Ah, Independence Day — July 4th. A good day to celebrate, enjoy some family time, and have an outdoor barbeque. Or try to, if only the darned kids would get off their Nintendos and cell phones!
It’s a day for family and friends, for celebrating our independence from another country who tried to dominate our lives through intrusive government and taxation without proper representation. But with each passing year, it sometimes feels like the lessons of past centuries are being lost. Our government increasingly seeks to intrude in our private lives in the name of “security,” forgetting that our nation is founded on the grounds of “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” Taxes rise every year and while I’m sure we’re better off than our colonial counterparts, most individual Americans feel the rising burdens of government more than government itself feels them.
Of course government cannot “feel” anything (since it’s a faceless, ever-growing bureaucracy). But we the people do.
Families today face many more challenges than problems with government, though, or rising taxes. The face of the family is changing, as it has changed with the advance of every new technology in the past. People who haven’t studied history think all of this change is new and exciting. And while it is exciting, it is nothing new.
There are dozens of milestones in recent history where technology has played a major role in shifting the course of society. Technology used in the Revolutionary War, such as the printing press, faster warships, and more reliable muskets, helped alter the face of society forever across the world. It spun the idea of democracy and freedom from aristocracy, which spread across Europe. Steam-powered sawmills in the 18th century sped the ability to build new structures across our fledgling country, helping to fuel the creation of towns in the westward expansion to the Pacific.
With the industrial age brought all sorts of significant changes to the family. The mass production and affordability of mainstream goods, including the automobile, led to a burgeoning middle class and greater mobility for families. America was moving from a rural, land-based society to an industrialized, urban society. The radio brought entertainment from around the country right into our homes, and families would crowd around the radio every night to listen to their favorite shows.
The World Wars helped us refine the art and technology of killing one another. With tens of millions dead and hundreds of towns and cities burned to the ground, nothing has probably been as society- and family-changing as the combination of these two wars.
So while computers and the Internet and video games and text messaging can be annoying and seem to be dividing some families, know that the burden you face today is nothing equivalent to the burden faced by millions of parents that came before you. By those who risked everything to settle in the New West. By those who sent their sons off to fight for our independence over 200 years ago. By those who lost an arm in an industrial accident, and became homeless because not being able to work meant no pay, and no pay meant no food or home. By those who suffered through the Great Depression on nothing more than a piece of bread a day and some water. By those who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the one of the Great Wars.
I’m not going to minimize the impact of technology on today’s families. But I do think it should be put into some kind of perspective. Because while it may seem like a ‘big deal’ that your teen would rather text her friends than talk to you, in the grand scheme of our country’s history, it’s a pretty small thing (and one fairly easily dealt with by setting limits and some discipline).
Happy Independence Day, from everyone here at Psych Central, we hope you have an enjoyable holiday!