David L. Robbins
Novelist, Educator, Playwright, Essayist
Folks, We Covered This (Native Son #23)
by David L. Robbins on May 19th, 2014

I’ve always considered myself a patient man.

I can’t actually point to a lot of anecdotes to support this. But I can sit in traffic without blowing the horn, quell the urge to trash a doctor’s office after waiting away an afternoon, and listen to a woman without trying to fix things. That’s all I got.

By virtue of being a writer my entire adult life, I’ve spent most of my time in my own company. I’ve learned patience first with myself, and that’s made it easier to be restrained with the rest of you.


GROUPS, NOT INDIVIDUALS, TEST PATIENCE

I’ve noted, however, that as I grow older, I’m becoming even more, and less patient. Children, for instance, do not vex me at all. I can work endlessly with my VCU students as they fumble through the world of creative writing; they are young, the young don’t know, and so they can’t be made responsible for their pratfalls and excesses. The elderly, even if slow and cantankerous (my own destinations), can take all the time and space they need, for I’ve come to see them as heroic. They have endured a life, and what more painful thing can there be?

Rarely anymore, in fact, does my patience chafe at individuals. I can assign reasons for just about any conduct, one at a time. It’s groups that get my dander up.

Congress, terrorists, climate change deniers, the Redskins, public education, most contemporary American theater, the police in Miami Beach, carb dieters and airlines top the list for most of us. All of us shake our heads because we’re older now, and we dislike, of all things, backsliding. We can well recall a Congress that worked across the aisle, when winters were cold, the Skins weren’t owned by Daniel Snyder, a night at the theater could enthrall instead of amuse, cops weren’t angry, exercise and discipline were how we lost weight, and luggage wasn’t an excuse to charge more. We hark back to better, saner days not just with nostalgia but with our inner voices gritting our inner teeth, shouting, Hey! We already figured this one out! It worked. Why and how on earth did you manage to screw this up?

I don’t encounter a lot of pop culture anymore; I suspect you don’t, either. It’s made to be disposable and we have less room in our running hourglasses for the forgettable offerings of the day. That’s one boon of aging: We gravitate toward the greater, permanent themes such as love, security, family, beauty and happiness.

We want the generation behind us to use our maps. They’re good guides, we spent a lot of time and talent on them, they got us where we are (not such a bad spot, really) and we were a tempestuous bunch ourselves. We didn’t do that to our parents, toss out their experiences and best lessons. We didn’t strike out on our own but tried to work with those templates we deemed effective: democracy, free markets, a strong national defense, the spreading of rights and freedoms to all Americans first and then to the world, equality, privacy and safety in our homes, courage and honesty as our national character.


ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK

So why do I read every day about some berserk fool shooting up a mall? How can our 21st-century government spy on its citizenry to such an intolerable degree? Why do I see on YouTube a totally naked child named Miley Cyrus riding a wrecking ball, licking a sledgehammer? How can our elected officials govern solely, without remorse, for power and ideology instead of the national good? How can some states, Virginia among them, refuse to allow Americans to marry whom they choose, forcing some of us into a ghetto of lesser rights?

Folks, we covered this. Our parents fought a world war to stop injustice. Our African-American brothers and sisters walked hand-in-hand, singing, suffering, using patience as a weapon to settle the notion that no American is beneath another in the eyes of the law. Our mothers rolled up just their sleeves to build a new respect for women. We were raised in homes where a closed front door meant: Stay out, this is a family’s castle.

I don’t know what more we can do, Boomers. We’ve already done it once. Just stay consistent, patient and right. Hopefully the next generation will follow us forward, for when they lead, they largely head backward.



Posted in Boomer Mag, Boomer Articles    Tagged with boomer magazine, native son, richmond, culture, impatience, age, groups, rva


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