It’s true that if we don’t learn from our past mistakes, we’re bound to repeat them in the future, yet many of today’s social, cultural and political ills can be traced to a disconnect from U.S. history and traditions.
The atrocities of World War II gave us a better perspective on the plight of immigrants, warning signs of dictatorship and genocide and a look into the moral darkness of human power. Today, we’re facing a global refugee crisis.
The Great Depression taught us that wealth can be a fleeting moment, that saving and living within one’s means are fundamental to long-term financial planning. Consumer debt is set to reach $4 trillion this year.
The Civil War can be an uncomfortable topic. Ultimately, it made us realize that righteous people treat each other as equals. The Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1964, and more than 50 years later, we have to be reminded that “Black Lives Matter.”
It’s time to take those past lessons and apply them to today’s problems, said Terry Anderson, a Kingman retiree.
“The only thing I can think of is the way things are going so fast today,” Anderson said after a Friday dance class at Kathryn Heidenreich Adult Center. “In the ’40s and ’50s, it seemed fairly simple and we were going slower and people respected each other.
“Everybody was there to help each other and today you’re afraid to help anybody because you’re afraid to get sued.”
Anderson’s wife, Cindy, noticed a difference in the schools before she retired as a teacher in Ash Fork.
“The information is going so fast on Facebook and the internet,” she said. “Kids are bullying each other in school. Kids bring cellphones and text underneath the table. It’s hard to get their attention. If you take them away, you get reprimanded because parents want to be able to call their kids. Teachers don’t have the respect they did.”
Shannon Rossiter, director of Mohave Museum of History and Arts, said people tend to remember the negative from the past, but we’ve made a lot of progress along the way. There are some positives.
“Like the hardships of ranching,” Rossiter said as he showed 100-year-old tools and equipment in the museum basement. “We went from 40 acres a cow to now it’s all scientific and cross-range.
“We always go back to the Depression and now that ship has sailed with $10,000 average debt in credit cards.”
Rossiter suggests that new generations’ sense of entitlement is a result of parents and grandparents who worked hard to make sure their kids didn’t have to endure the hardships they did.
The tendency was to spoil the kids, keep them from being exposed to the poor side to town, and it got out of hand, the museum director said.
In the old days, kids jumped into the car when their parents said, “Let’s go get ice cream.” Now, kids want to know where they’re going, what kind of ice cream they’re having and when they’ll be back, Rossiter said.
Whereas history was once oral and later written, history being made now is spontaneous and digital, he noted.
“It’s moving so fast now. If the past is well preserved, you’ll have a moral reference for the future, good or bad. Period,” Rossiter said.
Back at the Heidenreich center, 76-year-old Bonita Johnson said mothers need to stay at home and raise their kids. She didn’t go to work until her kids were in high school.
“If they came home and had a problem and needed to talk to me, they knew mom would be there,” she said. “Another thing, kids wouldn’t be involved in drugs. Mom’s not home and kids don’t have anything to do and get involved with things they shouldn’t.”
Soliciting pamphlets for Jehovah’s Witnesses outside Mohave County Superior Courthouse, Mel Duarte said we don’t have to worry about the past; if you love thy neighbor, don’t steal from him or covet his wife, Jehovah will keep us away from trouble.
“It’s very simple, but people don’t want to know,” Duarte said. “We haven’t seen the world get away from me-ism. When we think me-ism, we’re dead.”
“What I’ve learned, honestly, is you have to leave the past in the past and move forward,” added his wife, Helga. “The lesson is you can never go wrong with kindness. I’ve tried that all my life and it’s always worked out. I didn’t get rich or famous or anything like that, but I have a good conscience.”