Friday, February 16, 2007

When Giants Walked The Earth

About 45 years ago, seven giants walked the Earth. They faced dangers none of their countrymen had ever faced with nerves of steel and single-minded dedication. Strapped to the top of an ICBM as likely to explode as not, they rode into the most hostile environment ever experienced. Primative equipment made from vacuum tubes and gears and mechanical relays tracked their progress through the cold blackness, until like burning meteors, they returned victorious.

Those who survived are old men now, and it will be a very long time before we see their like again. The America which produced the Mercury Seven is gone. Where is the America of risk-takers, of audacious dreamers, and of unlimited possiblities?

I'm not sure how, but somehow we've become conditioned as a people to not only expect, but to demand that the govenment protect us from everyone and everything, especially ourselves. We've become a nation of sheep.

It was not always this way. When I was born in November 1956, the world vas very different. The text that follows is from one of those Internet emails that gets passed around, but it's accurate. To you younger readers this may seem like nostalgic fantasy, but I swear this was the way it was when I was growing up. How did we ever survive?

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets, ... and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seatbelts or air bags.

Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank soda pop with sugar in it, but we were never overweight because we were always outside playing.

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle, and no one actually died from this.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes.

After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.

No one was able to reach us all day.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, no video games at all, no 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, DVD's, surround sound, cell phones, personal computers, or Internet chat rooms.

We had friends!

We went outside and found them.

We played dodge ball, and sometimes, the ball would really hurt.

We fell out of trees, got cut and broke bones and teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms, and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment!

Some students weren't as smart as others, so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade. Horrors!

Tests were not adjusted for any reason. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected.

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever.

The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
Hey, I'm not calling for the return of lead-based paints and elimination of seatbelts. Regulation has its place. I just think our government should be less of a babysitter. And maybe I'm just getting old, but I can't see the advantages of protecting children from all disapointment, or giving them a sense of self worth rather than allowing them to earn it. This is poor preparation for life.

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