Thursday, November 3, 2011

History 101

I'm sure some of your hip-hop fans have heard the phrase: "It's not where you're from, it's where you're at."

Well, that's not true. If it were true, then rappers would act like people who understand the concepts of social responsibility and money management (where they're at) rather than acting like the "hood rich" people from their block (where they're from). But, that's not what my blog post is about (this time).  I want to get into how a person's history can shape their future. Not with the history we learned in school, but from the history we learn from television and movies.

I've noticed that a lot of 20-somethings today don't know a lot about things that happened prior to their first memories.  I have younger relatives who have little-to-no knowledge of movies / TV shows prior to 1990.  They don't remember when Michael Jackson was black.  They think LeBron James is the best basketball player ever because they were too young to remember Michael Jordan or never even saw Larry Bird or Magic Johnson play.

I am so thankful that my parents saw to it that I appreciate everything that life has to offer...  even if it occurred before I was born.  We had two or three televisions in my household when I was growing up, but one was in my parents' bedroom and the other two were in our den and our living room.  The only connection in my bedroom to the outside world that I had as a child was an AM/FM radio.  Because of this, if I was going to watch TV, it was usually in the company of my parents.  And since they had control of the TV except for on NFL Sunday, I watched what they watched.  Something as simple as that gave me an appreciation for shows that came before me.

Some of my favorite TV personalities as a child: Bob Hope, Sammy Davis, Jr., Lucille Ball, Clint Eastwood, The Marx Brothers, The Three Stooges and Tim Conway.  Now, some of you who are 30 years old and under maybe only recognize a couple of those names.  All of these people were making movies long before I was born.  Some of them were actually dead a few decades before I was born, but I still learned to appreciate their work. It's because of that, I can watch "Planet of the Apes" with Mark Wahlberg (2001) or Charlton Heston (1968) and be entertained by either.

Things are different today. Kids have options. Too many options, if you ask me. They have TV's in their bedrooms, iPods, iPads, iPhones, laptops, game consoles, etc. So, instead of maybe taking in a nostalgic episode of "Seinfeld," "Three's Company," "Miami Vice" or "The Incredible Hulk" with mom and dad, they're free to watch what they want which is generally mainstream TV.

This is why a lot of them only live in the "here-and-now" which can lead to problems in the adult world for some.

- They get confused when confronted by discrimination because maybe they never saw "Do The Right Thing" or "Philadelphia." They only saw "Paranormal Activities" or "Shark Night 3D."

- They don't know how to grow into a good family person because they never saw how families interacted on "The Waltons" or "The Cosby Show." They only saw "Keeping Up with The Kardashians" or "The Osbornes."

- They don't understand expressions of love because they never listened to "James Ingram" or "Chicago." They only heard "Soulja Boy" or "Ke$ha."

And how many times have you heard some young person complain about how long a microwave takes to warm up food?  Those my age remember almost starving before a bag of popcorn would pop.  Younger generations need to at least know how things were in order to appreciate how things are now.

If your kids can't appreciate the values and traditions of your childhood, then how can they truly appreciate you?

I've never seen a lioness follow her cub. I've never seen an eaglet teach an eagle how to fly. Even when you're driving, you can't do so effectively without checking in the mirror behind you from time-to-time.

Your child doesn't have to do what you did as a child or like everything you liked, but it's up to you to at least give them a blueprint of "where they're from" so they can appreciate "where they're at."


  1. Q, as usual, you bring up a thought provoking topic and are on point with what you highlight as important issues.

    That said, I have to be a little bit of a whiner forty-niner here because it's fucking hard to be a parent today (compared to when we were growing up). You worry about letting your kid out of your sight for one second - I would NEVER let my son run around the neighborhood and go in and out of friends' houses for hours on end like I used to do. The idea of letting him sleep over at someone's house unless I KNOW the parents well is an absolute "HELL NO!" I am TERRIFIED that by the time he gets to middle school, some over-developed 12 year old girl will start showing him boobies and a year later I'll be a grandmother. That's shit my parents never had to sweat for one second, because I was still playing with barbies at 12.

    I know times have changed and we have to change with them, but I hear you on trying to instill at least "the stories" of childhood. I love listening to my dad (especially when his older sister gets in on it) tell stories about growing up - he was a total Eddie Haskell (you see the whole apples and trees thing here?!! lol)! So, I try to tell my son about my childhood growing up as an Army brat and talk about all of the cool places I've lived and visited and tell him funny stories about my parents. The funny thing is, he seems to enjoy hearing stories about "when I was little" - so I think kids actually crave some kind of "foundational blueprint."

  2. To play off Reck a little, is it because our parents didn't really care too much about us, or is it that our generation is way too paranoid, thanks to news reports and "To Catch a Predator?"

    Maybe both?

    Whenever my kids ask about where I grew up, I tell them. I grew up in the slums. I was the only white kid on my block. Where I came from vs where I am today is COMPLETELY different. I tell them I always remember my roots, and it keeps me humble. I started with nothing. The only reason I'm somewhat successful now is because I EARNED it. Never had a handout, never had family to lean on for money or a car.

    I'm going to be there for them to support them whenever they need it. But I'd rather they try to earn their success on their own merit, instead of trying to rely on mommy and daddy holding their hand, buying them cars, paying for college, etc.

  3. @ Reck - I get what you're saying which is why I think it's important to expose kids to the simple lives that we once lived.

    The reason why your son can't do the things you once did is because some parents aren't parents any more, they're baby sitters.

    They feel as if their only requirement as a parent is for their kids to have food, shelter and clothing. They don't teach them how to respect and about accountability. The things I learned watching TV with my parents gave me those instructions.

    So, I'm truly sorry that your son has so many more obstacles to endure than previous generations, but I think it's because people today lack that "grandparent gene."

    No one wants to sit down on the porch and teach a kid something about life.

  4. @ LiI - Someone beat you to the 1st comment! I'm shocked!

    I think it's more paranoia than anything. People just don't trust each other these days and it's sad that it has to be that way.

    Some of the "To Catch A Predator" type stuff went on just as much when we were kids. The only difference is: there wasn't a TV show about it. My parents taught me about strangers and I knew what actions to take if a situation looked wrong. I think today could be the same way if parents were willing to take an opportunity to get to know one another and have a plan. It wouldn't stop kidnapping or molestation, but the way things are done now aren't working either.

    I think it's better to teach your kids how to avoid it in the unfortunate event it occurs than to shield them from it and have them exposed and vulnerable when you're not around.

    If our generation can survive without GPS trackers and smartphones, it seems to me that it should much easier today with those items. Instead, people are more protective because our country makes money off of fear.

    As for your background, I'm with you 100%. Kids get used to receiving things such as "participation" trophies and I think some of them expect something just for showing up. Earning something is a lot more rewarding and it builds character.

    Thanks for chiming in, guys. Each situation is different, but I do think that something as simple as spending time with a child and discussing simpler times can bring about perspective and awareness.

  5. My parents definitely had me watching classic films (Hitchcock murder mysteries and the like, I saw Rear Window for the first time when I was 9) and listening to classic rock. I will forever be grateful.

  6. @ Tsaritsa - It can make a well-rounded person out of a kid. :)

  7. Well, I was born a poor, black child. Wait, that was Nathan in "The Jerk"... sorry...

    Actually, I wanted to tell you that I think this is one of your best posts ever. I can't help but think of the many, many days when my unloving and thoughtless parents let me ride off on a bicycle at 9AM and not return until it was time to eat. What were they thinking?
    when my own kids were little (they're now 28 and 31) we watched them like hawks watch fledglings. Creeps behind every bush, assholes and pervs in every passing car. When I was little? Take him... you'll bring his ass right back, we promise...

    No, times have changed.

    And one last thing: you left Dr. J off the list. C'mon, I know you're young, man, but no one should talk about the all time greats of roundball and not put Julius Irving at the top (or close enough to touch it, make change, then slam down a dunk from it...)
    Just listen to Grover Washington Jr.'s "Let it Flow" (dedicated to Dr. J) and tell me you can't remember him floating around with that funny looking ABA ball...

  8. @ Squatlo - Thanks for the compliment. And I knew that you weren't born a poor, black child. Your family was never poor.

    We had that rule growing up that we had to be home before the streetlights came on. We were always within earshot of my mom's voice (because moms have super lungs). I don't think those days are ever coming back.

    And I do remember the good "Dr." That '83 Sixers team was probably one of the best championship teams I've ever seen. Fo, fo fo. Well, almost...

  9. TQ. Anytime I need grounding I come over here to your place.

    I think this entire dealie can be summed up with the influences of communication advancement. When every event in the world is photographed, video-taped and then Tweeted into the universe a minute after it happened, the human brain starts craving instant, new shit.

    Like an already toothless meth addict, our group psyche gets the shakes without constant inputs of new stuff.

    When we were kids, your telephone voice was carried accross the country on metal wires. A coast-to-coast phone conversation required patience, as each caller had to wait for his words to reach the other, and then again for the words in return.

    In those days, heros and villians had longer public lives because their activities played-out very slowly and with strick censoring.

    Now that everything travels at the speed of light, our stars burn-out rapidly and so do our memories.

    Oh, for shits sakes, I'm crying. I hope this was on point, but I don't really give a shit because I'll be meeting you at the Bulldog in five(?) days. Howeverthefuck you count now until Wednesday evening.

    See you then, Q'ster.

  10. @ Mooner - We'll just say Wednesday, so we don't have to count. You're right, patience is the key. Or lack thereof. There isn't any such thing any more which is why people want instant gratification. Why earn when it can be given? I think old school media (TV / radio) would teach against that.


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