Why is the Country Heading Downhill?
     When I was a boy growing up in Inglewood, California, America to me had a different feel to it than it has today. In fact, life had a different feel to it, and I don't believe it was just because I was younger then. I recall that folks didn't lock their front doors every time they left their home. Car keys were often left in the ignition of their cars, even when they were parked on the streets. Bicycles were left unlocked, leaning against the nearest post. For the most part, it seemed safe to take a walk to most places you wanted to go, day or night. Young people could hitch a ride across town or even across country, simply by standing along the roadside and sticking their thumb out at passing cars. They weren't afraid of being mugged or molested. Motorists often stopped to help others who were stranded along the highway, not fearing to "get involved" in someone else's trouble. Young boys could sell newspapers by standing in the middle of the street, making their sales pitch through the open windows of cars stopped at signals. Yes, things were surely different in my youth from what they are today.
     In my neighborhood, which was mostly lower middle class, I was not aware of any drug problems or sexual abuse cases. There were no riots at abortion clinics, or abortion clinics, for that matter, or flag burnings, soccer match stampedes, or love-ins, or mass protests of any kind taking place. By and large, my recollection is that most people I came into contact with seemed friendlier, minded their own business, and just tried to get along as best they could.
     And I have learned that there is a third certainty in life, besides death and taxes, and that is change. And that is change in the social fabric of America. From a peck on the cheek or lips on a first date, to the dreaded date rape; from chaperoned pajama parties, to wild grad night booze and drug orgies, often accompanied by gunshots ringing in the night; from kids playing baseball on vacant sandlots, to parent-incited battles with umpires and coaches at Little League games; from children happily walking home from school, to daylight abductions and molestations. And the many more signs of change in all walks of life in America today has probably not been exhausted.
     Theories vary as to the reasons for these changes that resulted in the transformation from the "age of innocence" to the apparent "anything goes" attitude so obviously widespread nowadays. Are they a natural outcome of a population explosion? Or the results of wars and killings that frighten people into abandoning their values? Has the scientific and technological revolution placed doubt and fears in our minds about God's influence and man's place in the Universe? Maybe they are the result of the rebellious attitudes towards authority, some felt sparked by the Beatles and Elvis and others, and the rock music and drug culture and sexual revolution that opened the door to a less restrained way of life and a new attitude towards one's neighbors. Or could it have been the "eye in the sky", television, relentlessly flashing the bad and the ugly into every home with a TV set, never any good news, only the seedier side of society? Are there just too many of the wrong kinds of freedoms, misinterpreted by the judicial system, causing legislators to balk at enacting laws because they would probably be ruled unconstitutional anyway?
     The traditional family unit can only be strained by the many changes in the past and the influences placed on society today that may result in change. It makes us wonder if America will ever remotely be like it once was. And the influences that the computer and terrorism and gay marriage and other issues may have on the country's future can only be imagined. To think that the next 100 years will probably bring about even greater change than did the last 100 is, simply stated, beyond our imagination.
Your comments about this column are welcome ~ e-mail Laramie at
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