Ever since I started writing these memories I have had many excellent responses to them, and most of those people have shared a few memories of their own. One of my good and faithful readers responded so favorably to my last writing, about the Fourth of July holiday, that I asked her permission to quote it here; she gives her own birth year - which is quite a few years after mine - but is evidence that we come from the the same basic background and value system - seemingly now about lost.
My story told how we as elementary school students learned all the standard American Heritage songs and a general reverence for our country......
Missy Keith, in her letter, then proceeded to say, "I know all the words to the patriotic songs you mentioned as well as the songs for the services. I remember saying the pledge every morning and, I think, the Lord's Prayer. By the way, I was at Spring Creek Elementary not too far from (your) Anna B. (Lacey). I also have retained the Tennessee state song, bird, tree, flower, etc., that I learned when I did my fourth grade state report. I also did one on South Carolina and learned the same for my birth state.
"As I read I thought of students of today that not only can't recite the Star Spangled Banner or the Pledge of Allegiance, but most also cannot name elected officials that pertain to them. Granted, thanks to our slanted media most know that Donald Trump is our president, but look what they are learning! They only see disrespect, hatred, and suspicion regarding our national leader as well as the office he holds. I don't always agree with him, but having lived in Portland, Oregon for a few years I read the news telling of a riot yesterday between right and left. Are we headed for another Civil War or will we just become so weak that we are prime for a more powerful opponent to just walk in and take over?"
Ms. Keith then apologizes for getting on her soap-box, although I APPLAUD IT! The modern generation - the Genex-er's and Millenials - need some grown-ups to show them where they are wrong! Things that have taken many years to build can be torn down overnight! Violent conflicts in the streets do not lead to anything but MORE violence in the streets.
I could go on for a long time about the degeneration I see in the country; yes, we have all the high-tech goodies that did not exist in my early life, and I hear of a high percent of modern kids who play video games for sometimes 10 hours per day - even more. You know what the consequences are: they are - obesity - which lead to diabetes and other serious diseases.... And I can remember when singers used to train for years (as locally here at Cadek Conservatory of Music and the Arts), as did instrumental musicians. Now it seems that no training is necessary: anyone can grab a microphone and proclaim him - or herself a singer - and anyone who can afford an expensive set of drums can be a musician! I see the absolute disappearance of handwriting, as cursive is no longer taught, at least in some, local schools. And a great many more problems I will restrain myself from introducing! (Be grateful for that!)
Now I have just added my rant to Ms. Keith's calmer and more measured words, but I needed to add some of my own thinking to the pool. Believe me, it has not been easy to be a parent - starting in the 1960's when the US began its long downhill spiral (in my opinion), and which continues today as my grandchildren reach their maturity. What kind of world will my GREAT-grandchildren know?
Please do not allow our words - Ms. Keith's and mine - to depress you too much, folks: I DO believe in both Resilience and Redemption. I believe that our nation is going through a state of great change at the moment, and nobody knows what the final outcome will be. Let us pray for the outcome our forefathers so strongly believed in, that everything is "working together for the better". That is actually my own feeling, as I have always considered myself to be a "long-term optimist". Take courage that "Our Flag Is Still There", and if you don't believe it, just watch the Old Guard soldiers as they guard the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington in ALL kinds of weather!
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Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter, sculptor and artisan as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at email@example.com.