Still in Pursuit of the Good Old Days

by on November 28, 2009 · 1 comment

in From the Soul, San Diego

McCray -NancyWalking-sm

My Nancy has been gone for a few months now and I’m slowly getting back up on my feet to continue on the path she and I trod together for thirty-four years.

In spite of the sudden moments of pain that slow me down now and again I will strive to keep my eyes forever on the prize and hope she’s looking down on me with pride as I, more importantly, in the vernacular of the day, try to “keep it real” and not lose sight that changing the world is not the kind of enterprise that should be overly glamorized. Such thinking is based on how we used to laugh at how so many people rave about “The Good Old Days,” remembering events in their lives as, basically, little white lies. Like at one of my high school reunions one of my classmates said to me, “Ernie, aren’t these song lyrics today just awful? When we were coming up lyrics meant something,” and in the background the deejay was playing some lyrics from our day: “Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-moo-moo-moo-moo-moo-moo-moo-moo-git-a-job.”

Okay, maybe those are lyrics one could live one’s life by. But I don’t know about my friend’s assertion that “We didn’t have sex.” It sure wasn’t from a lack of trying, I can tell you that. I mean if we weren’t having sex why then, when we got home from the drive-in movies, did we fear these two questions our parents always asked: “What was the movie about?” and “Why are your clothes on backwards?”

I think my friend was trying to say, “Hey, didn’t we have some good times?” but “The Good Old Days?” No way. Nice concept, though, I have to say, and it looked like we were heading that way in a few brief moments in the 60’s and 70’s when we hit the streets singing “We Shall Overcome” and the walls of injustice came crumbling down and we brought the madness in Vietnam to an end and hope flashed before our very eyes. Oh, we gave it a try. But by and by Ronald Reagan became president and no “Good Old Days” could ever have lead to such a ridiculous societal breakdown as that.

But the energy from that time never dissipated inside Nancy and me. We saw “The Good Old Days” as a phenomenon that’s yet to be. And making it a reality, especially through our work with children in schools, was what got us up in the morning and is what still has me rising each day. With Nancy’s spirit guiding and nudging me as the pain from missing her gradually subsides I will continue helping young people make sense of their world through poetry and prose and movement and through helping them stage the vivid and entertaining scenes that are born and nourished in their rich and innocent imaginations.

I truly believe that if there is any such thing as hope for a better world it will be up to the children to keep such hope alive. But their task is daunting because, as a society, our love for them is more talk than action as evidenced by our incredible silence while there exists an enormous effort to militarize them in the one place where they should be more than safe from wild notions: their schools.

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Ernie McCray at a ENAC meeting.

See, early this school year, the U.S. Army hosted a special event at Mission Bay High that supposedly was to honor a gifted football player who has been selected to play in the 10th Annual Army All-American Bowl. It didn’t take more than a minute or so to introduce this athlete and have him say “cheese” holding a U.S. Army jersey in front of a backdrop where the words, “GOARMY.COM,” could constantly be seen before the real show began: robotics and flight simulators, a climbing wall symbolizing keeping “warriors” lean and mean, a performance by the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team.

Sure seems to me that Uncle Sam is pointing his finger at our children with that desperate “I Want You” look on his face, a look that I will strive with all that’s in me to erase.

So the path I walk, in memory of my beloved sweetheart, is metaphorically loaded with mines but I’ll keep on trucking, as they say, because the notion that some day there could be a day called “The Good Old Days” was foremost in our minds – and it will forever remain so in my mind.

*ENAC: Education Not Arms Coalition

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Lauren May 26, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Dear Ernie,

Once again you do what you tend to do to us – strike at the heart and soul of things.

I love young people as well. They are fresh, alive, and not yet jaded.

It seems, though, that the educational system hasn’t changed much at all (well, hopefully in some progressive schools thanks to people like yourself and your wife, but I mean generally).

Usually it seems what we seek above all else is compliance. Uniqueness, progressive thought, questioning, a conscience, and depth are not cultivated or appreciated.

Yet, somehow we seem to make it through and sometimes even thrive. How do we do that? How do young people prevail in their aliveness and sense of hope? Is that a tribute to the human spirit?

I was so pleased that young people rose up during this last election and let their voices be heard. Many people thought they didn’t have it in them. They were wrong. Young people simply needed inspiration.

Can we as adults maintain our sense of aliveness and faith in life, even in the midst of pain and loss? It seems you find a way to, even though I can’t imagine how you’re getting out of bed and putting one foot in front of the other.

How do you do it Ernie?



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