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Are these better times?

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By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

The Boy Scouts recently announced they may file for bankruptcy. The Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine founded by News Corporation, just printed its last issue.

Are these related events? Perhaps in one way they are, that way being beyond the obvious one of financial problems.

The Boy Scouts say their financial woes are caused by lawsuits brought by those molested in the past by leaders, wronged people seeking justice through cash. Call these failures in morality and judgment.

The Weekly Standard, while accepting the moniker “conservative,” also had a strong stance against the current president. Even though President Trump is not a conservative, his followers like to think of him as such and couldn’t mix what appeared to them as the oil and water this magazine was serving up. Hence, readers went away.

But let’s rewind about 60 years and think what was going on back then. Plopped into the middle or the latter part of 1958, could one imagine the Boy Scouts ever going out of business? Or a conservative magazine having difficulties surviving? I don’t think so.

Let me hasten to say I am not so naïve to think there was a total lack of malfeasance in those days or that conservatives ruled the world (it had been just a few brief years since the McCarthy witch-hunt era was called out and defanged). Yet, the world moved slower and at least in the Western world (read: the United States, perhaps Canada and even Mexico) of those days seemed more peaceful and morally upright. Perhaps there was more hypocrisy then, but I doubt it. We have a world laden with plenty of hypocrisy today.

By many measures, I would say the world is much worse off today than it was in the era I’ve targeted above. One way I have measured this may be particularly bemusing for you.

Back when I worked for an engineering company from Finland, my boss, who was born in 1930, remarked (and this was in 1990) that he remembered New York City of the 1960s as a gleaming, shining and safe place. Upon his travels there around 1990, and he and I made many trips to Manhattan in those days, we both saw it as a gritty, dirty and unsafe city. I would add that for a time after that it improved, in the late 1990s until about 2009 or 2010, but now it seems worse than ever.

In the same era and while I worked for the same company, I often went to Mexico City, where our representative, a native of Mexico City and a contemporary of my boss, would recall in his youth bicycling all around Mexico City with no cares or worries on his part or on the part of his parents. He lamented what had become of Mexico City by 1990. It has not gotten any better; in fact, I will not go there now for fear of being kidnapped. No business opportunity is worth the risk.

On some levels, these are better times, particularly if you are a technology geek. But by many other measures, far beyond the ones I have listed here, I think things are worse, much worse.

In the “anything goes” or “if it feels good do it” genesis of the late 1960s, what may have felt liberating has turned out to leave many people directionless and hollow.

As a poster child for current conditions, take the case of Jessica Starr, 35, of Novi, Mich., a wife and mother of two pre-school children. She was a meteorologist for Fox 2 in Detroit. On Thursday, Dec. 13, she hanged herself.

An obviously beautiful and intelligent human being, what went wrong?

Apparently, surgery, which she had in October, turned into a difficult recovery. At the time of the story, it was indeterminate if perhaps pain medication had played a role in her decision to take her own life. Still, it seems to me she had a lot to live for and would be alive today if not for some perspective of hers taking her down a horribly destructive path.

Dirty cities, broken institutions, shallow lives may be just the symptoms this columnist sees, or even if pressed, the conditions this columnist chooses to see, but I do think our problems are very deep indeed. We have lost our way in the span of one (my) lifetime.

Yet, addressing these issues is being approached on a disjointed and dyspeptic basis. It is time for a national conversation on our shallowness, our hurts and how to solve them. Throwing more money or secularism at them is not the solution. This has been done and has horribly failed.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.

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