October 7, 2015
As I get older, I hear words come out of my mouth that I used to hear come out of the mouths of my mother, and later, my father-in-law.
I remember how I felt hearing those words too, words that began with the phrase spoken or intuited, “back in my day”. This would appear to be the same way those around me feel when I utter that same concept—if their eye rolls are any indication. There’s a tendency, I suppose, to dismiss out of hand some of the grumblings of the senior generation. I understand that, actually, because I do fully recognize and accept that the older I get the crankier I can be.
That said, I do believe, unrelated to the emergence of my inner curmudgeon, that it can generally be said that in this day and age, two very important—dare I say sacred?—qualities seem to be lacking in our society: common sense, and the art of compromise.
Lack of common sense, when I was a kid, used to get me a swat on the back of the head—or a more severe punishment, like being grounded. Lack of common sense used to be something most people avoided like the plague. To be accused of having no common sense was a stinging indictment, a horrible insult, or in other words, a really bad thing.
When, and why, did that change? Why did we kill common sense? I don’t have the answer for that, but I sure as hell see the results of it in the news nearly every single day. I’ve read stories of a kindergarten boy being suspended from school because he placed a kiss on the cheek of a female classmate. Georgie Porgie anyone? Actually, school administrators are the most bereft of common sense, if you ask me. The latest asinine school admin decision I’ve read about? A boy brought a clock he made to school to impress his teacher and ends up suspended and being considered for charges—hoaxing a bomb, wasn’t it? If you want to charge anyone with that, charge the dumbass teacher or principal who panicked and called the police.
Yes, I know. Perilous times and blah blah blah. People, do I have to say this? Yes, hold the line. Be vigilant. But if y’all are going to run around like chicken little, divorcing your common sense and, apparently, your intelligence, guess what? You’ve handed those terrorists a huge victory—a bigger one, in fact, than the one you’re trying to prevent.
I can just hear them over there now at terrorist central. “Ha! Over in North America they used to have freedom, they used to be caring and kind to one another, they used to have rational discourse between political factions. But we fixed all that!”
Just think about it for a few minutes. It might sink in.
Thinking of those political factions brings me back to the second virtue that’s been murdered: the art of compromise.
Didn’t our parents tell us that we could not have our own way all the time? Mine did and I am positive yours did too (you know, in the days of common sense).
Here’s how I will explain the art of compromise it in terms relevant to my husband’s and my life for those younger folk who don’t know what it is. We married young, and went from our parents’ homes to our own. We had but a weekend honeymoon. David grew up in a family with both parents, but more, a father who was the Commander In Chief. He’d say “jump” and everyone would ask, “how high, sir?”
I grew up in a house where my dad was the head of the family until he died when I was seven and a half. After that, my mom was in charge, and did everything from earning the money to cooking the meals, to fixing the toaster when it broke. She built window valances, and planed one of the plank floors upstairs to make it level.
David and I got home from our honeymoon and my dear new husband tried his hand at edict-issuing a la his dad. He said, “I’ll tell you right now, I eat roast beef, roast pork, mashed potatoes, cream corn and canned peas.” I looked at him and said, “I’m sorry. We don’t earn enough money to eat roast beef and roast pork every night. So you’ll have to eat what I put in front of you.”
We very quickly compromised: he would try everything once. What he didn’t like, I would not make again. In those days the only thing he didn’t like was liver. Now he’s older, and he even likes that too.
I hope we can all get back to common sense and the art of compromise. In my opinion, they can make the difference between living a good and meaningful life, and merely being alive.