Seventy Years Later by Jamie Kirkpatrick

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In 1948—that’s just 70 years ago, friends—our country was in a very different place. Well, actually it was in the same place it is today; it just seems far away:

When 1948 began, Harry Truman was President. There was no Vice President.

NASCAR held its first race.

In McCollum v. The Board of Education, the Supreme Court ruled that religious instruction in public schools violated the US Constitution.

Hell’s Angels was founded.

The United States took center stage in the new world order when it signed the charter of the Organization of American States and instituted the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe in the wake of World War II.

The United States became the first country to recognize the new state of Israel.

Albert I was the first monkey to be launched into space.

The Berlin Airlift jumped over the Iron Curtain to bring food and supplies to beleaguered West Berlin.

President Truman signed Executive Order 9981 ending segregation in the Armed Forces.

Al Gore and James Taylor (among others) were born; Orville Wright and Babe Ruth died. (Prince Charles was also born in 1948. Seventy years later, he’s still just Prince Charles.)

The House UnAmerican Affairs Committee conducted the first-ever televised Congressional hearing: Whittaker Chambers accused Alger Hiss of collusion with the Communist Party. (Plus ça change…)

In October, The Cleveland Indians won the World Series! (They beat the Boston Braves.)

In November, Thomas Dewey defeated Harry Truman. Oh, wait…

And as the year was ending, the first of the Kinsey Reports—“Sexual Behavior in the Human Male”—was published. No Non-Disclosure Agreements were signed.

I suppose all these events could now be filed under “A” for “Ancient History” but if—just supposing—one’s 70th birthday were today, it might suggest that this would be a good day to take stock of one’s place in history. After all, they say 70 is the new…heck; I don’t remember what they say.

In the grand scheme of things, seven decades is but the blink of an eye. It’s not even 30% of our nation’s history, less than half of 1% of the years since BC became AD, and hardly a grain of sand on the broad beach of time since homo erectus came down from the trees 1.8 million years ago. Come to think of it, if someone were turning 70 today, he wouldn’t be a young whippersnapper or even a diapered toddler; he’d be just a gleam in time’s eye.

Nevertheless, to a GenXer, or a Millennial, or a member of the new iGeneration, someone who has just stepped over the threshold of 70 must seem downright antediluvian. “So what was Noah really like?” they ask with a smirk as that sad septuagenarian comes slowly creeping by on the sidewalk…not that I know anyone who fits that bill. But then even I remember being young once and thinking 70 was over the hill. Not just any hill, mind you; more like the whole bloody mountain range.

But even if I did know someone turning 70 today, I imagine he would be grateful for his run of years on the planet. He would count the good hours and forgive a few painful minutes. He would probably recall loving and supportive parents, a happy childhood, a loving wife and her welcoming family, the miracle of children and grandchildren, the joy of nieces and nephews, a worldwide network of old and new friends, and of course a kind town with a tilted house and a friendly and comfortable porch. He might even remember watching the sun rise on Mt. Kilimanjaro, or listening to the waves lap against Iona’s shore on an unseasonably warm Scottish afternoon, or even hearing the warble of loons at midnight on a remote Canadian lake. Even if I did know someone like that…

And I do.

I’ll be right back.

Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer with homes in Chestertown and Bethesda. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy magazine. “A Place to Stand,” a book of photographs and essays about Landon School, was published by the Chester River Press in 2015.  A collection of his essays titled “Musing Right Along” was published in May 2017; a second volume of Musings entitled “I’ll Be Right Back” will be released in June 2018.  Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.

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