I had a lot of fun writing this blog post for the Lake Region Writers Network. I hope you’ll have fun reading it!
I had coffee with Lila the other day. I stopped by to see if she needed help with snow management, but as it turned out her neighbor had cleared her driveway and sidewalks, so she was sitting pretty. Her son had given her a smart phone for Christmas and Lila held it out to me as if it were the shriveled corpse of a mouse she’d swept out from under the couch.
“I don’t know about this technology business,” she said. “I miss the old days of hand-written letters and party lines. And now here’s the post office about to end Saturday delivery. Now, it’s true, a lot of what fills my mailbox on a Saturday is junk, and sometimes, I hate to admit it, that includes the local paper. But from time to time there’s a letter from a grandbaby or an old friend and that just makes my weekend.
“What’s happening, I guess, is that people don’t write letters any more. They’re using things like this,” she said, waving the smart phone at me, “to stay in touch. Ha! Let me just say this. Technology is not all it was cut out to be. I hold this to my ear, but the sound is not as good as my old Ma Bell phone, and then the connection gets dropped because whoever is calling me is driving to hell and gone, and half the time I push a button I don’t mean to and the next thing I know this thing is making a movie of my ear. My ear is not all that interesting. So what’s so great about this thing? What’s so smart about it? The only reason they call it a smart phone is because if they’d called it a dumb phone it wouldn’t sell. But the truth is, this phone is like those Dummies books – this phone is for dummies.
“Speaking of dummies, listen to this: the Pentagon is now giving special medals to drone pilots. Don’t that beat all?”
I admitted that it did.
“So you spend your childhood playing video games, killing perfect strangers, and then you join the military so you can sit in a comfy chair in an air-conditioned room and kill perfect strangers.”
She paused for effect, took a drink of her coffee, blew her nose.
“I don’t see what’s so valiant about that. Perfect strangers who are flesh and blood, who have families and hobbies and favorite birthday meals. Some of them completely innocent. But you, the drone pilot, don’t know innocent from guilty, not in your comfy air-conditioned room somewhere thousands of miles away from those people, strangers yes, but people, you are killing. This is worthy of a medal?
“Now if you look up the word drone you’ll find words associated with it like monotonous, boring, indolent. That last word, indolent, that means “lazy.” If you ask me, a lazy pilot does not deserve a special medal.
“Where have we gone wrong? Could a mother truly be proud of her son or daughter for receiving this Distinguished Warfare Medal? I should say not. All this is is technology worship. A false idol if ever there were one.
“Well, that’s my rant for today. Can you show me how to make the ring tone on this thing louder?”
I had coffee with Lila yesterday. It was too cold to sit out on her porch so we sat in her living room, a cozy room with a modest chrysanthemum-print couch, a couple narrow arms chairs, and one glider rocker with a matching footrest. This rocker is where Lila sat. Behind her, in the archway between her living room and her dining room, stood a small baby grand piano with framed photographs arranged on the top.
“Do you see that photograph on the right, the one with the plain black frame?” Lila began. “That’s my great grandson. I’ve been thinking about him today and how he never met George McGovern, though I think Tom would have liked McGovern. Why would that be? I don’t rightly know, but that’s the feeling I had. Anyhow, I heard on the radio this morning that young people just aren’t interested in politics these days. Don’t that beat all?”
I admitted that it did.
“I took Tom’s mother campaigning for McGovern. Those were heady days, do you know what I mean by that? We just felt that anything was possible, that the world’s wounds could be healed. That nothing was beyond us.
“Do you think that’s why young people today don’t get involved in politics? Maybe they don’t feel that way, they don’t feel the righteousness that we felt. Of course I wasn’t young then, when McGovern ran for president, but I remember thinking then that everywhere I looked, there was a young person. Someone with a gleam in their eye. Idealists. People who believed that if you stuffed enough envelopes, knocked on enough doors, marched down main street enough times, well then things would change.
“Today I don’t even feel that. Here’s what I was thinking when I was studying Tom’s photograph. If I’ve given up, if I’ve decided there’s no damn use, then why should Tom there stand up and speak out? He’s handsome isn’t he? And he does have a gleam in his eye, I’ll say that for him.
“Did you see that almost two billion dollars have been spent on this campaign? There. That’s why I’ve given up. There’s no you or me in that two billion dollars. Our mailman, he’s a nice enough fellow, stops sometimes to chat when I’m outside, well he can’t even name our Senate candidate. When I asked him why he didn’t know he just said he didn’t care, he didn’t see what the difference was. Money was buying the government anyway.
“And money, is it conservative or liberal?
“So what would it take to get my Tom to stuff envelopes, that’s what I want to know.”