I was too young to understand why a “friend,” Russia, suddenly turned into an enemy after the war ended. I remember asking my father, wondering why the peace, so recently heralded, seemed to be morphing into a new conflict.
True age was a factor in these naïve observations. One simply has to have some years under the belt in order to understand major events.
But one can be too young when the years have piled up, even piled to a significant height.
I was too young to understand why the Vietnam War was such a terrible choice. Too young to recognize that the leaders of this great country could be duplicitous scoundrels willing to sit in fancy offices and send millions of young men and women to an unwinnable conflict whose loss was not the domino that toppled the region.
I was too young to comprehend the horrors of segregation of African Americans, the prejudice against Jews, and the isolation and hatred of the gay community.
I was too young to understand that the conservatism of Barry Goldwater and the philosophy of Ayn Rand praised the few at the expense of the many.
I was too young to appreciate how accepting the historical roles of men and women was perpetuating male dominance and inhibiting female fulfillment.
I was too young to realize democracy is a fragile concept and that our nation really could lose it if the right demagogue came along and fooled enough people.
I look back to when I was too young, too young even into the age of more than 80, and wonder how could I have been so foolish?
Fortunately, I was not too young to marry, and I have been fortunate to have had two amazing women who demonstrated a certain foolishness of their own by agreeing to become my wife.
Both philosophy majors, they were/are smart, strong, leaders, innovators, feminists, activists, courageous.
They helped me grow up, to not be too young in area after area, to make me see the light. And I thank them for it.
So how should I think of myself now that I realize I no longer can embrace all of the stands taken previously that today seem so foolish, uncaring, downright stupid?
I guess I could come down hard on myself, say I was a terrible person, and live in misery.
Following that logic, I would have to say I was a worthless human because I couldn’t do multiplication in the first grade. When I became better educated, though, multiplication was mastered.
I believe we all can grow. That seems to be the important thing. We may be sorry we were foolish, or perhaps only uninformed, at points in our lives. But I think we can heave a sigh of relief that we learned to gaze critically at past views, to recognize them as wrong, and to change.
That’s why I think it’s so foolish when one politician accuses another that his positions have altered, like that’s a bad thing. The opposite is true, and a politician demonstrates all too rare courage when he admits a change. Especially when I look at the way so many of that ilk cling to rigorous stands and don’t dare alter their opinions. Not what I want in a leader. I want courage to change one’s mind.
It’s growth that counts, not the inexperience of youth, whatever youth means.
Unfortunately, I still remain too young and hope to continue to learn.