As we grow older do we become less tolerant?

Who would have thought? Having been to the former Eastern Bloc countries prior to the end of the Cold War, I am always cynical and skeptical when I revisit; because ultimately they seem to pick up the worst of what the West has to offer. The first time I revisited Berlin in 1989 and after “the wall” came down, I was astonished at the change that the eastern section had gone through in a few weeks. But it was not a change that I had expected. Although people seemed happier and eager to move freely back and forth between the two sides of the city; a seedy feeling crept insidiously into the eastern portion of the city: pornography, loud brash music, and filth. Was this the ultimate freedom these people craved for? Why had so many risked their lives for: porn, rap, and Styrofoam? Strangely enough, I did not return until September 2013; when it pained me even more to see how the city had ultimately decided to remember its sacrifices, unification, and freedom. “The wall,” a symbol of tyranny and evil was replaced by Pina Colada stands, and three goofy guys dressed in facsimile military uniforms attempting to lure even dumber tourists to take pictures at Checkpoint Charlie. There were no memorials to speak of, and the total disregard to history’s darkest years was replaced by a vegetarian wrap and a beer! A testimonial to today’s generation of morons bereft of any inclination to bear witness to history unless it means self gratification. “Look at me…standing next to an idiot pretending to be a U.S. Army soldier during the Cold War at Checkpoint Charlie…aren’t I cool?” Let’s “selfie” ourselves into the abyss of total ignorance in a society where clueless is acceptable!

What partially regained my faith and tolerance in today’s society was a brief visit to Budapest (pronounced Buda-pesht), Hungary; an amazing city fraught with history, culture, and energy. It revived itself from the Cold War blow of communism and tyranny to re-launch into one of the most eclectic and fascinating cities in Europe, if not the world. Unlike most of their neighbors to the South, North, and West: Hungarians kept their cultural and philosophical ties to Austria, Italy, France, and Turkey. Hungarians rejuvenated their city and culture by fusing the old and the new with panache and elegance. They maintained self reliance as a mantra for their success which allowed them to thrive while other former East Bloc nations became the new European “carpet beggars.” Music, art, drama, and historical culture remain imbedded and held to high esteem by the old and the young. Budapest reminds us of the grace and the artistic elitist of Paris, but it has the strong heart beat of New York City. Some of us really need to take a good look at how Hungarians accepted tyranny and freedom with resilience, grace, and intelligence; qualities so hard to find in this generation of “tweeters.”

While still enjoying and taking in a wonderful rendition of Tosca at the Budapest Opera House, I was rudely awakened to reality by our young generation and their narcissus opinion of themselves that is not only unattractive, but vulgar, ignorant, and irritatingly dysfunctional. As I walked toward a group of American youth who decided to have their prom in the same hotel I was staying in, profanity hit me in the face like a spit ball. Vulgarity easily rolled off the tongue of a teenage girl nonetheless. Why was I surprised? Where were the chaperones? Come to think of it: where were the parents? Bad enough that we have to endure foul language in our own countries, but do we have to export to foreign soil? Do Chinese kids use foul language? I doubt it because Far Eastern society respects elders and adults. Bringing shame to one’s family may result in death. If that were true in the US, we would have a society without teenagers! Not a bad thought! However, the blame lies squarely on the shoulders of the “let’s give everyone a trophy not to hurt feelings” society. That same week, a mentally warped teenager went on a rampage killing several young adults. His parents blamed guns, the 2nd amendment, probably even me (if they could), for their son’s mental state. Not a word of their incompetency in raising a child that was mentally deranged. The mother said that she tried. Whatever! It is easier to blame everyone else and of course guns. That is the popular slant to a society without self realization that it takes someone’s finger to pull a trigger. Many people own guns and they do not go on rampages. In Germany, and especially in Bavaria, almost everyone owns a gun for hunting. One rarely hears of young kids going on a rampage. Is it possible that despite a secular social climate in Europe, Europeans still have a strong family unit? Is it possible that European parents have remained the last bastion of discipline in the home and the schools?

I am so sick and tired of being blamed for historical injustices by virtue of my skin color, gender, origin, and religion. So here is goes: to everyone out there with a beef: I was not alive when you were enslaved but I fought for civil rights, I did not reject you when I was a teenager despite your acne I still tried to be your friend, it is not my fault that I was born European, and finally: I will not apologize for being a Christian. So find someone else to tap into with your grievances.

The continual trumped up injustices by idle activism is really beginning to twist my panty hose around my derriere. As I grow older I get more and more exhausted by this generation of whiners and self-absorbed idiots. Even phones have become instruments of self gratification by virtue of the word “selfie.” We now take pictures of ourselves with others, with things, with pets, with statues, and eventually we will realize that our world has shrunk to “me” and we will be taking “selfies” with nothing. This generation is becoming a painful caricature of itself. It is self- absorbed to the point of inane. It is doomed to self destruction because of the inability to cope with life as we know it. We already have teenagers committing suicide because they broke off with their boyfriends and girlfriends. Say what? In our days we changed boyfriends as often as we changed our socks! Going steady meant a week; tops.

Children are now raised thinking that they are gods. Parents bundle them and pad them to death so obviously when they get hurt it becomes a major hurdle in life. Today’s kids cannot handle any pain; emotional or physical. Our generation called them “sissies.” That’s right. These were kids unable to cope with the day to day pains of life. While most of us wore our scars like a badge of honor, “sissies” were coddled and suffocated by their parents who turned them into morons. We wanted to be tough, strong, resilient, and capable. My parents had a tough job raising seven children, but they taught each and every one of us the best lesson in life: pain is relevant to the action we were involved in. If we want to ride a bike or go roller skating we might as well be prepared for the falls and bruises. Basically it was the Forrest Gump philosophy: stupid is as stupid does. I remember the day my father gave me my first bicycle. As he handed me the bike he told me that I had three hours to ride it back to him or it will be put away for good. I managed the three hour deadline. When I rode back to him I was proud of myself and every cut and bruise on my knees and the rest of my body. That day he walked beside me as I rode my new bike back home. It was one of my fondest and proudest memories.

Sometimes as we grow older we cliché’ ourselves into the old “back in our days” routine. We know that not everything was peachy in our days either. I happen to like technology in reasonable doses. However, little things start to irritate those of us climbing the ladder of life, and our tolerance level diminishes with each rung. But I am confident in saying that this generation is trying our patience because whereas our parents mentored, guided, and disciplined us toward a successful and stable life; this generation of parents is leaving parenting up to technology, television, computers, phones, and the rest of us. I hate to tell these parents this: I do not want to raise your brats. To some extent we cannot always blame the urchins for the sins of the moronic parents. My 97-year old mother spends most of her days observing others, because let’s face it at her age entertainment options are limited. When I visit her she fondly recalls her childhood in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Life was tough, but she talks about her childhood with clarity and almost pride because she and her siblings managed to survive the Depression, cold New York winters, and as she fondly puts it in her still thick New York accent: “the Irish.” My mother’s resilience may be partly genetic, but it is also inherent to a generation that went to war four times and came back stronger. Her frequent expression when she hears some young twit complaining about their “problem:” “What a fuss! How would she have raised seven kids like I did?” Indeed ma: how?

How long have women been empowered, and if there is a war on women, why aren’t I a casualty?

This week I witnessed the inspiration of three women. No they were not politicians, blowhards, or activists; they were three women over 80 convinced (not hoping, or pining, or morosely wishing) that they are still young and looking forward to the rest of their lives. Hard to imagine, especially when Madison Avenue, pseudo 21st century Mad Men, and politicians, attempt to make us believe that senior citizens are decrepit and need to spend thousands of dollars on medication just to get through the rest of “as long as I shall live.”

This week, Barbara Walters moved on with her life after what seems to have been a thousand years on the popular morning “kibitz” show called The View. Actually, she was the only lady, (opinionated; yes, but still a lady) on the show that kept sensible conversation without the tirades and shrilly opinions of the rest of the cast. At 84, Barbara Walters crossed all barriers in journalism: interviewing icons like the Shah of Iran, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton (still fresh from Monica’s scent), George W. Bush (bruised by the Iraq debacle), and recently; Barack Obama. There are others of course. However, nothing came easy to her. She recalls the resentment from the “men” in her profession who for many years could not fathom that a woman could be a journalist let alone a famous interviewer. What was amazing about her own interview is her reply to the scathingly provocative question: Do you think there is a War on Women? She swiftly and without batting an eyelash relied unequivocally: NO. She went on to say that in today’s world anyone who works hard regardless of gender should be able to achieve whatever they want because opportunities were abundant. “Work hard” was extrapolated as the many sacrifices she made to get to where she is today. Wow! What a testimonial to those who continually want a handout and have a grievance for everything. I doubt that Barbara Walters was under any special privilege like affirmative action, or even the current inequality mantra that is blowing in the wind of discontent and wanton entitlement. This woman had to fight for everything she wanted and eventually got.

As far away from the excitement of main stream media, major networks, and cable, is a tiny town in Bavaria called Eschenbach. Eschenbach is nestled in the hills close to the U.S. Army’s largest training area outside the United States. This village in Bavaria, predominantly Catholic, holds an annual church fest. Today, amid torrents of rain, chilly temperatures, and dark skies; the village met under dripping tents to celebrate Mass and enjoy some good Bavarian food and music. Sitting down on long beer-hall tables half the village, drank beer, wine, and listened to the “oompha” band donned in Dirndl and Lederhosen. Across from me sat two white-haired gregarious ladies in flowing scarves and smiles that would not quit. What rain, what chills? These two ordered a bottle of wine and sat down to eat a hearty plate of Bavarian ham and “kartoffelsalat” with the gusto and appetite of an acned teenager. When we got down to the conversation, I found out that they were both 90 years old! Just as one of them was lamenting the fact that the pool she swims in for a few hours a week is only warmed up to 17 degrees centigrade, she greets another woman half her age with a smile and a hug, then turns to me to divulge the fact that the young one had been her volley ball partner! Say what? Is this for real? In my humble opinion these two women have always been empowered without any prompting from anyone let alone some young pathetic female activist whose life experience can be summarized in a tweet. I doubt that these two knew what a Planned Parenthood clinic looked like, and moreover, I doubt that they would have ever considered going to one even if one really existed when they were young. These two women took empowerment to another level, one without gloss, activism, empty rhetoric, and fluff! What I would give to be like them at 90! They were the real deal.

Currently the women issues being raised are as futile and empty as Cher’s Botox: smooth but all know that she is old! If women activists are sincerely looking out for women, they would start by respecting all women’s opinions and choices regardless of whether they are politically viable to their agenda. A woman has the right to be either pro-abortion or pro-choice without victimization and labeling. A woman should be able to stay home as a full time mom without some journalist debasing and ridiculing her choice as redundant because she has “never really held a job.” (A journalist remark about Mrs. Romney when she was helping her husband during his election campaign. Mrs. Romney raised five boys!) My 97 year-old mother had seven children and believe me, even Barbara Walters did not work as hard as my mother did. Her bent arthritic hands and fingers are testimonial to the cooking, cleaning, sewing, and nurturing she did. My mother did not go to power lunches, she cooked them. My mother did not have conference calls; her time on the phone was spent calling a doctor because one of us was sick. My mother did not go to Happy Hour with corporate heads; she was too busy making dinner so we may have a Happy Hour as a family. My mother did not carry a Mont Blanc briefcase to work; every day she carried bags full of groceries so we may have fresh produce, meats, and fish. My mother did not go to McDonalds to get a Happy Meal: she made the happy meals. My mother was always there when we woke up, left for school, and came back from school. My mother did not ask for free childcare, free lunches, or welfare. She did not have to because she empowered herself to sacrifice her own dreams to give us ours.

It pains and angers me to listen to pundits and pseudo intellectual activists use the word “war” as an attention grabber to their nebulous cause. War is the ultimate destruction of anything that is decent and good. War destroys, maims, and kills. War leaves families without family. War robs children of their childhood. War shatters dreams, hopes, and destinies. War is not a play on words to soothe egos or justify a warped agenda fraught with self righteousness. War is a bracelet that I wear bearing a soldier’s name on it. War killed that soldier in 2006; and his wife and mother will never experience life the same way ever again. War does not empower anyone; ask a soldier. Those misguided idealists whose lives are surrounded by other sheltered and spoiled elitists make light of the word “war” as a last resort to conveniently accommodate their feeble attempts at entitlement.

Three women over 80 have shown me the true meaning of tenacity, strength, fortitude, and truth. The truth is that as women we only stop ourselves from doing what we want to do. During World War II women took over factories and manufacturing. Where was Sandra Fluke then? Yes, we have had setbacks; and yes we have had to fight for the right to be heard, but now we are heard, so what’s the deal? Why are women still coming across as weepy heroines in despair? Why are these activists bent on diminishing us into a slobbering minority that requires activism? Why are they on one hand shrieking for women’s rights, but on the other hand malign women who do not agree with them? Why do they want to go in combat with their male counterparts but expect allowances for being women? Why do we speak of equality when in affect we demand special treatment? Why are we subjecting ourselves to a group of inane agenda-driven females who are compartmenting women back forty years into the past?

In the early 20th century, women suffragettes were incarcerated and some killed for daring to ask for the right to vote. These brave women were found on both sides of the Atlantic, and their courage paved the way to the opportunities we enjoy today. They did not demand a handout or an entitlement. They demanded that women be treated respectfully and given credit for their accomplishments. They wanted nothing for free. Are you listening Sandra Fluke? How their sacrifice and pain was somehow morphed in the insidious activism of today is beyond me. If today’s entertainment activists are so bent on making society responsible for the “war on women”; how about going to Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, or any other society that treats women like crap? Now that’s a thought. But of course they can’t…dah…they would be stoned or worse…killed! So instead, they thrash the last bastion of endless opportunities and possibilities for women; America and the American dream; where one can succeed regardless of gender. How sadly pathetic!

Did June Cleaver’s generation miss out on emancipation?

My mother belonged to the June Cleaver generation of women. You know, the women who got married, stayed home, raised their kids, cooked, cleaned, and took care of their husbands. It is a pity that most of this generation does not even know who June Cleaver was. That generation is now held in cynical contempt by the emancipated empowered women of today. My mother had seven children and she hardly had time to go to the bathroom let alone think about emancipation. As a matter of fact I do not remember her going to the bathroom. I only remember my mother in three places: the kitchen, at the sewing machine, or at the washing machine. To be truthful, I do not remember her lounging anywhere in the house either, because for starters we made too much noise for relaxation, and secondly she seemed to flit from one chore to the next. Above all: I never ever heard her complain about her role as a mother and wife. She took that very seriously. That was her vocation in life. She was a career wife and mother.

Did my mother and all the June Cleavers of her time miss out on something extraordinary in life? What have women, mothers to be exact, gain in the past 50 years since June Cleaver put away her pearls and wide skirts? Why do women today feel that they are more empowered than their counterparts of yesteryears? I don’t think that our mothers’ generation felt that they were missing out on anything because they did not expect or feel entitled to more than what they had. To this generation that would be grounds for a Hollywood uproar and activist fund raiser; but to my mother it was a chore of love. What this generation of pseudo intellectual women does not understand is that my mother and others of her ilk were proud women who made darn sure that their domain: the house, the kids, and the husband were taken care of as best if not better than any other woman on the block. They had pride in their roles as mothers and wives. They ruled the kitchen, the children, and in a covert way: the husband, with determination.

Why do young women today find the role of “mother” so burdensome? How can they on one hand go out of their way to remember Mother’s Day with all its pomp and circumstance and at the same time regard “motherhood” often as a curse? What has pushed women into a distorted role equally submissive to the ones that the women’s movement ardently and fervently fought against 50 years ago? Are women truly liberated, or have they morphed into another level of entrapment: one misguided by activists who inadvertently put more stress and burden on today’s women? It is true that when we were young most of our ambitions were centered on marriage: finding the right provider and father to our kids. Then entered the women’s movement: deriding women who chose marriage and bringing into the forefront the importance of emancipation and the liberation of women; as they prescribed it. We all jumped on that band wagon because it sure sounded good. We can have it all. Pollyanna? We were told that we could be mothers, wives, career women, and do everything in between that we wanted and desired because we could. We were the new Amazonians. Really? Eventually women evolved into a caricature of themselves. Gone was the pride in the home, and eventually even raising children became a burden. The incongruous message given to women is that motherhood is their right, but heaven forbid anyone telling them that they should be responsible for their own kids and not burden society in the process: then we would be waging a war on women. What a load of rubbish!

This generation of women is supposed to be the most educated, intellectual, self-reliant, and self-efficient. Yet the current cry of female dissent is wanting the tax payers to take care of their life choices. The Sandra Flukes of this world, who are supposedly on their way to becoming the next generation of empowered women, publicly bemoan that they have a right to free contraception. Would you believe the uproar if a man went public asking the government to give him Viagra? Why does this generation of woman demand a pass on behavior that is self-centered and petty? My mother did not expect society to take care of her seven kids. She did not ask for hand outs, and she did not expect to have “it all” either. She and others of her generation had the good sense and without a graduate degree to know that no one regardless of gender can accomplish everything in life simultaneously and do it well. Something or someone will eventually lose out and suffer.

My beef is with the various women activist groups who betray their sisters by propagandizing and glorifying egoistic traits as liberation. I do not enjoy listening to any activist whatever genre of political rhetoric he or she expounds because by definition “activism” is “…support or opposition of to one side of a controversial issue…” (Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Tenth Edition). The phrase “one side” says it all. To these people there is only one side to their argument, which makes any opposing opinion or view irrelevant. Yet, women activists have attempted to make motherhood, conception, children, and marriage irrelevant. This irrelevancy is now the driving force behind the many children living with a single parent or no parents. These children are missing out on nuclear families that give stability. These children’s only template of an adult life is forged in their own fragmented lives. Young girls are eagerly looking for role models to emulate toward success. If their own mothers are absent how are they going to grow with a sense of who they are or should be as women? Who will be shaping their future? Beyonce? The women activists; who go after inane issues like eradicating the word “bossy” because it stigmatizes little girls? Do these women really have a life? Do they come up with this rubbish for the sake of having something to say or do? Have these groups lost or credence for women? They have for me, because I find them totally detached from reality and brain activity.

My 97 year-old mother lived in a shelter underground during World War II. She managed to raise my oldest sister and survive the Luftwaffe blitz. I doubt that at any time during a bombing she questioned abilities as a woman. She was too worried about having enough food and surviving another air raid. Generally women with guts and fortitude worry substance not fluff. Yes, my mother was the June Cleaver generation, where being a mother meant something special. Where raising the next generation of children was given priority over everything else. My mother was and has remained the best example of women’s strength and tenacity. She has remained true to herself, her faith, her life, our father, and us. Did she miss out on emancipation? I will ask her the next time I visit.

Has this generation lost touch with reality?

I have just read an interesting editorial lamenting the fact that this generation has lost its capacity to communicate verbally and personally. They are letting their fingers do the talking. I am old enough to actually remember the Yellow Pages slogan of “Let your fingers do the talking.” It was only meant to imply that the thick Yellow Pages book of registered telephone numbers could get you the party you wanted to talk to. In those days “talking” meant the exercise of actually moving one’s lips to transfer one’s thoughts verbally and preferably to someone else. What a concept! The editorial mentioned a very sad example of generational disconnect whereupon a young lady was given a “Dear John” message through a phone text. How chivalrous of the man to break off the relationship without having to look at the girl’s face or feel her broken heart! How convenient that we can now hurt others just by letting “our fingers doing the talking.”

Texting seems to be the communication medium of choice for this generation. Acronyms replace words, and the dispatching of shortened messages and codes replace any emotional attachment to the message. “Leaving you for another man…LOL” This generation has turned emotion, passion, good behavior, good manners, and courage; into a cynical detached connection that lets the sender remain cocooned into a comfort zone, whereas the receiver is given an instant cold shower of bad news with a click of a finger. This dispassionate way of communicating is isolating our society into a robotic-like generation that lost all sense of empathy and compassion. This is the “me” generation where if “I” am okay, then the world is good. Eons ago or so it seems, corporations discovered that when employees work as a team good things happen; the adage “there is no ‘I’ in the word Team” became all the rage. What the cliché implied was that success happens when people openly work and communicate toward a defined end. Is it then logical to conclude that this generation has lost its ability to define successful goals? Are people so disenchanted with themselves and the rest of society that they would rather retreat to technological comfort rather than human contact? Are we reverting back in time to a species who only communicated through sounds and clicks? The Neanderthals did it. They eventually grunted their way out of the Ice Age.

The above mentioned editorial wanted to get across the psychological impact that this detached communication will have on this generation as it grows older. We require relevant social contact or we will retreat into a world of unrealistic expectations and disappointments. We also require an accumulative library of memories that shape who we are through what we remember as who we were. Memories good or bad give us a compass and direction to our life. Bad memories of equally bad experiences generally make us stronger and determined to overcome challenges. Good memories give us the assurance that life can be good and successful. Both are equally important to a balanced state of mind. However, memories are made through personal connections and relationships. One must physically and tangibly connect with another to maintain the emotion and resiliency of that memory. I remember my childhood and what my parents taught me because they SPOKE to me. They did not text me to tell me that I was grounded. They did not text me to tell me that they loved me.

Missing out on human and social contact synthesizes people from experiencing intrinsic emotions they would rather not participate in. Texting someone to tell them bad news lets you off the hook in possibly having to witness someone else’s pain. It is a cop out. Is that the real reason for such blatant detachment? Have we arrived at a time and place where we can choose the kind of reality we want to be in? Is texting a way to limit our exposure to emotional attachment in an attempt and hope of sparing ourselves the pain of rejection? Are we raising a generation of pseudo zombies who prefer their technological reality to ours? Is our generation to blame for escapism in today’s society? Have we screwed up the past so much that our present generation would rather live in a technological bubble than a physical reality?

Our generation was the nuclear and Cold War generation. As we were growing up we still faced the realities of World War II and Vietnam. We listened to radio and eventually got hooked on television. Was that too much reality for us? Perhaps; however we also had parents who were home when we got back from school, made us sit at table for dinner every evening, and television was only allowed until bed time and when homework was satisfactorily completed; which meant that half of us rarely ever watched anything. Yet, we were also raised to be resilient to growing pains; to build strong characters. We all had bullies at school, and those who wore glasses were taunted. However, I do not remember any of us contemplating suicide or taking guns to school because of it. Maybe our technological naiveté served us well because we seemed happier than kids today.

My mother is 97 years old, and although her short term memory is shaky, she remembers her childhood as if it were yesterday. She can talk for hours about her childhood in Manhattan and Hell’s Kitchen. She can still remember friends and the neighborhood that stretched from 47th west into 50th where she went to school and eventually graduated. She remembers events and people with a smile and sometimes an awkward pause, but those memories are a viable part of who she is through who she was. Without them she would be just a hollow old body. Is technology depriving our youth from having fond memories of people and conversations? How will this generation’s long term memory materialize when they reach old age? The last time I visited my mother at the seniors’ home, we noticed a young woman multi-tasking as she attempted to text and listen to her 90 year-old grandmother at the same time. Needless to say the old lady was the only one who participated in that conversation; the granddaughter acknowledged with a nod and a grunt. What a pity, that granddaughter missed out on a memory that she will never regain. I felt like sending her a text: OMG get a life…LOL!