AMERICA IS NOW WHAT NEW YORK CITY WAS
More than 60 years ago, Reverend David Wilkerson left his home in Pennsylvania and went to minister in the slums of New York City. Some who are old enough may remember the book and the movie called The Cross and the Switchblade.
For many years I have been haunted by David Wlkerson’s reference to the children of New York as the smallest ones, born without love or concern, subject to the whims of those who gave them life. He was basically saying that these young people had no childhood, that from the very outset they were exposed to all the crime and the corruption of adult society in the ghetto.
He also wrote of the rampant drug situation and founded Teen Challenge to help addicts recover and to find meaning for their lives in Jesus Christ. I had the privilege of hearing David Wilkerson speak once in Orange County, California in the 1980s. I also saw Nicky Cruz who had been saved in his ministry when he spoke here in Hawaii many years ago.
I used to always pray for New York as the epitome of sin in America. There was a time within my lifetime that violent gangs and narcotics were not prevalent across our entire country as they are now. I graduated from Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, California in 1967. Never once, was I exposed to any drug culture there. Nor did we have that paranoia that exists today about mass shootings. Even in the big city of Los Angeles with all its problems, it was nothing like the world today.
Even in Oklahoma where I was born, I know that methamphetamine has become a major scourge with many small towns and rural areas. There are other hard drugs as well including heroin, cocaine, Fentanyl and what have you. But, the world I remember and that I grew up in just wasn’t like that.
Writing those words actually brings tears to my eyes.
RONALD REAGAN’S DECENCY AND WISDOM
“Without God, there is a coarsening of the society. And without God, democracy will not and cannot endure.” Those words were spoken in 1984. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse, from the frying pan into the fire. As America becomes more secularized, our dealings with one another suffer. No longer is there a higher standard of conduct or the concept of accountability. Anything and everything goes.
I will have to say that social media, while it is a wonderful thing for instantaneous communication, has enabled people to insult others anonymously while hiding behind the screen of their computer or phone. Nobody even tries to be polite or courteous anymore. Those are not words in our everyday vocabulary in 2021.
People make unwarranted assumptions about others. They do it simply because they’re very shallow-minded and because they can. Before responding to a tweet or a Facebook post, nobody tries to find out anything about the person that they are accusing of anything from senility to sterility. In fact, it really doesn’t matter. Words are just words. The person on the other end of the conversation isn’t really a person. It is just an object to contend with. Life is very impersonal in so many ways now.
When you don’t have to look someone in the face or expect to see them again sometime, you are at liberty (I hate to use that word in this fashion) to insult them left and right. They don’t know who you are or where you are. If the exchange goes awry, just block them. There is no appeal from being blocked. That person simply doesn’t exist anymore in your mind. Nor can they respond in any way. At least not that will come to your attention, so who cares?
Back in Ronald Reagan’s day, I had already moved here to Hawaii after graduating from college in Southern California. It seemed very distant and isolated back then. Letters sent by snail mail would take a week or two to come back, if ever. We didn’t have email yet. For a period, we didn’t even have cable TV available all over the island. In fact, regular broadcast network television shows were sent on tape by air and you’d probably view your favorite show a week after everybody on the mainland had seen them and on different nights of the week. They used instant communication only for breaking news and emergencies at that time.
But, society was still more civil back then. The grossness already emerging in motion pictures out of Hollywood was not prevalent in everyday life as it is now. I actually lived half a block from the old MGM Studios in Culver City, California as a teenager. They sometimes filmed movies on the streets nearby or even at my high school. I observed how the sweet young teacher lady of the TV show when she was on camera turned into an absolute witch once the camera was off.
I don’t get autographs anymore, but I actually got one from Elvis Presley when he and Ann-Margret were filming Viva Las Vegas which was actually done in the Culver City, California Civic Center. I’ve seen a lot of other stars both then and later on in life while working for U.S. Customs here in Hawaii.
That’s why I think I perceive a disconnect between Hollywood and reality more than almost anybody else does. I’ve seen that there is a fantasy world which has been created which does not exist in everyday life. While there once were a handful of inspirational movies, those hardly exist anymore. They have been replaced with gratuitous violence and crudeness beyond any limits.
ALL OF AMERICA IS NOW THE STAGE
There used to be an old joke that if you want to be on the stage, there will be one leaving town in 30 minutes, so be on it. But anybody who hasn’t watched the old westerns with stagecoaches wouldn’t even get that joke anymore. Today, our whole country and the entire world is a stage. Anyone can perform. Anybody can post a YouTube video.
The more people seek celebrity status, the less they care about dealing with the circles of people around them. It’s as though the lights and camera are always on and everybody is already in heavy pancake makeup. It’s all a show. It’s just a performance. Sometimes I wonder if anybody really knows who they are in their innermost being.
Everything is one-upmanship in 2021. Outdo everybody else. Exalt yourself and humiliate others. There are some who still have a heart of love and compassion for their fellow human beings. But they are no longer in the ascendancy.
BIG TECH IS ROBBING US OF OUR HUMANITY
When I say that, I am not referring to the zillionaires who control everything from Google to Amazon to Facebook to Twitter. In fact, those people are just beneficiaries of a system which they helped devise. But the system itself has taken on an ominous specter of its own.
In college, back in 1968 or so, we studied the book by Marshall McLuhan called The Medium is the Massage. Its significance is still being analyzed and psychoanalyzed to this very day by those who still remember. To me, it basically just meant that the methodology through which information is presented impacts, in fact often determines, how it is perceived. In that sense, it was well ahead of its time.
Now with artificial intelligence, we aren’t always sure whether an image or a voice is a real person or a computer. Rather than words being taken at their face value and judged accordingly, it is who presents them and how they do so that determine how we respond. I remember my teacher in Contemporary American Problems class in high school who once presented us with a question, If Hitler said that it was good to give milk to babies, does that make giving milk to babies bad because Hitler said it? Think about that for a minute.
I do have a point here and this is it. If Donald Trump made a statement, many of you would reject it simply because it came from him. If Joe Biden said the exact same words, you would accept them based upon your opinion of the source. But, words are not either right or wrong in and of themselves. There is good in the worst of us and there is bad in the best of us. Bad people occasionally get something right. Good people sometimes screw up and make mistakes.
The antidote to the coarsening of society is contrition and introspection. We need to focus less on doing and concentrate more on being. Life does not consist of a multitude of actions. What you will be remembered for by those who know you best is who you are.
It was easier when life moved at a more cordial pace. In today’s hectic world, what happens now may be obsolete 10 minutes from now. If we let ourselves get caught up in a constant flow of activity without taking time to value our family and our friends and to sacrifice for the advancement of our collective culture, then making a timely comeback against a verbal opponent ranks higher in our priorities than the long-term impact of our words.
New York City and Hollywood, California have always been enclaves of perversion and corruption. Until we rediscover the every day, down to earth values of so-called flyover country, as long as we do not honor God, traditional values and our history, our words will sound like fingernails on the chalkboard and our attitudes will become increasingly coarse like sandpaper.
THE SUFFERING SERVANT
As God Incarnate, Jesus Christ lived the perfect sinless life and showed us that His Ways are not our ways.
52:13 See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. 14 Just as there were many who were appalled at him — his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness — 15 so he will sprinkle many nations, and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand.
53:1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? 2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. 3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.
4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. 9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. 11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
I saw these words on a tombstone once many years ago and have never forgotten them:
“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, nothing so gentle as real strength.”
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JD Rucker – EIC