These are the days of lasers in the jungle,
Lasers in the jungle somewhere,
Staccato signals of constant information,
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby,
These are the days of miracle and wonder,
This is the long distance call,
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all
"Boy in the Bubble" - Paul SimonDuring his historic Victory speech on November 4th President-elect Obama made reference to a notable woman whom he had met on the campaign:"This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations," Obama told the tens of thousands of supporters who had gathered in Chicago on Tuesday night. "But one that's on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. She's a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing -- Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old."She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.This resonated strongly, because my family has discussed just this perspective since my first-American born aunt passed away two years ago at the age of 102. These women spanned the Twentieth Century in all of its wonder and horror. The century changed America and changed the World, in ways casual and common, in others subtle but profound.
"And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can."I have used as an example of the more casual changes the contrast of vacation opportunities for my aunt in her mid-employment and mine today. In the 1930's there was little, if any, paid vacation for the common worker. If you had a nice boss, you might be able to take a week off -- but probably not every year! You had to pinch your pennies to afford that week. My aunt lived in Northern New Jersey; a trip to the Jersey Shore was nearly an all-day affair by bus and two-lane roads. You might share a family bungalow, and you brought much of your food in cans, boxes, and sacks, and fishing off of the piers would supplement your menu. You went less to be entertained than to simply relax.
I fall somewhere within the turbulent middle-class and have maintained my employment with one business for 22-years. It would be a simple matter to, Monday morning, clear my next week's schedule and present my supervisor with a request for one of my weeks of accrued paid-vacation time. That afternoon I could go to my travel agent and purchase a week in Hawaii. I would proffer my credit card and be given a handful of computer-generated forms. Five days later I could drive less than an hour to a regional airport, and twelve hours later, use the same credit card to purchase a loud shirt and a meal on Oahu's shore, and later attend a Hawaiian extravaganza to delight the senses.One hundred years!
There has been a price, of course, one that we typically only recognize during crisis. There has been a profound challenge to hundreds of thousand's of years of human nature. That challenge is the very world we have created and which the fortunate so enjoy. Albert Einstein made it clear:"It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity."How did our world become so collectively, dangerously, complicated over one long lifetime? How is it that we are engaged in "cultural warfare?"
I have my thoughts, of course, and they will be presented in part 2.