“Well, I was brought up in a time when…”
Those words can lead to heartwarming stories, or exaggerations that cause us to giggle when Grandma tells it, as in, “When I was a child I had to walk five miles through an alligator infested swamp, carrying my sister, brother, and three hound dogs to get to school, all before sunup, in a dress, barefoot in the snow.” Well, we solved Grandma’s problem with modern conveniences. I’m not discounting the hardships our ancestor faced. I have only been inconvenienced, living in my backyard during this renovation, for a month now. Even with a working restroom, running water, and electricity in the house, this “totally sucks,” to borrow a phrase from my teenaged former students.
That’s another thing. I was brought up in a time when saying, “That sucks,” to a teacher garnered you a one-way ticket out the front door of the school for a few days and more than likely a whippin’ at home. Now, I say “that sucks” more than I’d like to admit. Oh, and the threat, “I’ll knock you back to Sunday,” would land my mamma in jail now, but I’m still here and she never beat me. She told my dad and he administered the punishment with the “snake,” a long black belt that we would have to unhook from the closet door and present for the whippin’. We were also sent to “pick out a switch,” and we better be selective. Bringing back a switch that could do no damage meant the adult would go get one of his or her own. Bad move.
Yes, I was brought up in a time when you beat your kids into submission. I’m not bitter about it, but I am glad that I chose not to do that to my child. I spanked mine once and that did it for me. He was almost seven when it happened and I refused to ever do it again. I learned the way I was brought up had no bearing on how I disciplined my child. I progressed beyond corporal punishment.
“Well, I was brought up in a time when…” is often used to cover deeply ingrained beliefs that are un-retainable in a progressive, more advanced society. The next time I hear someone say, “I was brought up in a time when,” or “I was brought up to believe,” seconds before they use it as an excuse to be bigoted and ignorant, I think I’ll remind them of some of the status quo beliefs of my childhood, which turned out to be as wrong as the people who clung to archaic beliefs and the past without learning from it:
I was born in 1961, and was brought up in a time when…
· The black men called my grandfather and his friends Mr., not out of respect, but out of fear of being thought disrespectful.
· We were told whites were the superior race and they alone should decide what was best for all others.
· We watched mixed race couples jailed. We saw mixed race children ostracized and bullied.
· We were told that God separated the races. Oh, and that he was an old white man with white hair that could strike us dead just for thinking the bible might be a bit behind the times—on the spot, dead, lightning bolt through the head and all, but you didn’t just die, you were going burn in hell for all eternity.
· We were told if they said it in church it was true. (I always thought the flawed "the earth is flat" doctrine took care of that fallacy.)
· We watched the same people, who now cheer loudly from the grandstands, deny black athletes had a place on the playing fields with their white children, or in their classrooms.
· Politicians and religious leaders told us that applying basic human rights, civil rights, to blacks would be the death of our way of life and was downright unchristian.
· We spit on soldiers coming back from war.
· We saw students killed protesting that war.
· We were told women were inferior to men, were to be seen and not heard, and should be subservient and compliant.
· We were told the only goal in life for a young girl was to be pretty enough to catch a man to take care of her. If a girl wasn’t pretty enough, she should at least know how to cook, clean, and make HIS home comfortable, and be thankful to have him, whether he loved her or treated her with decency and respect. At least, she’d have a man.
· We were told good girls don’t get dirty. They also don’t correct a boy when he’s wrong, show him how smart she was, or beat him at any game. (I thought, what fragile egos boys must have.)
· We were told girls weren’t good at math, didn’t make good scientist, and could certainly never be an astronaut, or President. (Still waiting on that last one.)
· We were told that only bad girls got raped, and if a good girl did happen to do something to cause a man to rape her, she should just be quiet about it.
· We were told a man could beat his children and his wife within an inch of their lives, because a man’s home was his castle.
· We were told that AIDS was God’s punishment for homosexuality.
· We saw firsthand the penalties paid by those out of the closet.
· WE WERE TOLD THAT GAYS, QUEERS, LESBIANS, DYKES, FAGS, TRANNIES, HOMOS, QUEENS, (you get the drift,) WERE SUBHUMAN, CRIMINALS, SEXUAL PREDATORS, HUNTERS OF CHILDREN, MENTALLY ILL, AND NOT DESERVING OF BASIC HUMAN RIGHTS, BUT INSTEAD WORTHY OF PRISON, TO BE HATED AND SCORNED, AND EVEN STONED TO DEATH. (Sadly, these same words can be found in today’s headlines and social media posts.)
I was brought up in a time of social turmoil and change. We are better for it now. We did learn—well, some of us learned. We progressed and advanced beyond what we were told was right, but knew in our hearts was so horribly wrong. Future generations will look back on our present time and grandchildren will listen to grandma talk about how she used to have an iPhone and had to carry a laptop everywhere, and the Internet was sooooo slow; how she used to have to actually drive the car, how we nearly killed the planet, how children starved while food stores overflowed, and how wars over money, land, religion, and oil killed so many. And she will have to tell them, “I was brought up in a time when equal rights were not equal, when human beings were denied basic rights because of who they loved.” Her grandchildren will be thankful that their ancestors progressed beyond the generations before them.
I went to undergrad with a French art student. She had romantic entanglements with men and women, with no regard for color. She said of her preferences, or lack there of, (please purse your lips and read with a French accent,) “The human body is beautiful in all its forms. I should love them all.”
I would like to have the opportunity to leave a note for future generations, which would state, “I lived in a time when humanity learned to embrace our diversity and love us all.”