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e choices at hand By Houston Wade San Antonio To write about the next 25 years when I hardly know what happened to the last takes some concentration. And yet, there is an eerie deja vu about it. As I came up McCullough Avenue to the office from home this morning, every other telephone pole had a hand-lettered sign nians Go Home.” The paper said it had been 38 years since Pearl Harbor was bombed. Although I had been having trouble remembering what I was doing 25 years ago, 38 years ago is still very clear. My friend Jim Fest had come for me early. It was a warm, sunny Sunday morning, and we were pushing my Western Flyer wagon, loaded with boards and nails, down the walk. My grandfather was trying to terrace our meager front lawn, most of which had washed into West Avenue in the last rain. He turned and looked at us with a grim face. “Boys, the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor.” We pulled closer and sat down on the wood. “What does that mean?” I knew it was serious because I rarely saw that look on his face. “It means we are at war now.” We sat and stared at him for a while, confused, yet excited; made somber by his mood. But there had been lots of war talk since September, and soon we were defending ourselves and making the guttural throat explosions of young boys playing war, wiping out Japs behind every bush. We continued building our treehouse amidst the imagined sounds of machine guns and diving planes. Twenty-five years ago is harder . . . somewhere between high school and now, somewhere between Episcopalian and Quaker, somewhere between the choice of Phi Gamma Delta and pancake cook at Campus Guild Co-Op. Of course, that last one was easy. When the Phi Gams sang their song at dinner the night I was invited, I had to suppress my fit of laughter into a coughing spasm to escape humiliation. Other choices were harder. Twentyfive years ago I was also somewhere between the kid who could slaughter 500 or more Japs and Nazis in a long afternoon of vacant-lot play and the man who put down his gun forever when he saw the look on his first child’s face as her eyes took in the dead quail on the autumn ground. Twenty-five years ago, too, I was somewhere between the boy who would say goodbye to the black woman who washed and ironed his clothes, fixed most of his meals, and listened to every World Series game with him and the man who sat listening to Martin Luther King Jr. as he sadly anticipated that the civil rights movement as we knew it would end in violent disagreement. This morning, trying to think back and ahead 25 years, I was looking into a little boy’s ear when the weekly, Friday 10:30 air-raid alert siren went off. “The fire engine!” he said. “No, much worse,” I said. “What?” he asked, pulling away from my speculum. “Nothing, it’s just not a fire engine, that’s all.” He was six. I didn’t think he would understand. So what about the next 25 years? The choices are not that different, are they? Probably easier, for some of us. But to predict, I know I can’t. Milton Mayer once told me that anyone who assumed there would be a future history of mankind was not taking into account Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Bikini. It really is deja vu, isn’t it? How long has it been since you thought of Bikini as a small, highly-radioactive island? How long since you paid any attention to those funny yellow-finned and horned boxes that wail from high on their poles each week? Or do they still do that only . in Olmos Park, Texas? So I won’t do much predicting. Separating the nominative from the normative, there are a few things I am certain will happen. As long as there are people the unquenchable human spirit may flicker on, but it will flare to full brightness when repression, persecution, war, and pestilence are gone. With any human history, love and art will continue. The poor and the uneducated will, as they say, always be with us, but they will know a lot more than the educated think they do. These are all the predictions I can make, but they are all happy ones. Instead of the “will-be’s,” I’ll have to give you my list of the “ought-to-be’s.” It occurs to me, a pacifist, that they are the same “ought-to-be’s” that faced a small handful of dissenters 38 years ago, and 25. Here are my 25 “ought-to’s” for the next 25 years: We ought to invest more of ourselves and less of our money in our children. What culture we inherited, they are losing. I can’t find kids who play even war games in vacant lots. If you don’t have kids, there are some within a short distance who need you to talk to themand to listen to them. Every time your kid asks for money, refuse lovingly, and offer time instead. We ought to quit watching television. Just as we quit using fallow fields or polluted wells a hundred years ago. There is nothing there but poison. If the Communist Party had an infiltrator and subversive in our homes one-onethousandth as potent as the multinational corporations do in television, we’d have another McCarthy era. We ought to build, or rebuild, our geographic neighborhoods. Get to know at least several families within a block of your residence. Get to know their kids and old people. Do favors for them and ask favors of them. We ought to get involved in our schools. What television does not own of our kids, the schools do. Merely to get a THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11