Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A different view of one aspect of American exceptionalism............

...............from one who lived through prohibition!

It seems to me that one of the defining characteristics of the American people and scene is our adaptability and readiness to promote and except change. In some areas, of course, change comes extremely slowly. Civil rights and gender issues are examples of issues that began with our country's founding and are still in the process of change. There are other areas where change comes with lightning speed as we rush to accept the latest gadget or fad.

This topic came to mind recently as I saw an advertisement on the Metro taken out by one of the most prestigious, even the hallowed, agencies of our government, THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES. It made me think of an area of social change that has made a complete reversal was in my lifetime. The ad was for a series of 10 lectures on the history of the cocktail given by Derek Brown, Chief Spirit Adviser for the current display at archives entitled, Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History . The titles of the sessions begin with Our Founding Drinkers and continue through The Golden Age of the Cocktail to The Lost Generation and ending with The Fine Art of Mixing Cocktail.

What a dramatic change within my lifetime. How remarkable that it was the surprising power of women (primarily) that, through such organizations as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union facilitated the enactment of a constitutional amendment banning (most) alcoholic beverages in January, 1920. I recall how effectively fear was installed in me as I saw demonstrations of what might happen within my body when one of the ladies dropped an egg in alcohol. Change of course again occurred was the 21st amendment adopted 13 years later.

The inevitability of change is apparent. Managing it is a responsibility we share for good or ill.  How are we doing as a society in balancing and maintaining our social and cultural heritage with new opportunities and threats?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Another change in Ron's Ranting and Raving

As might have been suspected, it's taken longer than I had anticipated for me to formulate my thoughts and plans for solving what I perceive as America's three greatest problems. It's a bit more daunting than I originally thought and at 89 years of age I am too often sidetracked by the inconsequentials of life. You might recall that I listed them as:
  • The problems of America's Public Schools
  • Social class disparity
  • Achieving world peace
And when these topics are covered
I'll retire from ranting and raving 
Take questions on Reddit

Until I get to the first of these topics, I'll reminisce occasionally about topics of lesser importance. 
Rather than rants or raves they will be anecdotes that seem interesting (at least to me). Here's one that made me think that perhaps my "greatest generation" might well be superseded by an even greater generation: such is my admiration for the young people of today who confront problems even greater than we faced back in the 40s. And they often do so with idealistic fervor.

Automotive Safety
I continue to be impressed use and power of the social media. How striking that a young person, one who has even disdained driving an automobile, cautioned on Facebook, (and I loosely paraphrase) "Think how dangerous it is - even for a second - to look down at your cell phone while driving – it's the equivalent of driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed at 55 miles an hour.

How much more complex driving is today than faced by my generation. I distinctly recall the issue that arose when car radios were introduced. How distracted we felt we would be by listening to the radio when our thoughts should be devoted entirely to driving safely. I guess that problem has been solved and its called multitasking!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Looking for solutions to three major American problems

World peace, social class disparity and America's schools

These are the three topics I previously stated I would tackle upon returning from vacation. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked by talking about the plight of interscholastic sports. But I'm ready now! And while this rant is not intended to solve these three problems, it is written to call to your attention the three books I mentioned earlier. Their authors give me confidence that there are ways these three critical problems can be mitigated.

Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis by Robert Putnam
In interviewing Putnam this week at the Aspen Institute, Institute President Walter Isaacson, said,...”this book is perhaps the most important book of the decade.” That's quite a statement from someone who has written the book on Einstein! Putnam's advise has been sought by the last three presidents and both political parties and he was called, “the most influential academic in the world today” by The London Sunday Times. His previous book, Bowling Alone was best seller as it looked at the decline of community agencies in American life.

Lessons of Hope: How to Fix Our Schools by Joel Klein
You might recall that my rant of February 9 entitled, "Veteran educator reconsiders opinion of charter schools" was written after I heard Klein's talk, but before I had a chance to read the book. I now have some further insights I am eager to share.

Religious literacy: What every American needs to know – and doesn't by Stephen Prothero
At last I have an opportunity to share some deeply felt of my personal beliefs about religion: that (many/most/all) of the world's problems have been brought on by religion, BUT that it is only through (truly understanding and using) religion that they will be solved.

How fortunate I feel to live in a city where I (an average citizen) was able to hear all three of these authors speak for FREE! I'm sorry for those readers of my other blog who were unable to hear them.  While I'll have something to say about each of thse topics in the weeks ahead, the most important aspect of this blog is to encdfourage you to read the books and consider the topics.  Just as Walter Isaacson urged the audience at the Aspen Institute, “not only to read Putnam's book but to buy 5 to give to friends and urge their them to do the same”. I'd like to urge readers to give thought to the topics and share them with others on my blogsite:

I know this departs from my theme of giving advice from the "Greatest Generation”. Yet as I turn 90 retirement enables me to ponder the insight of this brilliant, generation of insightful writers. But I'll still be raving about the “good old days” and want to close with this bit of nostalgia unrelated to the theme of this blog.

Playing with Guns
My father taught me to play with guns. As an amateur woodworker he even made guns for me out of scrap wood and rubber bands made out of discarded car tire inner tubes (we didn't know we were recycling – we thought we were just saving money). What fun my buddies and I had playing war!
Twenty years later, life was so busy for me as a father that I never thought to make them for my children. However, as a doting grandfather, I eagerly made them for my first grandson. How crestfallen I was when my "baby boomer” son and daughter-in-law rejected them as a part of the the generation that disdained our gun oriented society.
And now I am mystified that these peace-loving children and grandchildren are enamored with computer games with titles alone that scare me: Modern Warfare, Hitman and Carmagedom.

There are things that puzzle me!