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BBHQ Boomer Essays:

Where is My America?

Our Boomer-In-Charge at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes about boomer memories and current events... from a boomer’s perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, some-
times a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.

What happened to my America? Today we have allowed those who are more concerned about themselves than their country to set the agenda, to lead us down a dirty, deceitful, and destructive road. Too many of us are willing to follow; too few of us are willing to help get us back on the right track.

This essay is available in its entirety to all visitors. Enjoy!

The older I get, the more I tend to look at the “bigger picture,” not just everyday events. In the big, big picture, I am eternally optimistic. But in the lesser big picture, I am enormously worried. There is a trend... a disease in society today that greatly disturbs me. To explain it, I go back to the values of my childhood.

There was no such thing as “self-esteem” when I was a kid. There was “self-worth.” Our individual goal was to develop self-worth, not self-esteem.

On a personal level, we took care of ourselves. But on a societal level, the focus was not on individuals. What mattered was the strength and the integrity of the country – not the individual – and not the government. God and country were paramount.

The vast majority of Americans were outwardly proud of our honor, integrity, loyalty to and love of country.

What happened? Where is my America?

Immigration

When I was a kid, we respected immigrants who came to this country; we welcomed them; we heralded them. We encouraged immigration not out of some foolish, self-destructive, philanthropic notion, but because immigration was good for the country. We wanted a better country.

We had standards; we set limits. We expected immigrants to come here legally and to obey our laws. We expected our government to properly restrict and screen immigrants coming to our country. In large part, the government did.

Legal immigrants came here to participate in our society and our values, to embrace our culture, and to enjoy and to add to our national wealth. They melted into our society. They became part of it.

We understood diversity; we were a product of diversity. But we celebrated and focused on what we had in common, not what separated us. We were not hyphenated Americans; we were Americans. Period. And we were immensely proud of it.

The language of the melting pot was English. Everything for the masses was written in English; and only English.

Instruction manuals for appliances were not well-written. But they were written in English. We did not have to flip past or jump over sections written in Spanish, German, French, or Farsi. This was the USA; the language – the only language – was English.

Why do I have to “press 1 for English”? That is an insult to me and to my country. Companies demand that I pay them with only American money. I demand that they communicate with me only in English.

We flew the American flag... proudly. When you came to this country as a legal immigrant, you left your foreign language and your foreign flag behind.

What happened? Where is my America?

The Rule of Law

We understood the law. We did not always like it; but we understood it, and respected it, and obeyed it. Mostly, it made sense, even when we did not like it. And we understood that if you broke the law, you were punished. We knew and believed the axiom “crime doesn’t pay.” Back then, it did not.

We understood that if the government did not enforce the laws, people would not respect them.

There was no such thing as a “hate crime.” We did not care why you committed a crime, only that you committed a crime. And if you committed a crime, there was a price to be paid.

What happened? Where is my America?

The Government

The federal government played only a very small part in our lives. The federal government did not dictate what could and could not be taught in schools. It did not interfere with the contractual relationship between employers and employees. The government did not take land from individuals merely to enhance the tax base. To do so would have been immoral and an affront to individual rights.

Politicians were always politicians, glad-handing for votes. And they always disagreed. But they (most) always had the interests of the country at heart. The issue was always the country, not some special interest group. There were no special interest groups when I was a kid. There were only Americans.

Politicians never sided with foreigners or foreign governments. When our leaders travelled abroad, they praised our country; they did not criticize it. No politician ever got away with being unpatriotic, or calling another politician unpatriotic. When a politician stepped over the line, his party members pulled him back, lest he embarrass the party or the country. Few ever did.

Like General Washington, our president lead from the front, not from behind. General Dwight Eisenhower never lead from behind.

We expected politicians to live under the laws they passed. To exempt themselves from the law would have been immoral.

We expected the government to enforce the laws that it passed, not make excuses, and then pass more laws that it had no intention of enforcing.

Government knew its limits when I was a kid. It was not the government’s job to regularly feed us, or to provide housing for us, or to entertain us, or provide us with televisions or baseball bats or cars or air conditioners. Health care – taking care of our health and paying for it – was our responsibility, not the government’s. Government had its hands full providing education for us. Government has greatly over-extended itself, to the enormous detriment of us all.

What happened? Where is my America?

The Truth

We put the truth on a pedestal back then. One of the worst things you could do was tell a lie. We revered our country’s founder when we heard the parable about him telling the truth: “I cannot tell a lie; I chopped down the cherry tree.”

In the 1970s we removed and disgraced a president, in large part because he told lies. Forty years later, we treat a former president who lied repeatedly like a rock star. He is one of the most popular and respected celebrities in the country.

What happened? Where is my America?

“Entitlements”

Few people went on welfare when I was a kid. There was no such thing as a free lunch. It was an embarrassment to have to rely on someone else for your necessities. People were embarrassed to have to rely on food stamps. While we were a compassionate people, we expected people to carry their own weight. Most got off of welfare as quickly as they could. We shamed people who abused the welfare system. Relying on the government was an exception, not a multi-generational lifestyle.

We were entitled to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We were not entitled to a standard of living.

Today, there is far too little shame, and far too many “entitlements.” We have become an entitlement society — to our great detriment.

What happened? Where is my America?

The Family

We understood what a family was when I was a kid. It was clear to everyone. Families were not perfect; but to have and be a part of an ideal family was the goal of most Americans. And we were a better people because of it.

A family was a mother, a father, and perhaps a child or two... or three. That was a family. Each had a vital role to perform in the family. We knew it was not right to raise a child without the active involvement of both a father and a mother. We were not so selfish as to think that we could define a family any other way.

Marriage was for real, not for convenience.

We recognized that marriage and the family was the major component of a healthy, prosperous society.

The focus in our society was the family, not the individual. Even if you were not married or did not have children, you knew, understood, and respected what a family was.

When I was a kid, the illegitimacy rate (that’s what they called it back then) was about 6%. Today, it is about 40%. That means that, from the start, nearly half of our children do not have the benefit of a father and a mother in the house, raising them, serving as role models. Today, they call that an accepted “lifestyle choice.” No; that is a gross, moral atrocity. And the fact that we do not see it as such makes it even worse.

There were homosexuals when I was a kid; there always have been. We did not... we could not... forbid them. But the aberrant behavior of some of them was not an accepted part of society. Like anyone who had a deviant lifestyle (and many did), they kept their behavior private. Homosexuals did not demand special laws, restaurants, books, schools, parades, or hotels just for them. They just wanted to be left alone. We did that.

What happened? Where is my America?

Society

There were plenty of jobs, and plenty of work to do. We expected able-bodied people to work. When someone refused to work, lived on the street, and begged from others, we called him a bum. We shunned him; we did not encourage him or make excuses for him. We did not “enable” his behavior.

There was no such thing as “politically incorrect” when I was a kid. “Politically incorrect” is a concept that was originated by communists, and was unheard of in the free world. You watched your language, you sometimes bit your tongue. But if you spoke the truth, no one would paint you as an outcast or an extremist.

Nearly everybody celebrated Christmas... even non-Christians. Christians proudly celebrated Joseph, Mary and the birth of Jesus... in our families, in our schools, in our churches, in our hospitals. No one thought of banning the open celebration of the birth of Christ. Anyone who might have tried would have been shunned. To forbid the greeting “Merry Christmas” would have been thought of as abhorrent and an affront to common sense and decency.

In many areas, celebrities and the rich lived by different norms. They always have. But generally, they did not flaunt their deviant behavior. When they did so, we shunned them. We did not celebrate their lawlessness or their decadence.

We were a tolerant people. But we expected people to behave, especially in public. If you drank in public, or swore in public, or smelled like you hadn’t taken a bath in two weeks in public... you were shunned... and removed.

During the war, American journalists did not try to stand “high and mighty,” above the fray. They took sides. They were Americans. They were Americans first and journalists second — a far second.

When I was a kid, wars were fought to win. We did not try merely “not to lose.” That would have been defeatist. We were not a defeatist people.

What happened? Where is my America?

Education

The teachers were in charge in the classroom. Woe be unto you if you dared cross a teacher. Few tried. Parents did not; parents were on their side. The law and the courts did not. The classroom was the domain of the teacher, not the justice system. But the teachers earned and deserved the power, authority and respect they had. Teachers were teachers; they were not your friends. And they never – NEVER – got personally involved with their students.

Each morning, as a class, we stood in front of our desks, faced the flag, put our hands on our hearts, and recited, out loud, the Pledge of Allegiance. No exceptions; no apologies. (“...one nation, under God...”) We were taught to do so with great pride. The principal began each school assembly with short prayer. No one objected; no one dared. The principal was in charge. Period.

There was no such thing as “social promotion.” When a student did not meet the requirements for promotion, he failed the grade. They used the term “held back,” but the result was the same; he had to repeat the grade.

That’s gone now. As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as failing in school. That is wrong. Kids (and adults) do fail. When they do, they must pay a price. They must understand that. That is the reality of life.

Our schools and our society strove for equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome.

Most colleges and universities, especially those in the “top tier,” were highly respected by all. The goal was academic excellence. Professors did not inject their personal, political beliefs into the classroom. They were there to teach, not indoctrinate.

What happened? Where is my America?

Right Track/Wrong Track

Clearly, we are on the wrong track today. We have allowed those who are more concerned about themselves than their country to set the agenda, to lead us down a dirty, deceitful, and destructive path. Too many of us are willing to follow; too few of us are willing to lead and help get us back on the right track.

What happened? Where is my America? And what can I do to get it back?


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