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?

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