the principal's office. If you were in grade school, you would get spanked.

High school boys who acted up in physical education classes got a "swat" from a coach. You bent over and got smacked with a half-inch-thick paddle it left a big, red welt on your behind and effectively changed your behavior, and no parent complained. Try doing that today.

Author Horace Greeley said that "The illusion that times that were are better than those that are, has probably pervaded all ages," and no doubt those days never were as good as we remember. I know that in the mid-'60s it was not necessarily a good thing to be African-American in Mississippi or Alabama, and we had the homeless and the abused and other societal ills.

It was not perfect, but on balance it was better. We were a better society and we raised kids in a better environment, and we protected them from much of the ugliness of life. They were not so exposed to sexual immorality and violence that would have left our forebears in shocked disbelief.

When one pauses to take stock of the bewildering changes in America that include the social acceptance of sexual behavior once commonly considered plainly immoral, babies killed for convenience even as they are being born, a dismaying out-of-wedlock birthrate, youth gangs in every community and pandemic drug abuse, one must ask this question: Are things better today?

No, they are not, and you are not going to find solutions here because I have none, other than to do today that which worked yesterday, and there seems to be faint chance of that.

Still, I treasure fond memories of a way of life that, on balance, was better.

© Dennis Campbell

 

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