In My Lifetime…

8 Jan

One of my heroes!

In my lifetime, I have seen the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the start of the Vietnam War.  I remember watching on our black and white television the killing of 4 college students and the wounding of 9 others at Kent State University by the Ohio National Guard.  I witnessed the resignation of Richard Nixon, minutes before he would have been impeached. Presidents Ford and Reagan both survived assasination attempts, Reagan just barely. Ironically, the attempt on Reagan led to the Brady bill and some real, rational progress on gun control.

Fortunately, I also witnessed Roe v. Wade.  Finally, women were told by the U.S. Supreme Court they could be trusted to make decisions about their own bodies–what a novel idea. To be gay and to have been alive during the Stonewall Riots feels like a gift from history now. Through Affirmative Action and social pressure and protest the face of corporate and government leadership is much more diverse than it was when I was born, though we still have a long way to go.

I have seen the boom of space exploration, starting in my lifetime with the 1969 Apollo moon landing. Who would have imagined an international space station? The entire space shuttle program went from planning to launch to being grounded in my lifetime. I remember the excitement of each launch and the shock and disbelief that met the tragic fates of the Challenger and the Columbia.

Of course, the events of 9/11 forever changed the world and helped to give George W. the amplified tool of fear.  While we saw the world come together as a united globe for a couple of days, the legacy of 9/11 seems to be fear, and the vilification of Muslims.

Technology has changed in ways that make our lives almost unrecognizable. I remember the our very first microwave oven when I was in high school and the very first time I saw color television. Many people today carry more computing power in their telephones than existed in a typical business when I started grade school. The Internet has totally changed commerce, government, journalism, and social interaction, for better or for worse. Computing power and quick connections can be useful, but they also lead to snap judgments and a sense of urgency that impairs our better selves.

While I have witnessed a great deal in a relatively short period of time, I do worry about our country going exponentially backwards regarding civil rights and liberties.  The rise of the Tea Party and the blatant racism we have seen since President Obama took office have been mortifying.  Watching the GOP presidential candidates often shoves me into a dark and misanthropic abyss.  Where are the voices of the progressive movement? Why do we vilify the Occupy Movement? When do we take our country back from the religious right hypocrites?

Action item: We have the ability to move forward. We have the ability to change systems and end the intersections of oppression.  We have to get out and use our voices and we have to VOTE!

7 Responses to “In My Lifetime…”

  1. Didion January 8, 2012 at 11:31 am #

    Isn’t this kind of thing fascinating? I figured out a while ago that in my granny’s lifetime, she witnessed the birth of airplanes as well as both the height of racism in America and the gay rights movement. When she was born, her father (a butcher in NYC) still used a horse and cart. Fascinating.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 8, 2012 at 11:35 am #

      Wow! A horse and cart. Yes, your grandmother certainly witnessed a great deal. I worry so that we are moving backwards.

  2. NelsonG January 8, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    For the record, I’m gay and to the left of center. I’ve been critical of the Occupy Movement because it’s been more than apparent there are people within Occupy who clearly have a wanton disregard for the people they’re supposedly advocating for.

    We’re never going to move forward or do anything against the religious right so as long as there are those who insist on being afraid all the time.

  3. Kim Robert English January 8, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

    Well said… you capture the events of my history as well, except I would add that I remember the uncontrollable feelings of loss at the killings of JFK and RFK in addition to MLK. My question, too, has been and remains will right-wing religious hypocrites prevail? The history of one’s life is personal and what I’ve learned from that is that unless another person is subjected to the same kinds of oppression, subjugation, or prejudice as you, s/he seldom holds much empathy, let alone, compassion, for those struggles. And yes, every vote does count but majorities are fickle friends under best of circumstances.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt January 8, 2012 at 2:20 pm #


      Great comment! Yes, I should have added the assassination of RFK. I was not yet alive when JFK was killed. I do worry that both fear and misogyny rule U.S. politics today. Thanks for the comment.

  4. nevercontrary January 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm #

    I like to look back at how right before significant change conservatives have out of nowhere became extra loud in an attempt to block change. I feel like we are in that moment right now. So it gives me hope that it means change is fast approaching.

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