A Final Thought: America is younger than you think


By Mitch Allen

I was speaking with a friend last week about the many trials and tribulations the United States of America has endured during our history—from the initial 1776 revolution to the Covid-19 pandemic—when it dawned on us both how young our country truly is. Surprisingly, the entire history of the United States is within the living memory of four (4) people. Consider:

It is 1838. A man (1) holds in his arms his infant grandson. He whispers how when he was a boy the British Redcoats broke into his home, tied up his mother and forced him to scrub their boots, and how recently he helped finish the Ohio and Erie Canal. The canal represents the pinnacle of transportation technology—a horse pulling a small boat in a ditch dug by men with shovels to move goods to the Ohio wilderness. He has heard talk of a newfangled steam engine that can run on a road made of heavy iron rails, but he has never seen one.

It is 1903. That grandson (2) is now 65, and holds in his arms his infant granddaughter. He whispers how the Redcoats forced his grandfather to scrub their boots, and how, at age 17, he himself had hitched a ride on a wagon down to Columbus, Ohio, to view President Lincoln’s body when the funeral train stopped on its way to Springfield, Illinois. He looks down at the front page of a newspaper lying on a table. The first commercial radio broadcast is still three years away so he relies exclusively on the daily paper for news of the outside world. Two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, the paper explains, have flown a heavier-than-air machine at a place called Kitty Hawk in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. “Do you see that,” he whispers to his granddaughter. “You’re going to fly in the sky someday.”

It is 1969. That granddaughter (3) is now 65. Sitting in her lap is her seven-year-old grandson—me. She whispers how her grandfather hitched a ride on a wagon to Columbus, Ohio, to see President Lincoln’s body, and how she herself was eight years old the first time she ever rode in an automobile. She stares at the television as Neil Armstrong steps out of the Eagle. She stands and gently guides me to the kitchen window. “Look there,” she whispers, pointing to the sky. “Right now there are two men up there walking on the moon.”

It is 2020. I (4) am 58 years old. I hold my grandson in my arms and whisper how my grandmother was eight years old the first time she ever rode in an automobile, and how as a kid I had only a black-and-white television, and if we wanted to know the capital of Kansas we had to look it up in a book. I glance at my smart phone. Virtually all of the world’s knowledge is at my fingertips and I can video chat with my sister on the other side of the globe. I whisper to my grandson that just before he was born we landed a space probe on a comet and that I am ordering a self-driving car.

It is 2085. My grandson is 65. He holds in his arms his infant granddaughter and whispers how his grandfather had only a black-and-white television and if he wanted to know the capital of Kansas he had to look up in a book. He looks around at…

I cannot imagine.


Categories: Smart Living