My ideas for the next “Boomer Blog” often begin to percolate shortly after I submit the completed one each Monday. Mostly I mentally organize the upcoming article for several days, with a scribble here and a google search there. Rank procrastinator that I am, however, I depend on that Sunday evening adrenaline rush to finally put words to screen.
After last week’s cautiously-optimistic column about a new perspective for 2021, I planned a lighthearted piece with no mention of disease or politics. Reading about New Year’s Eve celebrations involving underwear and grapes motivated me to head in an upbeat direction.
Every couple of decades or so, I accidentally remain awake long enough to watch the Times Square ball drop. There is never a midnight kiss, although I have sung “Auld Lang Syne” to myself. And I am certainly no fan of making a bunch of quickly-broken resolutions.
Anyway, I find our country’s New Year traditions rather pedestrian. More interesting are certain customs popular south of our border or across the big pond. Some folks in Brazil and Mexico celebrate the New Year by wearing red undergarments for good fortune in love and yellow undies in hopes of increased wealth. And in some European countries, for luck people throw dishes at the houses of their friends and neighbors. That I can envision, having attended a couple of pre-wedding parties during my German travels: we took along old plates to smash as a means of warding off unfriendly spirits.
As for foods to ensure luck, my mother liked to ring in the New Year with pork and sauerkraut. And recently I ran across references to a New Year’s meal of black-eyed peas, greens, and cornbread being traditional in our southern states. By the way – in Spain and Mexico it is customary to eat 12 grapes in 12 seconds, one for each peal of the midnight bell!
True to form, I also googled important historical events that occurred on the first day of the New Year. I planned to include in my article the last known gladiatorial competition in Rome, Abraham Lincoln’s issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, the opening of Ellis Island as an immigration inspection station, the first Rose Bowl game in Pasadena, the introduction of the Euro, and the beginning of the new millennium with all its attendant Y2K drama.
And then Wednesday happened. Although I knew the Electoral College votes were being certified, I had not tuned into any news channel – I was not in the mood for the wrangling scheduled to transpire. Eventually a friend alerted me to the beyond-all-belief events unfolding on Capitol Hill.
I was sad. I was angry. I was frightened. I was appalled. I hardly recognized the Capitol. The several times I have visited that building, the many times I have viewed the rotunda on television, an atmosphere of respect and decorum has always prevailed. Not so during the frenzied attack by that mob of marauders.
The events, the immediate aftermath, the future of our country have been discussed nonstop since Wednesday, which will forever after appear on every list of historic events for January 6. Talk about infamy…
My new perspective, my cautious optimism, my desire to write an upbeat article verged on crumbling. What has gotten into people? We were witnessing the polarization of our citizenry on steroids. And sadly, there was more than enough complicity to go around.
However, I cannot face the future in a perpetual state of pessimism. I am a citizen of this country. There are 230 million of us adult citizens with the responsibility of doing our share to preserve our nation.
As such, we must responsibly inform ourselves about state and national issues. We need to search out reputable information from a variety of reputable sources. Fortunately, I find that each major news outlet employs at least one journalist I trust in the way I once trusted Walter Cronkite. Additionally, we must remain vigilant against far too much illogical misinformation being passed along far too frequently on social media.
Locally we need to support our city, township, and educational governing bodies and institutions. Government does not happen only in Columbus and Washington. It is just as important to be advocates for and good stewards of public affairs at home.
And we should continue to help others. Donations of funds, goods, and deeds to local organizations supporting fellow citizens experiencing difficult times are still sorely needed.
Unfortunately, I worry about two areas with growing concern. Too many children are watching too many adults behave badly. In view of the dangerous and disturbing legacy being created for our children, we need to get our act together. I still recall the very real angst I experienced in childhood: the fear of lying in an iron lung with polio, wanting my father to build a bomb shelter as protection against the Russians. There were the deaths of JFK, RFK, MLK – and the kids at Kent State. Adulthood did nothing to alleviate the events of Watergate and September 11.
I also have strong doom-and-gloom feelings about the state of American politics. Presidential historian Jon Meacham last week remarked: “Politics is about the mediation of differences and the resolution of problems…not a Shermanesque arena for total, constant warfare.” We must eliminate the warfare and get back to the business of mediation and problem resolution for ourselves, our country – and our children.
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.