Pharos-Tribune

Opinion

March 19, 2014

WILLIAMS: Not the same view

My friend comm-ented to me, resentfully – “America is certainly not the country I grew up in.” We are the same age, children in the ‘50s and ‘60s. I think she sees her youth through rose-colored glasses.

Her childhood was spent right here in this little town. Her father made a good living as a mailman. Her mother was a stay-at-home mom. She went to the same schools with the same kids, virtually all of whom were white. This part of the Heartland was characterized by high-paying factories, especially steel mills and auto plants. Unions were strong and they carried non-union members along with them to middle-class prosperity. Neighborhoods were safe and crime was low. We didn’t protest the Vietnam War — or anything else.

The schools of that era were excellent though somewhat authoritarian by today’s standards (shirts tucked in, belts mandatory, no pants for girls, etc.) Parents then sided with the teachers rather than their kids. Drug use was almost non-existent (although youthful drinking wasn’t).

We were then, and still are, a primarily rural community. Farms were independently owned. There were no huge, inhumane factory farms then.

Of course, we had some poor families but no gangs and no slums.

So far, so good. Can you say, “Leave It To Beaver”?

By contrast, my family was transient. What my friend saw wasn’t the same as what I saw. In the West, we traveled through Indian reservations, revealing abject poverty. You might not be surprised to know that when the Bureau of Indian Affairs negotiated contracts with energy companies on Indian lands, they were detrimental to the Native Americans and beneficial to the industry. Finally, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the tribes began to get these contracts overturned in favor of negotiating more positive stipulations for themselves.

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