04 April 2008

40 year thoughts

I did not start this blog as an outlet for my more serious (and therefore) private thoughts.  As my friends know, I have a serious side, I just prefer to keep it to myself.  There are things I care passionately about--the environment, animal abuse, the downfall of public education, the foster care system, to name a few--but I don't always make it a point to share my thoughts or opinions on those matters.  This is probably because I feel inadequate next to my law school counterparts who seem so much more knowledgeable than I am.  

But today is a special day, and I don't feel like keeping it to myself.  Forty years ago today, one of our last genuine leaders was killed.  And yes, I say "our" because we led us all--the whole rainbow--toward a better future for America.  I don't need to go on a long diatribe about all the achievements of MLK, or to talk about what it would be like if he were still alive, or anything like that.  I want to talk about what is pissing me off.

My own generation.  That's right folks, I'm disappointed in us.  

As part of the techie generation, my social life is semi-centered around Facebook.  My "status" message today was "Katie is thinking about this day 40 years ago."  Not one, two, or three, but SIX DIFFERENT PEOPLE asked me what happened 40 years ago.  Are you kidding me?!??!?!  What have we become other than an ungrateful generation who takes absolutely everything for granted???

Now I know that history is not the most exciting subject in high school (I have a lot more to say about that, too, but  not now).  But that history is REAL and directly impacted the way WE live our very privileged lives here in 2008.  For example:

Loving v. Virginia, which was only decided 50 years ago, decriminalized the love life of good friends of mine.  Too bad people are still quick to point out that they are a bi-racial couple rather than seeing them as two people in love.

Rachel Carson almost single-handedly started the Environmental movement 46 years ago.  Silent Spring was a wake-up call and we're still hitting the snooze button.

100 years ago, it was legal to discriminate against Jews, the Irish, Italians, Greeks, etc. in the labor, housing and educational markets.  And black folks get their own sad history in that arena.  While discrimination against those groups is no longer "legal" (ahem), it is still perfectly legal to discriminate against someone because they are gay, lesbian, or transgender.

Asian-Americans were put in concentration camps, on AMERICAN SOIL, just 65 years ago.  The U.S. did not formally apologize for this until 1988, and we still refer to it as "internment" because we don't want to recognize our own prejudices during sacred "war times."  Guantanamo, anyone?

Only 35 years ago, I won the right to control my own reproductive system thanks to Roe v. Wade.  That right is under serious threat.  Welcome back to the alleys and wire hangers, ladies.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed 40 years ago today, and we still haven't fixed half of what he fought for.  In fact, it's 40 years later and this is the first time we're had a viable African American candidate for the presidential office.  And his race is still a main issue.

Those dates may seem like a long time ago, but they weren't.  It's hard for we 20-somethings to imagine what America was like 30, 40, 50, or even 100 years ago, but the fact remains that those eras were real.  People really lived through and experienced those moments.  People suffered and fought battles--in war, in the courts, on paper--because they believed that they were working for important social change in this country.  And Generation Y is thanking them by forgetting their sacrifices.

That just flat out embarrasses me. 

Perhaps September 11, 2001 is "our history."  Maybe that's our legacy.  But never forget theway it changed YOUR life, and how it will change the lives of your children.  Because one day, your kids will think you're just an old person telling a sad story, and they won't be able to relate.  It's our job to keep the history of that day alive, as an honor to everyone who suffered, died, rescued, and stood in horror watching.  

Just like it's our job to remember MLK today.   So thank you, Dr. King, for reminding us all that there is still time to "rise up tonight with a greater readiness.  Let us stand with greater determination.  And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge, to make America what it ought to be.  We have an opportunity to make America a better nation."  

He's not with us, but let's keep pushing toward the Promised Land. 


LucieLu said...

get 'em girl. all i have to say is it's a good thing no one asked me what happened 40 years ago! geez.

(Ralph) Ashby Barnes said...

speaking of things remembered and collective short term/long term memory loss, motherjones.com had an worthwhile article a while back in which they showed street interviews in which people were asked, "When did 9/11 happen?". The people that were questioned did not remember. However, some appear drunk in the 2nd video.