Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Oh The Things I Have Seen

After witnessing the political unrest in Egypt, I realized that in my lifetime I have seen some pretty incredible things.

When I was in my early teens a man named Phol Phot stirred up a group of farmers living on the border of Kampuchea (Cambodia).  These farmers were outraged because their farms were being bombed due to the Viet Nam Conflict/War.  They blamed the U.S. for the bombings and decided to follow Phol Phot and take control of  the government and the country.  At such a young age I didn't realize the genocide that followed.  I later learned of the atrocities and also the bravery of the Kampuchean people to escape communism from the Viet Namese who later overtook the Khmer Rouge.  I heard these heart wrenching stories while serving an LDS mission in Los Angeles, CA.  Many of the refugees had been transplanted in the LA County area.  I never believed that the Viet Namese stronghold would ever loosen, but it did.  Years later the Kampucheans were given their country back.  It still faces many problems but the strong are trying so very hard to restore the country to what it once was.

When I was a junior in high school I watched as a group of Iranian militants overtook the U.S. Embassy and held 66 people hostage.  Some hostages were able to escape, a couple were released, but 52 remained in captivity for 444 days.  I celebrated with the rest of America when they were finally released.  Among those hostages was an Arkansan Soldier who grew up not far from where I live now.  This uprising and taking of hostages came about as a retaliation against the U.S. for allowing the overthrown Shah of Iran into the U.S. for medical treatment.  Throughout this ordeal, President Jimmy Carter lost favor with a majority of Americans.  Ronald Reagan was elected our new President and just minutes after he was sworn in the hostages were released.

Also in my teenage years Apartheid was taking place in South Africa.  In the late '70's an anti-apartheid activist named Steve Biko was tortured to death. Another activist, Nelson Mandela, had been arrested and sentenced to life in Prison when I was just a baby.  Nelson Mandela later became the President of South Africa.  He was the first South African President elected by white and blacks.

The Phillipine activists fought against a leader, Ferdinand Marcos, who had left their country in a financial crisis. Rebels in Nicaragua tried to overtake their government.  As a young adult I watched the Berlin Wall fall and the celebration that ensued as a divided country came together. I watched in horror as a group of Chinese students took a stand against Communism and ended up losing their lives.

I also recall that an electrician in Poland felt that workers in this communist country deserved rights.  He co-founded the first independant trade union and later became the president of the country newly freed from communist rule.  I also watched in disbelief as the Soviet Union collapsed. Who would have guessed that this stronghold of communist rule could ever be disbanded.  I watched as a group of terrorists attacked the World Trade Center in New York and gave all Americans a wake up call that our land was not immune to tragedy.  It later changed our perspective on peace when the terrorists flew planes into the twin towers and thousands were killed.  We were quick to retaliate as a nation and entered into a war on terror that is still ongoing.

Since then several dictators have fallen and countries are now struggling under a new government. 

I have also been blessed to see good things in my lifetime.  I laughingly recounted a lot of the things we did and didn't have as I grew up when my two teenage daughters lamented about how they needed their own cell phones.

I remember thinking I was so smart when I was able to stretch the phone cord under my bedroom (the phone was right across the hall on the wall) and in a contorted shape with my head inches above the floor I was able to carry on private conversations with my friends!  If I only had a picture now of that hilarious sight and only realized then that when you are speaking to someone right at the space between the door and the floor that you might as well just broadcast the conversation.  That privacy I thought I had so smartly engineered was only in my imagination. We've now gone from twisting cords to cordless and even wireless communication.

I remember being introduced to my first computer when I was a freshman in college.  My roommate was a computer science major who needed my typing skills.  From that moment I was hooked and did everything I could to learn more about computers. 

I remember watching our family adventures on reel to reel projectors.  Now I can create a movie from my phone and share it with the world.

Remember when someone in the neighborhood got their first microwave?  We all stood and watched this amazing machine warm up a drink or a little food.  I was so astonished that you could cook food in this thing and eat it! 

I guess living a half century has me looking back and things with wonder.  I confess that I am truly amazed that we were able to survive without all these luxuries...and that now we are truly stymied when something goes wrong with our new technology.

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