I remember sitting in speech class my sophomore year in 1966 when someone brought a Life magazine to class. The cover was a photo of a Hell’s Angel motorcyclist (assuming the guy actually owned a motorcycle). The teacher went ballistic. She didn’t see a motorcyclist. All she saw was a German helmet atop the idiot’s head. She gave us an impassioned lecture about recent history. She explained how her generation had sacrificed thousands of young men to halt the march of Socialism in Germany and Europe. And the guys who were shooting at those young men all wore helmets just like the one on the magazine cover.
Obviously, the pictured biker was not a Nazi. He just liked the idea that some folks would find the helmet repellent and more readily label him as “a rebel.” He seemed oblivious to the fact that his own person was already repellent enough, and did not require the vile associations conjured up in a normal mind by the German helmet.
That teacher’s impromptu lecture was wasted on most of us that day. We had grown up in the shadow of WW II and knew something of what it had cost our parents. (My Mom’s childhood sweetheart had been killed in Sicily. My Dad’s favorite first cousin had been killed in Belgium. My Dad and his brother both joined up right out of high school, after they had both stood by their cousins’ fresh grave in the graveyard of Hopewell Baptist church in Indiana.) We had heard the stories from our Moms and Dads. We had quietly looked at the Purple Heart on the wall by my Dad’s uncle’s easy chair. We saw the cousin’s picture, but never saw the cousin.
But today it’s different. Young folks today don’t know the history of their parent’s generation. (I can proudly say that my own sons are exceptions to this rule. My oldest was a history major and would sometimes preface dinner table remarks along these lines…”I was reading Tacitus the other day and noticed….”
Pretty cool. He went to Pepperdine, which probably accounts for his erudition …real or imagined by an adoring Dad.) The young today have been informed of nothing they haven’t seen on television or their “smart” phone. Their minds are full of superfluous trash. No room for facts.
Culture has shifted, perhaps irrevocably, to a point where the pop culture magazine of the day – Rolling Stone – would publish the picture of a monster as teen idol, scant months after he’d killed and maimed several innocents. I would guess that, unlike my speech professor, our houses of higher education would barely bat an eye at Rolling Stone’s publication malpractice… Can we reclaim the innocence lost?
The situation is getting dire.
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