Explaining to the grandkids

Posted: Oct 25, 2002 12:00 AM

Those of us who are optimists believe that someday sanity will return to our society. Our media, our officials -- perhaps even our schools and colleges -- will begin to talk sense. Those of you who are young may live to see it.

But there is a downside to sanity. Once there is a whole generation raised to think -- to examine evidence and use logic -- you are going to be confronted with a need to explain to your grandchildren how our generation could have done the things we did. You don't want your grandkids to think that your whole generation was crazy.

"Grandpa," they will say, "today we were reading in history -- "


"Yes, Grandpa. There's a subject in school called history."

"Well, we didn't have that back in my day. We had social studies or current events or multiculturalism. But we didn't have this thing you call history."

"Well, history is about what happened in the past, Grandpa -- like back when you were young."

"I'll be darned."

"Anyway, we learned in history today that back in your times, people who refused to work were supported by people who did work. Is that true, Grandpa?"

"Well, yes, we were compassionate to the poor and the downtrodden, like the homeless and such."

"Why were people homeless, Grandpa?"

"They didn't have enough money to buy houses or rent apartments."

"Were you homeless, Grandpa?"

"No. I had a regular job and used part of my salary to pay the rent."

"Why didn't the homeless do that?"

"Well, it is hard to explain. They had a different kind of lifestyle, they sort of dropped out of society. They lived a more laid back kind of way."

"Took drugs?"

"Yeah, drugs, alcohol, stuff like that."

"And you gave them money that you had worked for, Grandpa?"

"Well, not so much personally, but I paid taxes and the government gave money to the homeless, provided places for them to sleep, and so forth."

"But you voted for the government, Grandpa."

"Yeah, most of the time."

"If the voters didn't want their money spent this way, the elected officials wouldn't have done it."

"You sure do a lot of thinking things out, honey."

"That's called logic. They teach that in school too."

"Logic? I heard something about it vaguely, but we didn't have time for it in school when I was young. We had to express our feelings about things like trees and animal rights and being non-judgmental."

"You weren't supposed to have judgment, Grandpa?"

"Well, if you were judgmental, that might hurt someone else's self-esteem."

"So you couldn't tell the homeless to go get a job like you had, because it would hurt their self-esteem?"

"Exactly. It would be cultural imperialism -- and that would be wrong because one culture is just as good as another."

"But, in our history class, we learned that people from all over the world were trying desperately to get into the United States -- some paying to get smuggled in from Mexico or Asia, some trying to cross the Caribbean in leaky boats and drowning."

"Why, yes, that happened."

"But, if all cultures were equal, why were these people risking their lives trying to go from one culture to another?"

"I never really thought about that, honey. Gee, they must be working you pretty hard in school, to have you doing all this thinking."

"Aren't people supposed to think, Grandpa?"

"I suppose it's all right for those who like it. I don't want to be judgmental."