Born Yesterday

The list reproduced in part below is an example of those compiled yearly by Beloit College in Wisconsin, and comes by way of a website for Sanford Alumni, which also provided the title for this page.  Incoming freshmen at Beloit are asked a few questions about things most of us over forty might find familiar.  The lesson is supposed to be that, brainy as they are, judging by some of their observations, young people are limited by the narrow view of the world afforded by their youth.   

The CD was introduced the year they were born.

They have always had an answering machine.

They have always had cable.

They don’t have a clue how to use a typewriter.

They cannot fathom not having a remote control.

Jay Leno has always been host of The Tonight Show.

They don’t know who J.R. was—or why anybody would want to shoot him.

As you might have guessed, this list is almost a decade old, and thus is now also useful for demonstrating how quickly the world turns.  Not only is Jay Leno no longer host of “The Tonight Show,” eight years after these responses were compiled, J.R. Ewing popped back up on TV, only to be shot again (A plot turn made necessary by the death of actor Larry Hagman).  A few other items cited by the folks at Beloit College are also showing their age.  Freshmen arriving next fall might remember CD’s as how people used to listen to music before iTunes.  They may recognize “cable" as how Grandma still refers to Netflix, and speculate that "answering machine” must be the generic term for Siri.

During the last election cycle, I remember hearing a woman at a political rally talking to a reporter about her conservative activism, explaining, “I want my children to grow up in the same America I grew up in.”  “Good luck with that one, Sis,” I said to the TV.  I thought her statement might have been the dumbest thing I’d heard all day, but it also struck me as familiar.  I finally remembered that the words were similar to the sentiment expressed by Kiowa Chief Satanta at the Medicine Lodge Peace Commission in 1868.

I love the land and the buffalo, and will not part with them.  I don’t want any of those medicine houses built in the country; I want the papooses brought up exactly as I am.  I have word that you intend to settle us on a Reservation near the mountains.  I don’t want to settle there.  I love to roam over the wide prairie, and, when I do it, I feel free and happy; but, when we settle down, we grow pale and die.”

It may be a universal lament.  The world is changing too swiftly.  I liked everything the way it was before, and I want whoever is responsible, to pay for what I’ve lost.  

All of us were born with blinders on, and without rear-view mirrors.  The world we were born into was the way it always was, and the way it’s supposed to be.  Relatively speaking, we were all born yesterday.  Some of us just arrived earlier in the day than others.  

© Dale Switzer 2023