Archive for Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Acceptance of aging

March 13, 2013

Last Saturday, I celebrated my 76th birthday and in some ways, it was a shock. Staring at the numbers I suddenly realized that I had moved from upper, upper, upper middle-age to old. But that’s alright, I’m just glad to be old and I have no intention of thinking or active old. I am going to accept the aches and pains of aging which are far outweighed by the joys of life.

I was born in 1937 and thanks to technological and medical advancement we have a much higher standard of living. I was looking at the history of 1937 and discovered that the world in those days was as challenging and dangerous as 2013.

In 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was starting his second term of office and was fighting with Congress to enact some of his legislation to alleviate some of the suffering from the depression. He was under heavy criticism from the media and from conservative groups. One politician even predicted that the United States could not continue to exist under his tyrannical leadership. FDR faced some serious challenges.

Of course his biggest challenge was the economy. In 1937, unemployment was 14.7 percent, a decrease of two percent from the previous year. To put things in perspective, that is almost double of our unemployment today. FDR’s plans for public works drew heavy criticism but they did help the less fortunate. Of course, it took World War II to end the Depression.

The world was a dangerous place in 1937 as it always has been. The Spanish Civil War was raging and many have called it a testing ground for World War II weaponry. The United States was not involved although thousands of Americans volunteered to fight for the Spanish loyalists.

While most Americans probably took little notice, the Japanese and Chinese armies were engaged in a series of border clashes that escalated into an all-out war. There are historians that point to July 7, 1937, as the opening of World War II. Most Americans were very opposed to U. S. involvement in foreign wars and the country was in a period of isolationism. War was closer than anyone knew and according to several historians Hitler announced his plans for war in a secret cabinet meeting on Nov. 5.

There were disasters in 1937, as there are now. Amelia Earhart’s plane disappeared over the Pacific Ocean igniting a mystery that continues today. The dirigible which was the pride of Germany, the “Hindenburg” exploded and burned while trying to land in New Jersey. The dust bowl continued to rage in Kansas and other Midwest states destroying agriculture and dreams. In all, it was a rough year.

There were some major triumphs, too. The Golden Gate Bridge opened to traffic in late May. Land and air speed records were set – George E. T. Eyston established a land speed record of 345.49 miles per hour.

As you might suspect, there also were serious social issues. Many, including most Kansans, still favored prohibition. Motion pictures and radio shows were condemned as corrupting national morals. There were worries about disrespect for law officers. A portion of the population idolized bank robbers as heroes, thinking criminals were punishing those responsible for the Depression. Segregation still plagued the United States. Yes, social issues 76 years ago aren’t much different than we face today.

The important fact is that we, both individually and as a nation, survived the problems we faced 76 years ago and we will survive the challenges of today. The world has changed during my lifetime and, yes I believe for the better. I am an optimist and I firmly believe our best days as a nation are ahead of us.

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