Friday, January 13, 2006

The moon is full again - wolf moon - the first full moon since midwinter. It shines big and silver over the street, bright through clear cold air, surrounded by stars. It feels right that the wolf moon and Martin Luther King's birthday fall close together. In Native American traditions wolf is the totem of the teacher - the person who is loyal to his own community but goes beyond that community to learn new ways which he then brings back into the community for its betterment. The wolf never forgets his roots, but dreams beyond the restrictions of old ways and leads others out of the bondage of these restrictions. I can think of no better description of Dr. King.

I had an odd realization today - checked out at dinner in a conversation with Joanna (daughter) and KK (granddaughter). To both of them Dr. King is part of history - like FDR, Abraham Lincoln and the founding fathers. To me Dr.King is contemporary - a part of my personal past, discovered in his prime,remembered, not learned about from books. The Civil Rights Movement, The War in Viet Nam, the Kennedy and King assassinations are to me as World War II, the discovery of the concentration camps, and the death of FDR are to my parents' generation. When I was ten there were still a few people living who remembered the Civil War, the veterans of World War I were in their sixites and the veterans of Worls War II were in the prime of their lives. The bus station in Houston still had two waiting rooms, one for whites and a much smaller, less well appointed one for "coloreds". I remember sneaking a look through the door into the other waiting room - feeling naughty and confused. I didn't understand the significance of the two waiting rooms or the presence in restaurants of signs that said "We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." I remember feeling proud of being able to read the words in those signs, and puzzled about their purpose. I had no idea how wrong they were.

Generational perspective is intriguing. I've thought about generational values differences but not so much about the issue of one generation's current events being the next generation's history. Duh! It seems obvious, but I hadn't really thought about it.


Ruth said...


I love what you have to say here--it is interesting to hear it from your perspective.

You remind me of something I wrote in my reflective journal for Personality Psych back in undergrad... I'll share:

"One small thing that impressed me was the definition of generation; “those people who are born at the same point in historical time and thereby develop a shared understanding of the world, common beliefs and aims, and a shared generational style.” This seems important. I’ve noticed that no matter how much people try to determine where the generations begin and end with arbitrary years and timelines it seems to be much more determined by events. For example, my husband and sister are both only 3½ years older than me but it is a VITAL 3½ years--they are both technically generation Y just like me (by a couple of months) but in reality their way of being in the world is VERY different than mine. (I’ve checked this with my peers and theirs and it seems to be consistent but I’m not claiming this as universal—just an observation)
 They remember the challenger blowing up—they were watching it at school.
 I was sublimely oblivious playing house at preschool.
 They were moved to tears when the Berlin Wall crumbled.
 It took my friends and I until we were in middle school to realize that it had even been up in our lifetimes (not just a story like “duck and cover” from our parents’ generation.)
 They debated foreign policy when Desert Shield was implemented.
 The only thing I remember from Desert Storm is tying yellow ribbons ‘round my front yard trees when “our guys” came home.
 They are both still tear up when they describe seeing the Challenger explode.
 My first “where were you when…” story is September 11th.
The news stories that colors my early experience are Rodney King being beaten, Waco in flames, OJ Simpson’s car chase, and the Oklahoma City Bombing. I know I was alive when Reagan was president but I only remember three presidents—Bush, Clinton and Bush. Somehow these things make a difference. Our parents were defined by Vietnam and Civil Rights. Their parents were defined by the Great Depression and World War II. My sister and husband are defined by the first parting of the iron curtain and the end of the cold war. My history is one of domestic terror. Is it any wonder we see the world differently?"

DianeS said...

I'm finally getting a chance to read your updates!

I came to the realization that the kids see things as history that I know the feel of back when Jonathan was in high school. He came home one day, full of information about the VietNam War, and clearly unaware that there was little new he could tell me about that. In some ways, it's funny. I'm sure that to my mother, the differences in time between Teddy Roosevelt and FDR were huge. To me, they seem have come remarkably close together in history, considering how very different the men were. LBJ probably seems like some sort of strange political dinosaur to young people; to people our age he was a real, very strange, political animal. The LBJ Library must seem equivalent to the Lincoln Library. Anyway, it is odd, when you're getting older, to realize how much history you've seen.

BTW, I've finally updated, too. And it's at