I think a great deal about what makes me think about the things I think about. Yes, I know I ended the sentence with a preposition and I wonder if this matters anymore. Well, this morning, about 4:30, I’m flipping between Fox News and CNN, and I really wonder what does matter anymore. What is really real?
Let me share with you some of the things that mattered in the Walker household when I was growing up.
First, you’d best tell the truth as best you knew it. “Larry, did you get your homework done before you went outside to play basketball?” “No sir, but I’ll get on it right now.” You’d best come clean with your answer, because there would be an eventual reckoning, with consequences, for false or even misleading answers.
Next, you were polite to everyone and most especially to your elders, like your grandparents, aunts, uncles, people of a different race, poor people, school teachers, policemen, parents, etc. You didn’t call anyone names like “Crooked Charles” or “Crying John.” There would have been corporal punishment if I had done this, and I would not have done it but one time.
No profanity. None. To bed at a reasonable hour with eight hours sleep. No alcohol in the house. Certainly, no smoking. Work — cutting lawns, selling peanuts, packing peaches, loading feed, picking cotton. You get it. Manual labor. Deciding what you wanted to do. Pick cotton or go to school and get good grades.
Go to church. No questions asked about whether or not we were going. We knew we were going. Visit your grandparents. Listen to them. You’d learn a great deal from them and they would love you, mold you, and help you understand and be able to handle future life challenges.
There were consequences for bad language (I once got a spanking for saying “damn” which was told to my parents by another youngster as “Larry said ‘d-a-m’” as he spelled it for them. As I said, work. Once, when required to pick up paper in our front yard, and because I didn’t want to do it, I put it in the flower bed and covered it in straw. I paid for this act of defiance.
No long hair. No peroxided hair. Certainly, no tattoos (if I ever heard of any such thing).
Walk to town. Walk to church. Walk to my Gray grandparents’ house. Walk to Perry’s National Guard Armory for the Teen Town Dance. Walk (and sometimes run) to classes at the University of Georgia. That didn’t end until I was 21 years old and got a little, used turquoise and white Corvair. I wish I still had it.
Try to speak and write correctly. Spelling was important. Penmanship was important. Grades were important. I could skate by with A’s and B’s, but if I started getting C’s and C-pluses, there were consequences.
I could go on and on, but you get the picture. Lots of you are mentally saying, “I understand. That’s the way it was at our house, too.”
I think about those wonderful men that went in at Normandy or those who lost fingers or toes in the freezing cold of Korea. They understood. I think about the guys with whom I played football. No water at practice, but you might be able to sneak and suck some out of a wet rag. They understood. I think about those country girls and boys who rode the bus to school (or maybe walked) who had only two outfits to wear to school, but were always neat and clean. They understood.
Actually, I know why I thought about what I write about, today, Wednesday, May 10, 2017. It was my watching Fox News and CNN at 4:30 a.m. Switching back and forth by moving nothing but my right “pointing” finger. Yeah, I’m pointing at ‘em, without even getting up, and they deserve it.
This morning, I also thought about the Great Seal of Georgia. It has four words on it: “Wisdom, Justice, Moderation and Constitution.” Great words. I used to think “Moderation” had no place. Now, I think it could be the most important. We, as a country, and as people running the country, need more moderation in dealing with each other. And respect, politeness and kindness.
We also need more discipline. Not only in our own lives, and that’s where it must start, but in our institutions like the Congress of the United States, our schools, churches, the presidency, business, etc. Daddy would have spanked me if I had talked to someone like some elected officials and even our president talks to others. Some of them need a good spanking! You understand. And, it’s not just a good thing to consider, like the Boy Scout motto or the Lord’s Prayer, but, in my opinion, it’s essential to start doing it — if we are going to survive as a great country. At least that’s my opinion.
You know, it’s amazing what I think about at 4:30 in the morning.
Larry Walker is a practicing attorney in Perry. He served 32 years in the Georgia General Assembly and presently serves on the University System of Georgia Board of Regents. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.