As We See It: The Free Lance
We tend to regard many customs of the past with condescension or amusement.
The picture of your grandparents in front of their new car just after they were married or the high school of your mother in a bouffant hairstyle, evoke smiles at their seeming lack of sophistication. The list is endless.
Indeed, our own children and grandchildren find something amusing in the photographs of us when we were young. It is a story of the generations.
Consider then, the San Benito County of November 1927. Its residents were proud of the new Veterans Memorial Building to commemorate the service of the more than 400 local residents who served in the World War, a conflict that they fully believed would end all wars forever.
As Americans, they were living in a time of great national pride and were enjoying prosperity that had been unknown by most of the Americans of earlier generations. It is well that they could not have looked ahead less than two years to see financial chaos that would dominate the next decade. It would not take much longer than that to realize that their dreams of eternal peace were also to be shattered.
Some participants and spectators the ceremonies and parade of Nov. 11, 1927 would serve in the next global conflict and some would lose their lives. And even that vast carnage would not guarantee that peace would last forever. Korea, then the long agony of Vietnam, and a number of shorter but intense conflicts followed. Man is a contentious creature who often seems bent on self-destruction.
But we cannot amuse ourselves at dreams or the valor of the human spirit in aspiring to achieve a better world. It is not for us to say to the widow or the bereft mother that their husbands and sons were foolish to believe in a brilliant dream. We cannot belittle the courage of young men who lived for months in fear for their lives because they risked those lives for what they believed proper.
Most of those who left San Benito County to serve in World War I returned to it, and most were physically unharmed, but all were shaped by the war. They turned out faithfully every Nov. 11 to honor the memories of their comrades who had died in the war or in the years following it. Now those are but memories, just as are those of veterans of the Spanish-American War and Civil War who attended those services in 1927.
The generations roll on, but some aspects of humanity remain the same: the desire that our children will have better lives than ours, the recognition of soaring aspiration, and the conviction that those who served their country should be honored.
A century from now another generation of Americans will review our time. We hope – we believe – that they will find some aspect of our society that they can admire as well as the fleeting and unimportant aspects of it that amuse them.