Christmas season unifies U.S., world
America used to be quite a bit different. And I'm not talking about hundreds of years ago, but only a few decades.
Before World War II, the United States wasn't nearly as urbanized as today. People tended to live in smaller communities, the average education level was the eighth grade, few went to college, freeways didn't exist, and life was a lot less hectic. Instantaneous communication was pretty much unheard of. People used handwritten letters to communicate with people far away and, if urgent, sent a telegram over Western Union. If you wanted to visit a friend or relative in another town, people usually took a train — passenger trains went everywhere.
There used to be regional variations in the way people spoke, too. When I grew up in Northern California (several decades after World War II, I might add,) we used to refer to soft drinks as “cokes.” If one offered a soft drink to a visitor, you would say, “What flavor coke do you want?” In some places they were known as “sodas,” in other areas they were called “pop.”
I watched an old movie the other day in which a person went into a coffee shop and ordered a “hamburger sandwich” and “French fried potatoes.” We've shortened that to “burger and fries.” After the movie character ate his meal, he went home for a “shower bath.” How about that?
Regional variations are breaking down with ever-increasing speed as America zooms into the 21st century. Twenty-four-hour television news networks beam instantaneous happenings to newsaholics, and people fly back and forth on journeys of thousands of miles at the drop of a hat.
Wherever you go, shopping malls consist of 75 percent (or more) of the same stores and restaurant chains offer uniform meals, geared to the “average” consumer. Think of Denny's, McDonald's, Red Lobster and Olive Garden — the menu fare is generally good, but rarely superlative.
Christmas is a season that always causes me to reflect on the good and bad out there. Some changes we've experienced as a nation were inevitable. As we grew in population and developed a national economy, with ever-expanding trade and economic ties, change was bound to occur.
The world will be a different place 100 years from now, in ways we can't even imagine. Think of the Internet and email — nobody thought about it 30 years ago, but today online communication is a necessity. What will the future bring?
No matter what our differences, no matter what our individual political philosophies, we can all unite around the meaning of Christmas. Peace on earth, good will to others. Those are simple, straight-forward words, but they mean a great deal. If everyone followed them, what a satisfying world it would be!
Here's hoping that this Christmas will be your best ever, followed by a new year that brings us all closer to happiness and world peace. The entire U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground team joins together in wishing you the very best during this 2012 holiday season.