America’s Last Generation Of Freedom

In Columns, General

I sometimes walk around in a state of nostalgia and melancholy. I ponder the fact that those of us who were born and raised before the Internet, before technology and surveillance were so omnipresent, really were the last generation to know true freedom.

A lot of us look around at younger members of our family and other people that we know and we come to the realization that we truly did grow up in a different America than they did. Freedom has become a different place when there are cameras everywhere, just about everything you say or do is recorded in some way, shape, or form. I even read an article once that says during the course of your day you could be recorded at least seven times. Freedom had a completely different feel for us.

Not to show my age or anything, but I can remember back in school, our lockers were literally our private property. The locks that were on them were our own locks, not even the principal of our school had the combination. It would have to take suspicion of a serious, felonious act for the school to even have permission to open up your locker. The principal could only do it with a set of bolt cutters and a truancy officer as a witness standing right by his side.

There were no metal detectors when we grew up. Our schools didn’t randomly drug test athletic teams and players. As far as I can remember, it certainly would have been an anomaly to have some beautiful teacher seduce some young man at 11, 12, or 13 years old.

That’s my point here, we truly are the last generation of freedom. There is an entire generation that walks the earth that has no concept of Ronald Reagan. A whole generation of people that will never know what it was like to walk to school alone with your friends or even stand at a school bus stop without parental supervision.

This last Halloween, I took my daughter around a popular neighborhood to go trick or treating. I was stunned to realize that I was one of the very few that were actually walking door to door to each house. The majority of people drove around in caravans with pick up trucks with tailgates and large groups of children, driving from door to door.

A cousin of mine was taking a trip from New York to Florida with other members of my family. They pulled off I95 somewhere along the way and lost complete cell phone signal. The car broke down, so they needed to make a call and one of my cousins suggested that they go find a payphone. This particular cousin was born in the last generation of freedom, because our 22 year old cousin, to the shock of everyone, asked ‘what is a payphone?” Her whole life, all she’s known were cell phones. The concept of having some community phone where people put coins in to make a call, must have really seemed like the horse and buggy to her.

It is axiomatic that among us in America, are truly two groups of people with an entirely different concept of the meaning of freedom, even the feeling of freedom. Particularly in airports, I am stricken with that feeling of this great cultural divide among us from just the feel of flying, nowadays.

I was brought into this new style of freedom, kicking and screaming the whole way. Every time I walk past a computer and see some kid there typing away for hours or their heads down staring into a phone instead of outside going fishing or just kicking some rocks around, I am once again reminded of this cultural introspective. I do ponder whether or not an entire generation born under this new state of freedom can ever once again produce rebel types or think outside of the box types to keep America on the cutting edge of human evolution.

C. Rich
Author, Blogger, Poet
[email protected]

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