Thursday, August 25, 2011
They're here--the frosh
The only possible way they know a thing about the Berlin Wall--its place, its function, it's fall--is via some classroom history book. Our Geo Tracker would be a puzzle for them because if they'd want to open a window, they'd have to roll it down. To them, Wal-Mart has forever been a bigger industry than anything Detroit has to offer, and being "lame" has nothing to do with being disabled, but everything to do with being dorky.
Just about everybody talks about the list of characteristics 2011's freshmen class carries along to college, a list some fun group at Beloit College puts out annually this time of year, and this fall it's no different. It's almost always enough to make you drop your teeth.
The freshmen in my English class know very well that U2 is a band, but nothing about spy planes. They don't remember a day without Rush Limbaugh, a FOX News network, bottled water, or a Time without a Warner.
There's more, of course, lots more.
But honestly, for someone my age, the Beloit list has lost its kick. The signal events of my life are so far behind the radar of today's 19-year-olds that my mere breathing is, to them, an anomaly. I'm something of a curious zombie. After all, I cut my teeth on an era that featured a war in Vietnam--for some of them, their grandpa's war. I remember very well a time when most fervent evangelical Christians thought Dr. Martin Luther King an enemy, a communist; this week his statue will be dedicated on the national mall. When a kid my age hauled his or her tunes along to college, those tunes filled a box, were heavy as lead, a ton of vinyl. Today, they're totally weightless.
One of my profs that first year of college was an ancient, old preacher who reminded us of Mr. Magoo and could remember the names of maybe two or three students of the 100 or so in his Intro to Theology class. In those days, he hauled along his own PA system, and when it wouldn't work or squeal or scream, he'd be totally befuddled. In a lecture, he could neither cruise or wander. He seemed an automaton, way, way over-the-hill, man, like, really out of it.
Today, in age at least, I've become that dude. The diff between them and me, age-wise, is no less than between me and Magoo back then.
But once upon a time, that old preacher, an army chaplain, had been out on patrol in Poland, when his company moved through a woods slowly, only to find a dismal, rotting camp from hell itself on the other side of the trees, where innumerable emaciated prisoners, some of them dying, many already dead, thought the coming of those GIs an event as glorious as the coming of the Messiah. They were Jews, and those American soldiers had stumbled on a Nazi concentration camp. That old prof of ours--the one who didn't know a thing about much at all--was, in World War II, a liberator.
I wish I'd have known that story back then, late 60s, when my own brave new world had so much going for it and his had so very little. In the grand march of things, however, I don't know that it would have made any difference.
Get this!--they never saw Johnny Carson.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 6:26 AM