Progress, you say?

Progress is an interesting concept. In my lifetime, we’ve moved from handheld paper fans to air-conditioning. Being cool in South Georgia summers is real progress as far as I’m concerned. The old black phones that once squatted like oversized frogs on tables gave way to portable phones. Back in the day, I never had to look for the phone. It went no where. Now I hunt all over the house for a phone because we leave our three here, there, and yonder. Just yesterday we were laughing about the old bag phones that preceded today’s slim-line cell phones. The new ones slide compactly into our backpacks, our purses, even our pockets. But I scratch my head about some of the things that have been done in the name of progress.

As the four-lane Highway 341 became a reality, my father’s century old oak trees fell in the name of progress. We cried, but the trees fell anyway. Buck Head Road (spelled as two words after Mr. Buck Head) once saw the cars moving slowly down its lanes because of its ruts and washboards. Cars became stuck in the mud when the rains fell. Many times Larry had to take the truck out to rescue some unfortunate soul. A few times he had to rescue me. I don’t wish to go back to the unpaved road, but I would like to see people slow down. Now everyone thinks it’s a raceway. We’ve lost several good animals to progress.

Never in my life have I gotten up and built a fire to warm my family, but my mama and daddy did. Every morning they rose early and built a roaring fire in the living room so that we could dress in a warm room. Mama killed many a chicken so we could eat and helped to butcher hogs. I wouldn’t know how to start, nor do I want to. I’m glad to relegate many of these things to the past.

Last weekend we bought a new cell phone, and I stood, listening in amazement as the Verizon representative explained all the things it could do. It didn’t take me long to realize that what we’d really bought was a handheld computer that you can talk on if you want to. It wasn’t even expensive, comparatively speaking.

Progress, progress! It boggles the mind. And yet we have no cure for cancer yet. It seems to be running wild. We don’t even have a cure of the common cold yet. I expected that long ago.

Unfortunately, we seem to be regressing in several areas. How many people would you seal a deal with on just their word? Lots of people did business that way when I was a child. My father’s word was good all over Hazlehurst. If he promised you money, you could bank on it. No matter what he promised, his word was good. Those days are gone with the fickle wind that blew across my childhood. People of all ages now make rash promises that they have no intention of keeping. How many of your acquaintances and family members do you trust completely?

Another question for us to consider is how many politicians do you trust? Politicians made the guidelines for No Child Left Behind, for Race to the Top. These programs are designed to improve education, to fix our problems, so why are we falling behind? We’ve moved from the top of the heap down to number 26 according to a recent poll. Since our politicians started concentrating so hard on standardized testing in the schools, the colleges tell us that we’re sending them the weakest students ever. What happened to all that progress the politicians planned for? Oh, never mind. I remember now. It’s all the teachers’ fault.

And the finance industry hasn’t exactly progressed either, has it? Things are falling apart all over. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could keep the wonderful parts of the old days and the best parts of today? From my past I’d keep the kind of education I got back in high school with Mrs. McEachin and Mrs. Dearing. And from today, it’s no contest. Air-conditioning, hands down.