Saturday, February 21, 2009

This was written in response to an article by Betsy Hart in the Metro West News entitled "When your child sasses the principal.

The Vulgarization of America: Steve Allen wrote a book entitled "Vulgarians at the Gate" where he talks about and criticizes the vulgarization of contemporary culture. As an attendee of Boston University (the Berkeley of the East) during the turbulent late 1960's I often nostalgically look back on that time as the first time in my life I experienced purpose and hope. That era brought necessary change for blacks, for women, for the environment, for the understanding of sexuality and it encouraged a new found freedom of inquiry and verbal exchange.

I also look back on that era with some profound sadness, doubt, regret and even some guilt. I fear that maybe some of those changes brought with them a variety of dysfunctions. The new found freedoms of critical analysis ushered in a violence, a promiscuity, addiction and a general lack of civility for what is permissible and what it not in the course of human relationships. It became okay to say anything, do anything, sleep with anyone and treat one's superiors like they were not superior at all.

We felt we should get along with everyone BUT we really didn't have to if we didn't want to. I feel so old when I say in my day but I will say it anyway -- In MY day in high school we would NEVER EVER think of "dissing" a teacher even IF that teacher was consummately wrong. We held our breath at the ones who dared. Is is right to be in such fear of after all mere mortals? No, I think not. We must, though, if we are to remain civilized TREAT each other, most especially those who are trying to educate and/or protect us with respect. It is that respect which is missing and I fear the genie can not be placed back in the bottle. There is, indeed, a crudity, coarseness, outrageous behavior and speech which is sanctioned now but never would have been in bygone eras.

When I visited the old South High School over a decade ago the lockers were defaced, doors removed from the bathrooms and there was, I felt, a general sense that the respect WE once had for not only the building but what the building represented, was gone. It made me cry and wonder if our generation ushered in something terribly wrong. Perhaps it did. Still, I would not want to return to the days of yesteryear when we did not question and we were not critical of a system that begged for criticism. I wonder, though, if we could not have done that in a kinder, gentler and more civilized way. Something good, civil and right has, I think, gone and my fear is that we will never be able to get it back.