She was born in Babe Ruth’s rookie year with the Boston Red Sox. The same year Charlie Chaplin made his film debut, the year Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assasinated in Sarajevo, trigering events that set off World War I.
My grandmother was born during what some my call “interesting times.”
Mildred Whaley, was raised in rural north Georgia, spending most of her life in the small farming community of Cohutta, within shouting distance of the Tennessee line.
She lived through two world wars, survived the Great Depression, saw the Berlin Wall go up and watched it fall, and witnessed the administrations of 17 U.S. presidents. She turned 100 on Saturday, surrounded by four generations of family and a few remaining friends.
She still lives in interesting times, and that is to say, so do we.
I doubt she could have imagined living in a time when virtually all human knowledge was accessible to anyone with a mobile phone, and yet the same old human prejudices, biases and grudges that broke civilization apart a century ago, still rule in one form or another even to this day.
We still fight wars in countuies that haven’t known peace for centuries. We still witness ethnic and cultural hatred at the root of conflicts in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe.
So, as much as it seems that the world my grandmother knew in her youth has changed, the more it seems in some ways the cycle has just continued to repeat.
Lessons haven’t been learned. The same cards are being dealt again and again, even though we know the deck is corrupt. Yet, we continue to play along.
Although I’m have as old as her, its hard to be optimistic about the next half-century, whether I live to see it.
Looking at the news this past week, with war exploding and human suffering and cruelty once more exhibting themselves in daily headlines, I wonder where we are all headed.
I had hoped we were getting too old for this foolishness, but as long as we dwell on our differences, human hatred will have no shelf life.