In reading this one particular Newsday letter to the editor Cruel memories of the 1930s, it absolutely stunned me as it rang all too true for those who actually lived through the Great Depression.
After reading this passage from the letter writer, “Many times we moved from one dwelling to another. At one point (around 1934) we actually lived in a barn. We lived on clams that we dug and whatever edible things we could grow. I recall having nothing but boiled dandelion greens at one point...Although it was illegal, my father managed to shoot a deer once in a while so we could have the luxury of eating meat." There in lies a lesson to we who are currently living through this economic firestorm of just how tough things may get.
As many try and cling to optimism, we must have in the back of our minds first and foremost reality.
This one particular letter was in reference to this op-ed piece titled, When hope nearly vanished by James V. Wyman and in his bona fides as printed by Newsday, he "is a retired vice president and executive editor of The Providence Journal and author of "Bittersweet Beginnings: A Sketchbook of a Great Depression Boyhood."
His outstanding editorial is a look back to that darkened era in our history. Before I get into it, I had my eighteen year-old daughter read that letter to the editor and she felt grossed out that a deer was killed and I told her while she felt disgust, it was survival and that she has no understanding of how many did live through the Great Depression. I remember the tails my parents told me and how they lived through it all and came out stronger for it and it is no wonder why that generation was called ‘The Greatest Generation’.
Mr. Wyman opined in that piece, "But as grim as the future looks now, it is unlikely to come anywhere close to producing the same overpowering cloud of raw fear, hopelessness and despair experienced by those who lived through the decade" and while he may be correct given his bona fides there are millions right now who are truly suffering. I wonder how they would react to reading that one passage.
They are suffering because politicians failed them, banks failed them and we as a society failed ourselves.
I say failed ourselves because, we simply lived beyond our means and thought we all had a right to live in huge homes that we simply could not afford. We were lured into this illogical birth-right by those in power. They showed us all a bright shiny diamond and we indeed fell for it. Large homes without the means to support it and ourselves, became the crack-cocaine of this society and we became addicted.
As I have viewed documentaries of people living simpler lives, we for the most part have over-consumed and that has now come back to bite us.
The vampires of the advertising world told us we all needed to purchase this product or that one and we ourselves bared our throats to the greed-meisters.
What made the 'Greatest Generation' great was they knew how to live within their means and more importantly survive in such dire times. It was their off spring namely the boomers who became soft and failed to learn from the tails of their parents.
As I looked upon my own daughter and now reading this passage from Wyman's editorial, "I grew up in that period, when money was scarce and hope even harder to come by for most families. Jobs became as gold, beyond the reach of most who sought them, my father included." I wonder how many of our children are feeling this today. While he opines that this does not equally compare to the Great Depression, we have simply purchased beyond our means and it will take time to get used to doing with less.
So, here is something to ponder: will our children born to we boomers become the next 'Greatest Generation'? Are they learning anything from this or are there simply too many distractions such as online-games, text messaging as well as a bevy of programs on television which were not present back then?
The media presents to us so many distractions that often have us failing to see what is truly relevant in our personal world. We see endless stories of celebrities being discussed, yet are they relevant to our own survival as a people? This is not to chide the media as a whole because there are television channels such as CNBC who discuss economics in great detail. There are outstanding columnists such as Paul Krugman who whack us all on the head with an economic two-by-four. It is up to us to pay attention.
Parents like me want our children to succeed, go off to college and to grab that brass ring for a better way of living, but is that truly a reality when now millions will not be able to afford to pay for college tuitions? Will this younger generation see merit in working with their hands in order to survive into the future? A friend of mine who could not afford to send her son onto college years ago, had that honest discussion with him. He went onto to become a plumber and is raising his family and mind you successfully. Now he is a plumber that I do respect.
During the Great Depression what was not present were multiple wars being fought as is today. That is not only draining to the world, but to this country. Trying to stimulate an ailing economy while fighting these wars is something that is incomprehensible to all of us. Something has got to give and perhaps reality should tell us all that funding endless wars is truly not meritorious, but highly destructive to we as a society. Let us take care of the home front and this time do so correctly. Let us do so as a power of example, instead of using our power to set an example to paraphrase President Barack Obama.