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A Little Ranting About the Not So Good Old Days

I got an e-mail that kind of rubbed me the wrong way. Actually, that happens a lot with e-mail, and I usually just hit the delete button and that's the end of it. And this one's even meant to be a joke, so I shouldn't take it too seriously, but I think I've received it about half a dozen times, so I figure it's about time to comment on it.

The e-mail's titled, "TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's!!" It's a kind of electronic version of telling your kids that you had to walk uphill barefoot through the snow, both ways, to get to and from school when you were a kid. Not just that, it brags about all the dangerous things "we" did back in the old days. Here's an example, "when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking," and on and on like that. Then, it moves on to how kids these days do nothing but watch TV and play their video games. Next a little backslapping, "These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!" And finally the obligatory call to pass the e-mail on to others, while getting in one more jab about how bad things are today, "before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives 'for our own good.'"

Like I said, I realize this isn't meant to be all that serious, but it irritates me just the same. Most of the items the e-mail brags about are unneccesary risks - why let your kids ride a bike without a helmet when you know what the consequences are. Really, the proof is in the pudding, so I went and did a quick Google search on child mortality rates. Here's what I found, "Between 1980 and 2003, death rates dropped by 46 percent for infants, 51 percent for children ages 1 to 4, 44 percent for children ages 5 to 14, and 32 percent for teens ages 15 to 19."

Infant Mortality Rate

Child Mortality Rate

Wow, it seems all that extra precaution isn't just unneccessary intervention, huh? Or maybe we should just let kids take unneccessary risks - it weeds out the gene pool, right? (Actually, there is some bit of serious debate that this could start - the grey area between where kids should be protected from the stupidity of their parents vs. giving parents autonomy over raising their kids, i.e. where's the line between freedom and negligence. Let adults be as stupid as they want to be, but don't let their kids be punished unduly for it.)

And it's not like kids can't have fun these days - there's nothing stopping kids from making go-carts. If a parent really wanted to, they could provide their kids with the fun chemicals (one more link) that don't get included in stock chemistry sets these days. My daughter still likes to play with bugs. And potato guns seem to be pretty popular these days, too (even if it does require parents turning a blind eye to the law in some states).

So, meh. The good old days weren't any better than today. I'd rather my daughter grew up in today's world than the one I grew up in.

[Added after original post] Actually, I think I know why this e-mail gets to me the way it does - its condescending tone. Consider another e-mail I've received, which i've added below the fold, "You Know You're From Pennsylvania When..." It's similar in the sense that it's an "us" vs. "them" mentality, only in geography, not time, but there's nothing condescending about it. It's just a good natured, "Hey, you remember this."

Anyway, that's enough ranting for me for today. I've put the full text of the e-mail that got me started below the fold.

TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED the 1930's 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's!!

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes.

Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, booster seats, seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pick up on a warm day was always a special treat.

We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We ate cupcakes, white bread and real butter and drank koolade made with sugar, but we weren't overweight because WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo's, X-boxes, no video games at all, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD's, no surround-sound, CD's or Ipods, no cell phones!, no personal computers, no Internet or chat rooms....... WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents.

We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.

We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them!

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!!

The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law!

These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever! The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas.

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO DEAL WITH IT ALL!

If YOU are one of them . . CONGRATULATIONS!

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up as kids, before the lawyers and the government regulated so much of our lives "for our own good"

And while you are at it, forward it to your kids so they will know how brave (and lucky) their parents were.

Kind of makes you want to run through the house with scissors, doesn't it?!

And the other e-mail which I mentioned above, which I like, for comparison to the condescending one:

You Know You're From Pennsylvania When...

You've never referred to Philadelphia as anything but "Philly." And New Jersey has always been "Jersey."

You refer to Pennsylvania as "PA."

"You guys" is a perfectly acceptable reference to a group of men & women.

You know how to respond to the question "Djeetyet?" (Didyoueatyet?)

You learned to pronounce Bryn Mawr, Wilkes-Barre, Schuylkill, Bala Cynwyd, Duquesne, New Tripoli, Tunkhannock, Punxsutawney, Tamaqua, Susquehanna, Allegheny, and Monongahela.

You know what a "Mummer" is, and are disappointed if you can't catch at least highlights of the parade.

The first day of buck and the first day of doe season are school holidays.

You can use the phrase "fire hall wedding reception" and not even bat an eye.

You can't go to a wedding without hearing the "Chicken Dance," at least one Polka and either an Italian song (sung in Italian,) or "Hava Nagila."

At least 5 people on your block have electric "candles" in all or most of their windows all year long.

You know what a "Hex sign" is.

You know what a "State Store" is, and your out of state friends find it incredulous that you can't purchase liquor at the mini-mart.

You own only three condiments "A-1, Heinz 57 and Heinz ketchup".

Words like "hoagie", "crick", "chipped ham", "sticky buns", "shoo-fly pie", "pierogies" and "pocketbook" actually mean something to you.

You can eat cold pizza (even for breakfast) and know others who do the same.

You know several places to purchase or that serve Scrapple, Summer Sausage (Lebanon Bologna), and Hot Bacon Dressing.

One of the highlights of your life was a field trip to Penn's Cave and Horseshoe curve.

You know exactly what to do when your mother tells you to "red up" your room.

You know the time and location of every "wing night" in a 20 mile radius.

You don't think people from Philly or Pittsburgh talk funny.

You don't understand all the hype about Rolling Rock beer; You've been drinking it for years even though Iron City is better.

You consider an exotic vacation to be a trip to Ocean City, Virginia Beach, or Myrtle Beach.

Words like "hoagie", "chipped ham", and "pop" actually mean something to you.

You think very little of an Amish buggy on the road.

You learned long ago how to "step carefully" around the buggy tie-ups in the supermarket parking lot.

You can go 2 weeks in winter without sunshine and think this is normal.

You know that Blue Ball, Intercourse, Climax, Bird-in-Hand, Virginville, Paradise, Mars, and Slippery Rock are all PA towns.

There is no such thing as a "Philly Cheesesteak". It's just called a "Cheesesteak."

You know that Eucre is a card game and not a form of vomiting.

You not only have heard of Birch Beer, but you know that it comes in several colors: Red, Blue, White, Brown, Gold.

You know what REAL potpie is.

You ask the waitress for "dippy eggs" for breakfast.

Your turkey has "filling," not "stuffing," and most certainly, NOT "dressing."

You consider Pittsburgh to be "out west," and you know the fastest way to Philly is the Turnpike.

When it snows, they put cinders on the roads instead of sand.

Know that Yuengling is pronounced "Ying-ling," and believe that it really is a premium beer

You know that a green pepper is not a pepper at all but a "mango".

You have an uncontrollable urge to buy bread and milk when you hear the word "snow."

You live within two miles of a plant that makes potato chips, corn chips, pretzels, candy, or ice cream, or that packages turkeys, beans, or bologna.

You can stop along the road to buy fruits, vegetables, or crafts on the "honor system."

You know what REAL pot pie is.

YOUR turkey has "filling," not "stuffing," and most certainly, NOT "dressing."

You know that chicken corn soup from a fire house is the most nearly perfect food on earth.

You say things like, "Outen the lights," "I'm calling off today," and "They're calling for snow."

You've heard of distelfinks and hex signs.

You only buy your beer and soda by the case.

You think the roads in any other state are smooth.

You know the Penn State cheer, and although you've never attended Penn State, you are a most obnoxious Penn State fan.

Hearing horses clopping down a paved street doesn't bring you to the window to see what's going on outside.

You never see any Confederate Flags, except on the Gettysburg Battlefield.

You prefer Hershey's Chocolate to Godiva.

School closings due to snow take the radio stations a half an hour to finish, because just about every town has its own school district.

You have the Rolling Rock bottle memorized: "From the glass lined tanks of Old Latrobe, we tender this premium beer for your enjoyment. . . . "

Elect pro-life Democrats and pro-choice Republicans for Governor

Frequently go "with," e.g., "You going to the market? Mind if I come with?"

Refer to something as "a whole nother," e.g., "That's a whole nother issue."

You REALLY HATE antiquers. On Sunday mornings you would scream "Go back to Jersey!" at least once on the way to church.

When you were a kid and somebody really pissed you off, you said, "I'm gonna deck you!"

You know the expression, "Hey naw! Watchya dewin'?"

You know where to buy "Opera Fudge" and that it has absolutely no connection to the Opera.

The only Jewish people that you've ever met have been from New York or New Jersey.

You love the Phillies (unless they stink) in which case you love the Orioles (unless they stink) in which case you solemnly swear that you've never even liked the Phillies or the Orioles, but have always been a Penn State fan.

You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Pennsylvania.


TO ALL THE KIDS WHO *DIDN'T* SURVIVE THE 1930's, 40's, 50's, 60's and 70's

We're sorry you didn't make it out of the neonatal intensive care unit. We just didn't know that excessive drinking during pregnancy could cause so many physical problems.

We put you to sleep on your tummies in baby cribs because we didn't know that you would suffocate and never wake up. Although we had more children, we still have an empty place in our hearts for you.

We shouldn't have smoked, but we didn't know that second-hand smoke would cause your asthma, your cancers, and your deaths. We miss you terribly, and wish we could have stopped.

We're sorry we covered the walls with bright colored lead-base paints. But we didn't know that when you were hungry you would peel off the paint chips and eat them. And we didn't know that breathing the dust would prevent your brain from growing properly.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, and no locks on doors or cabinets, so when you were exploring the house and we turned our backs for just a minute, you got into them and a moment later we found you lying on the floor having convulsions. We rushed you to the hospital but the doctors couldn't save you and you died in our arms.

We never thought that a simple fall while riding your bike would have caused your brain to hemmorage, swell, and leave you in a coma.

We didn't know baseball helmets would have prevented the freak accident that cracked your skull and sent you to the hospital to die.

As infants & children, we let you ride in cars with no car seats, no booster sea ts, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes, because we always thought that accidents happened to other people. We never dreamed they would happen to us. And there's never a day that goes by that we don't miss your smile and your laughter.

Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We never thought that a small hole in the road would bounce you out and leave you lying on the ground, paralyzed for life.

We're so sorry, because if we had known back then what we do now, you would be alive today, celebrating your children's and grandchildren's birthdays.

You might want to share this with others who have had the luck to grow up healthy, because lawyers told the public of risks that some companies tried to hide; and because the government passed laws that forced corporations to put your health and safety ahead of their profits.

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