I am glad that I am in my twilight years and won't have to suffer the emotional pain for long. It hurts me and I feel sad when events force me to think about what has happened to and in the America that I have loved my whole life.
My parents were immigrants. My father came to this country poor, but with a work ethic and a friend who guaranteed the government that there would be a job and a place for him to stay...a requirement for legal immigration in those days. That may still be so...I don't know. But...my Dad just wanted a chance to see what hard work on his part might accomplish. No guarantees, no promises...just a chance. He didn't speak English, so he took whatever job was available. He learned the language...not perfectly, but well enough, and to read and write it...he wanted to; he saw America as the embodiment of what he wanted to become. He wanted the freedom to put himself on the line and see if he could succeed.
It took him some time to achieve what he saw as success. He and, later, my mother worked long hours. First it was for others then for themselves. They went through the Great Depression and were intent on being prepared should another ever occur. They saved. The borrowed only to purchase a house...and that with misgivings. We never spent money we did not have...that was anathema to them.They taught me to read and to do simple math early in life and explained that those skills would enable me to educate myself and not be dependent on others. And there was no such thing as an excuse for not taking advantage of schooling: I was required to have perfect attention, to do all homework (and show it to my parents daily), and to achieve good grades as they explained that education was the key to getting a chance to succeed in life.
My father never took a Social Security payment...ever...despite living to almost 70. He had saved and he saw taking anything from the government as a hand-out. He had left his native land at a time when his mother had no money and the family had significant debts. Over the years, with increasing means he paid every one of those debts off in full, with interest (even if interest was not demanded).
He gave to those who came on hard times through no fault of their own...but refused even the time of day to those who did not try; those who were slackers, liars, cheaters and what in those days were called naer-do-wells were to be looked upon as unworthy and disreputable and not to ever even be around.
I grew up in an America where to be respected, your word had to be good...it was your bond. And work was honored, and doing your utmost was the standard. Dependence on the good will of others was seen as embarrassing and a failure and you would all you could to get out of that situation, pay back what had been given and again regain your place as a contributing member of the community, not a taker.
Civil discourse was the norm. People could argue on many things: religion, politics, raising children and more. But those arguments were conducted with personal respect of each other...for the right of every person to his or her opinion. And we used good language: whole sentences, with decent construction. In those days, "Sailor's" language was not used in mixed company and only occasionally even when men got together. And even then there was a certain embarrassment after some of the utterances...it just wasn't polite and generally was seen as a sign of an inadequate vocabulary. How much more effective, we felt, to use a word of criticism that required the other person to run to a dictionary, rather than revert to clearly inapplicable scatological utterances.
Classmates of mine in High School got jobs upon graduation: good jobs that paid well. Some of them used the pay from those jobs save up enough to later get a College Education to pursue and dream to which they were dedicated. And some took an occasional course to extend their knowledge but were content to live in the practical world of having a loving family and supporting it and themselves. Those of us who went to college, went with a dream. We wanted to achieve something in particular. Of course in the midst of the striving, the dream often changed a bit...but there was never the thought of spending on a College Education because of any right or entitlement: it was a gift of opportunity and not a way of avoiding the real world or military service. That would have been dishonorable and a waste of our money...or, in some cases, our parents' money...in in even more cases, both our and our parents' money.
That America no longer exists. I liked my country. I respected my country. I respected the morals and the ten commandments of that country. And I respected the immigrants who come to this country according to its laws and with the intent to become Americans...not to bring their previous country's practices and attitudes and languages and make America more like them. They wanted to become Americans. And, except for the grandmothers and grandfathers...they did just that.
Now, everyone seems to believe that consequences of one's actions are a thing of the past. That no one should be either expected or required to earn a living, but should be given any job they want and not held to standards. People "working" for the government don't do their jobs, lie about it and are never held accountable. Our government spends money it doesn't have and claims that it doesn't matter. Our politicians lie to us with increasing frequency and are not only not embarrassed by it...they don't even admit it. And the Press which for decades was a watchdog over all facets of government activity, protecting the public by shining the light of truth, now joins with those in power to protect them from any revelation to the public. Meanwhile the "public" apparently has come to believe that there is such a thing as a "Free" lunch...or free anything. Make that everything.
I miss the America that called out to my parents. I miss the America that I grew up in and both enjoyed and revered for much of my life. I don't recognize the country I now live in...it is still called America, but it no longer has the soul of the country into which I was born and raised. And it makes me feel sad.