Saturday, September 25, 2004

Childhood Influences
So here it is a Friday night and Rob's working late and not home. An unusual occurrence around here, but one that got me to thinking about all the other Friday nights I've spent at home, alone, whether single or married in the last 20-plus years. I inevitably choose to do the same thing. Drink beer, eat pizza, listen to music and surf the net. Okay, so the internet wasn't around that whole time, but before the interenet I spent time on BBS and if you go back years before BBS then I was listening to the ham radio (though probably drinking Dr. Pepper instead of beer.) In fact, I have spent most of the Friday nights of my entire life listening to or reading the words of people from all over the world because when I was a kid Friday night was ham radio night at my house. Actually, every night was ham radio night in my household, but Friday nights were special because that was the one night to stay up late. Ham radio was how I learned that the world was a really big place with lots of time zones and sometimes people were sleeping when we were awake and sometimes we had to stay up really late to catch them when THEY were awake. Ham radio is why I learned where some of the countries of the world are on a map and a bit of history about them. I never had world history in school and only minimal geography, but if dad would talk to someone in Jordan then I'd look it up in the big atlas that we had and learn a thing or two in the process. And it's one thing to read a paragraph or two about a country in a book, but a whole different experience to actually TALK to someone living there. Like most kids I didn't think my experience was unusual at the time though looking back I'm sure it wasn't the norm. Combine that starting to read at age two and my habit of reading every book I could get my hands on, I ended up the odd man out for years. A person who thought a lot differently than my peers. Trust me, reading Farhenheit 451 , The Illustrated Man and 1984 at age five is going to change how one looks at things even if you're a kid and don't understand some of the finer points. Kids understand a lot more than adults think they do. Which reminds me of a pornographic fiction book I once checked out of the public library at age ten. How it ever made it on the shelves at a public library I'll never know, but it was a fascinating read for a ten year old. Ah, I'm rambling on here, but the point I'm trying to make is that I was lucky because no one ever told me what I could and could not read, that I couldn't listen to voices from Iraq or China on the ham radio. No one ever said that I couldn't read that huge book on the races of man (the exact title and author escapes me) and decide it was complete bunk based on other stuff I had read. Sure, the internet is full of lies and falsehoods, but so were my childhood libraries. There's no real difference here. But are we teaching our youth to question, to always wonder, to seek out the facts for themselves or are we asking them to swallow the whole ball of newsreel and public education wax; line, hook and sinker? I fear it's the latter.

[Listening to: Bugle Call Rag - Benny Goodman & His Orchestra - More Fabulous Swing Collection]

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