Tuesday, September 18, 2007

1. Shameful behavior: ruining our grandchildren's lives because of our generation's greed 2. a story about my Grandmother

This is shameful behavior: the Federal Reserve (privately owned, not part of the US government) dropping interest rates to bail out stock market investors who have made bad investments, Bush's running up the deficit to line the pockets of his cronies, and now the US Congress talking about bailing out stupid homeowners who have acquired bad mortgages and spend stupidly beyond their means. Selfish, stupid behavior that will ruin the lives of so many in future generations.

Past generations were made of better stuff. My Dad sent me an email today with a story that his Mother told him about the death of her father because he was trying to save the financial future of his family:
My Mother told me this story when I was a small child. This was very personal for her, and I remember the emotion in her voice as she related it.

My Mother was born in 1886 on a farm in Illinois. Several photographs have survived of this time. She, with her parents and two smaller brothers, lived in a large, attractive frame house. Photos show a horse-drawn plow working a corn field. I remind you that they would not have had automobiles, telephones, radio, or electricity and central heating in the home. A trip into town meant a ride in the one horse carriage.

During the growing season the work day for a farmer and (older) sons began at daybreak and ended at sunset. The wife and daughters canned food for the long winter months, sewed clothing, and prepared meals for the men. When winter storms came, families could be isolated for extended periods.

My story begins when my Mother was thirteen or fourteen years old (I do not remember the exact date.) It was a very harsh winter, with bitterly cold storms following in a seemingly endless procession. The roads were blocked with huge snow drifts. Without central heat, the family huddled near the cherry red kitchen stove, stoked with coal. Hot water bottles warmed the feet.

Isolated from the rest of the world, each day all anxiously hoped for an end of the storm. Grandfather would put on his warmest clothing and venture out to tend the livestock. It was essential that the cattle and horses be fed and protected from freezing. When Grandfather succumbed to the flu, the family faced a crisis. With a high temperature he became too weak to go out and the family could only pray that the storm end. It did not end, and faced with financial ruin with the loss of the livestock, Grandfather knew that he must go out.

My mother and her smaller brothers waited apprehensively while Grandmother helped her husband up and to dress as warmly as possible. He went out into the howling blizzard-- to return triumphantly. The livestock were saved!

Their relief was shattered when that night his flu turned into pneumonia and Grandfather died. With no one to tend them, the livestock also perished. It was then necessary, come spring, for Grandmother to sell the farm and to move into town.

My maternal grandmother married another farmer and they both lived long lives. My grandmother was in her 90’s when she died.
My father's mother ended up getting a Masters Degree (rare for a woman in the early 1900s), married a minister, lead a financially poor, but happy life, and raised two sons who ended up teaching at Harvard and Berkeley.

Yes, previous generations were made of "sterner stuff" than weak willed people who care more for owning a "McMansion" and a new car every year than leaving a decent world for their descendants.

4 comments:

Shawn said...

Mark,

Thank you so much for sharing this.

I especially appreciated the last sentence.


Shawn

Emilian Bold said...

This was a touching and proud post. I also think people should start growing up and be more responsible towards future generations.

And this doesn't concern only Americans. It's a general trend to think quite small, be petty and afraid.

People have forgotten how to be proud and responsible.

Anonymous said...

Amazing post. I don't usually have the time to respond to posts, but this one's worth it.

I also can't believe the self-righteous posturing directed toward those just trying to afford a home. Most probably didn't know what they were getting into. I can't believe we don't hear more about the bankers or real estate agents and their greed.

"Oh well - as long as the bankers make their money!" seems to be the real message.

Tom

Mark Watson, author and consultant said...

Hello Tom,

re: "I also can't believe the self-righteous posturing directed toward those just trying to afford a home."

I am critical of people who: 1) try to by more home than they can afford 2) pull money out of their homes in the form of equity loans for non-essential expenses. They are just not acting in their own long term best interests.

I may sound old fashioned, but I believe that families should buy a home that they can afford, get a fixed rate mortgage, and generally live within their means. Now, I would add in another factor: buy an affordable home nearer to work - even if it is much smaller than a home that is a long drive from areas of employment.

Anyway, criticism accepted. Usually I get flack for being critical of Bush cronyism and our 'corporate overlords', so your comments are interesting.