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Saturday, April 13, 2024

EDITORIAL: When Did We Stop Respecting Our Elders?

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Every now and then, a pang of nostalgia hits, taking me back to a time where respect⁢ played a vital⁣ underpinning role in our social ⁣fabric, something that seems, unfortunately, to be waning in today’s society.

Gone are‍ those good old days where courtesy ⁤and⁣ respect, especially for⁢ the elderly,‌ were ​the societal norms ​that comfortably fitted into the puzzle of life, giving it an image worth cherishing. Take my long-lived life in ⁤Schenectady for ‌instance, a ‌run-of-the-mill, ⁣honest⁢ and⁤ hard-working city nestled in New York State. I remember when years of hard work and​ wisdom were ⁣revered, when the older‌ you got meant the more respect you commanded.

A ​concrete-by-concrete recollection of the day when I witnessed,⁣ as a young ⁤boy, Mr. Ernest, the elderly shopkeeper across my street, ⁢being genuinely thanked ​by ​patrons ‍just because he was old, embodies veneration of a different‌ caliber. This stark contrast to today’s world where elders ​are⁤ literally cyberbullied for ‌their ‘outdated’ ‌opinions perplexes me.

Is it just me or it’s the callousness of today’s society blaring out loud its tactless‌ change? Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not that⁣ delusional old man watching the world through sepia-toned glasses. I appreciate progress, technological advancements, and everything in between – I’ve lived ⁣for five ⁣decades, seen it all from the first man ⁤on the moon to portable computers in hand.

But with all⁤ our sophisticated gadgetry, Instagram stories and viral fads, why ⁣have we failed to preserve basic respect for ​our elders, the torchbearers ‌of wisdom, experience and legacy? When was it that we replaced courteous discourse with name-calling,⁤ respect with intolerance, ⁤and empathy with apathy?

Growing up in Schenectady, I ‌remember the ​time when⁤ our ‌interactions‌ were not abbreviated into callous memes or 280 characters. When discussions were not just endless scrolls on a screen but actual, face-to-face dialogues. When nodding to acknowledge an elder’s presence wasn’t optional but a mark of good breeding.

I’ve been living here for a while now ⁢and see our teenagers at‍ Crossgates Mall, ⁣every day, more engrossed⁤ with their smartphones than ⁣the company they keep. They⁢ roll their eyes ⁢at ⁤their grandparents’ stories as if the latter survived ⁤decades, wars, ⁢the Depression, and recessions just to ‘bore’ them!

Where did we go wrong? How did ‍we ‍allow ‍such devolution? Is it our ​schools failing to impart these values or our families⁣ prioritizing money over manners?

As the snow whitens ‍my front lawn, the harsh winter offers a stark mirror of my growing despair. It’s⁤ becoming increasingly common​ to see an elderly man struggling to shovel snow, and yet hardly anyone offers a helping hand.

Only a few⁣ years ago ‌did we celebrate Schenectady’s recognition as the “American City of the Future.” It was a ⁤hopeful moment, embellished not just with that stainless steel award, but with a promise of intergenerational harmony. We’ve made ⁤great strides in embracing the future, but at the expense of forgetting our past, or rather, the people who lived it.

Remember the profound ⁣respect that transcended roles and wasn’t limited by​ the ⁣calendar? My aging marine friend, Mr. Leonard, often recalls his returning⁢ days. Strangers saluted his ‍uniform, thanked him for his service, and often, would be eager to lend an ear to his tales from the battleground – he was a true hometown⁣ hero.

Would ⁢the same respect be accorded to Leonard today? I truly have my doubts. ⁢Now,​ it’s more likely that some petulant child would ​mock his stories online⁣ or trivialize his ​service by‍ calling him old‍ fashioned or out of step.

On countless‍ occasions here ⁣in Schenectady, I ⁤witness seniors treated more as burdens than as reservoirs⁣ of wisdom and experience. Respect for the elderly appears to be wrestling an existential crisis; quietly disappearing from the modern societal lexicon.

If in doubt, run this⁣ little test for self-awareness. When was the last time you called your grandmother and genuinely asked her how she was? When was the last time you⁤ listened patiently to your grandfather’s tale ‍from ‌his‍ farming ⁢days without reaching for your phone?

As I find myself slowly transition⁣ into the ‘elderly’ demographic, these questions loom large.​ I genuinely ​fear a‍ future where societal norms‍ would enshrine ignorance and mockery rather than wisdom and respect.

Appreciating the elders does⁤ not replay⁤ a time that doesn’t ‍exist anymore, it reinstates humanity where it belongs. We are the ones​ creating⁣ the⁣ glossary​ of the future‌ – let’s not allow ‘respect’ to be its missing page. To be⁣ blunt, the Schenectady I remember may seem ⁤a ​long-lost utopia ⁢now, but I believe we can reclaim it – one act of⁣ kindness, one respectful gesture,⁤ and one revered elder, at a time.

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Brian McCarthy
Brian McCarthy
I'm Brian McCarthy! At your service to offer traditionally informed perspective on today's issues. Some call it out of touch; I call it time-honored wisdom.
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