Two Examples of a Society in Decline

Thoughts from a curmudgeon:
1. My wife and I watch 4 evening news shows back to back to back to back.
2. Thus, we know every laxative, sex aid, adult diaper, and pain medication on the market. The Shingles medication people apparently want us to buy that medicine even before we contract the disorder.
3. Because there are no ads for X Boxes, Wi machines, dirt bikes, or Disney movies, our children and young adults apparently are no longer watching those shows. We watched them as kids, or at least heard them in the background, because that was all that was on. Earlier, I confess to getting to watch Howdy Doody, and The Movie Marshall on Channel 7, WTRF, in Wheeling.
4. Three stories on The ABC News caught my ear and eye:
         a. Ann Curry’s tearful goodbye and mea culpa (apparently for not being young and cute enough) from NBC’s Today Show. Her replacement is Savannah Guthrie, who is both younger and cuter. (My wife angrily protests!)
         b. The 68 year old school bus monitor (when did they begin needing those?) who got $700,000.00 for being bullied and the punishment her tormentors received.
         3. The “Person of the Week” award to a surprising person.
5. Ann is leaving because The Today Show’s ratings slipped,and she apparently was blamed. My wife Nancy and our FB friends who responded to my post all thought it was a crying shame, but maybe our opinions don’t have the force they once did.
6. I suggested to Nancy, and she agreed, that Darwin’s theory is at work here, but with a slight twist. I call it, “Survival of the Cutest”.
7. Nancy might be tempted to accuse me of a bit of hypocrisy here because I have a near reflexive tendency to turn and examine any figure of feminine pulchritude that catches my eye. She claims I am developing some tendencies commonly attributed to “old men”. I shall NOT digress.
8. The truth is that t.v. is a visual medium and watching Katie or  Savannah is easier on the eye than Wolfe Blitzer or Candy Crowley.
9. Nancy actually likes  Savannah, who apparently has a law degree. She may be a brilliant person, but she appears to need to wear her dress full thigh high as she sits and gives her evening reports to Brian Williams. It certainly makes the reports more interesting to me.
10. But, I find myself wincing during the day and later in the evening when the “hotties” from Channel 12, and CNN, and Fox(actually, I like nearly everyone on The Channel 12 News, even Albert Zip) utter grammatically incorrect and inane comments that reveal their lack of experience, depth, and maturity. I remember Walter Cronkite, Harry Reasoner, Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, Howard K. Smith, and many more, and I want to cry.
11. I read Edwin Newman’s three books more than once (I know, “Who is Edwin Newman?”) and believe that proper word usage, spellage (just kidding), and grammar are not irrelevant. They should be essential. And NO, broccoli is not healthy (well, it might be). IT IS HEALTHFUL!!!!!!!!!!!
12. Having been “outed” as a curmudgeon, let me mention the punishment the middle school bullies received: each got a one year suspension from school and 30 hours community service with the elderly.
13. Community service, if properly administered, is fine. I have no criticism.
14. Perhaps the belt came out, or suitable alternative punishment occurred, at these boys’ homes, but I doubt it. If we can afford to pay “bus monitors”, I think I may not dislike that idea, since much can go on 60 feet from the driver that he cannot detect.
15. If the monitor is going to be a 68 year old overweight female, or male, at least give them a whistle or “panic button” they can press to get the driver’s attention. I recall the tale of my Aunt Kathryn, a teacher before her marriage to my uncle Jim O’Grady, being confronted by an 8th grader with a knife. That was 70-80 years ago in Nicholas County WV.
16. But, punishing these boys by taking them out of the student population, away from the academic environment, and failing to use them as examples of improved behavior for the other students? I say that is more outrageous, or as outrageous, as “survival of the cutest”. Nancy says they probably were sent to “alternative school with the other bad kids”. I say, then they will be able to exchange ideas!
17. As many of  you know, I attended a military prep school, in my hometown of Wheeling, WV, Linsly Military Institute (L.M.I.). I just “shared” on F.B. a 1959 photograph (my eighth grade year) of our drill field, with 200-300 cadets marching in front of Old Main.
18. When we screwed up, dirty brass belt buckle, hair too long, we appeared before a truly terrifying man, Major, then promoted to Col. Douglas Haigwood. (This fellow was also our music director. My Mother had to call his home and beg his wife not to kill me when I arrived late for the dress rehearsal of the Linsly Minstrel, since renamed the Extravaganza, and refused to go on in!)
19. We would knock on his door, be acknowledged, march to a spot three feet in front of his desk, salute smartly, and say “Private Hunter reporting sir!”. He would salute back, and we would discuss the offense. Yes, I went through this ordeal a time or two during my five years at Linsly.
20. If a minor and first offense, he would let us off with a warning. A second offense, or more severe one, got the terse statement, “March one.” Or March (#)”.
21. Each year we were issued nine (9) lb. deactivated M-1 rifles. At final drills, we would compete, as companies (by class year),  and individually. One action required 28 separate movements. But, punishment duty was much simpler. It was served after school.
22. We reported with our rifles, again saluted, and got in line. We then marched up and down in the basement, with four right hand turns for each rotation. After ten or 15 minutes, just before our arm fell off (A few actually fell off.), we would stop, do an “about face” and commence doing 90 degree left hand turns.
23. We really detested this punishment. It was boring. It was mildly painful. And it was embarrassing.
24. The truth is that Douglas Haigwood, as best I could tell, was a wonderful man. He was compassionate, and he ran that show every year for decades. It was in the Linsly Glee Club, and Jack Randolph’s Youth choirs at Chris Methodist Church,  that I, who never had a lesson in music outside of regular school classes, developed some decent choral skills. They even let me sing The Sound of Music, but Col Haigwood, in a rare, and eerily timed error, started the orchestra while I was changing into my blue blazer behind the curtain. And don’t worry. The anxiety dreams about my relationship with Col. Haigwood ended 3-4 years ago.
25. Yes, students could and did get kicked out of Linsly. It was a “private” school. But, then, and even now that it has had female students for 25 years, and blazers instead of military uniforms, the environment at Linsly would never have permitted the bullying virus to take hold.
26. I know that with the changes in society, schools and teachers cannot stem the tide, but simply kicking out those kids for a year, is not, in my opinion the right course.
27. Then, at the end of the program, the Person of the Week was announced; none other than actor Kirk Douglas, aged 95, still taking speech therapy for his stroke, for his courageous role in defying the Joseph McCarthy communist blacklist and hiring someone on that list for  his great movie Spartacus. He and Edward R. Murrow (no cutey pie there; chain-smoking white male) are credited for breaking the blacklist and McCarthy.
28. An interesting aside is that close friends and allies of McCarthy were the Kennedys, father Joe, Bobbie, and yes, John, who managed to repudiate him right at the end but not lead the fight against him. But, to his credit, he learned and wrote “Profiles  in Courage”. If updated, Chief Justice Roberts may recently have earned a chapter.
29. So, the OLD CURMUDGEON SAYS, character does matter, education does matter, a society’s values do matter, looks aren’t everything, and my “can’t helps” say there is right and there is wrong even if the rules were not written on a stone tablet by God.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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