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Thursday, April 12, 2012

And Now, For A Little Something Different

For those of us who already have a serious case of George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin fatigue, Let's talk about something slightly more interesting. This week, the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic will be observed. There are few events in American history that divide years in before and after. The sinking marked an end to so many entrenched attitudes and societal norms.
 So many things have taken place in that 100 year span of time. America has seen 17 Presidents, 2 World Wars, inventions that have changed daily living not just for Americans, but the world. But what things have we changed about ourselves, as a people in that time?
 America was still very much a growing country in 1912. Immigrants from all over the world came to this country with literally whatever they could carry on their backs, not knowing the culture or the language, but with the drive, the willingness to work hard, and the passion to build a better life for themselves and their families. And most of all, they wanted to become Americans.
 If nothing else, Titanic was a microcosm of the fairly strict class system that existed in America in 1912. The wealthy and famous made up the luxurious first class cabin suites, complete with servants' quarters and private baths. If you were aspiring to be one of those first class ticket holders, but not quite there yet, you landed in second class. Very lovely accommodations, but not quite up to first class standards. Then there were those immigrants who dreamed of the promise of America. How ironic that their first taste of life in their adopted homeland would come from down below in third class.
 America still had an innocence about her. The horrors of the first World War had not yet taken place, American women had not yet taken up the fight for the right to vote. If you owned an automobile, your American dream had no doubt been achieved.
 But has the American personality changed? Like anything else, some is good, some, not so much. Opportunities for Black, Asian, and Hispanic Americans, as well as other minorities is the exact opposite of what it was in 1912, which was non-existent. The same for women. The idea that one can go from starting out in a lower economic class, and move to a much higher one through education and hard work is much more attainable. But are we more tolerant, kind, giving of ourselves, and just plain nicer? As is typically American, we have lots of opinions on that question. If all of those people who perished that fateful night could come back and see America as she is now, 100 years later, what would they think about who we have become?
 We can only hope that they would like what they see.       

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