For a short time, I had a humorous/observational column in a local magazine called Upstate Women. Unfortunately, the magazine is no longer being published. I enjoyed the experience of writing a column so much, that I would like to continue writing in that vein. So once a month, I will offer a new column about something that bugs me in some way that may strike a chord with you, too.
Several of the columns you will see have already been published; the others were written after the demise of the magazine. The column will be called "Inanities" because I feel that is the word which aptly describes the things that make us want to smack our heads in frustration. Please let me know your reactions to these columns as I would enjoy hearing what bugs you, too. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
JUST THROW IT AWAY
by Nancy Rechtman
Isn’t amazing how everything has become disposable these days? Not only do we have disposable diapers, but we now have disposable cleaning cloths, kitchen wipes and toilet cleaning brushes. No wonder our landfills are groaning under the strain. What ever happened to reuse and recycle? We have a rather tenuous relationship with planet earth these days as it is. There once was a time when we looked for the word “recycled” on products that we bought, feeling that somehow, we were playing our small part in preventing the hole in the ozone layer from bursting wide open. Recently, that mindset has quietly disappeared and been replaced with the “use once and just throw it away” mentality. Commercials on TV entice us to keep buying and buying. They emphasize the ease of owning things that we can use and then toss away. This way, we won’t have reminders of the fact that life is a messy business - everything can remain sanitized and serene.
These days, as soon as anything has the appearance of being just slightly worn, slightly damaged, slightly used, we are brainwashed into thinking that means it is no good, out-of-date, and must immediately be replaced. This does not just stop at inanimate objects either.
What do we do with people who don’t fit our image of useful, productive beings? We hide them to the best of our ability; we block them from our mindset. The homeless population lives in the shadows of the rest of society. Generations ago, the homeless were generally male and middle-aged, often due to substance abuse problems. Today, the homeless population consists largely of children, who are homeless due to no fault of their own.
We ship our elderly off to nursing homes. When this is for medical reasons, this is a perfectly viable solution to providing the necessary care for our aging population. But when it is because we don’t want to be reminded of our own mortality and vulnerabilities, shame on us. Are our mothers and fathers unfit to live amongst the rest of society purely due to the fact that they had the temerity to actually grow old? In our youth-obsessed culture, we cannot stand to watch people age. So we ship them off to strangers who we hope will give them proper care and sustenance. But it is our loss since we are missing out on the benefit of their experience and guidance. The quickie marriages and liaisons of teen pop stars get more attention from us than the true wisdom that could and should be passed down to us by those who have already lived rich and full lives.
There are also children in our society who have no families able to care for them. The lucky ones get adopted into loving homes. And what happens to the rest? The foster care system in our country cannot keep up with the swelling number of children in its care. They need more good homes willing to take in these children. And what happens to these kids when they “age out” of the system? Are they given anything other than a handshake and a check? Who will be there for them to celebrate small victories, who will they turn to when they’re scared and lonely, who will be the family that they have been craving for all of their lives?
A society is judged on how it treats its most helpless members. So let’s not forget the animals who depend on humans for their care. Animal shelters are bursting at the seams with unwanted and, often abused, animals. Many people have gotten these animals as puppies and kittens because they were so cute. As soon as they are no longer tiny, furry little balls of fluff, as soon as they have an accident on the carpet, or bark because they are scared, or claw the furniture, they become a nuisance and are tossed away like so much litter on the side of the road. Their so-called owners are the same people who see no reason to spay or neuter their pets as they let them run wild and continue to procreate. Animal shelters do what they can, but they end up having to put down the majority of the animals that are brought to them. These are helpless animals who trusted us, animals who wanted nothing more than to love us and be loved by us.
There are judgments which await us as a society. At some point, we are going to have to pay the price for our excesses. The future cannot sustain the carelessness of our present. The toss-away mentality is pervasive throughout our society these days. It may start with smiling faces on our television sets, extolling the ease and virtues of all things new and unblemished. But it continues with us when we go along with this way of thinking, when we don’t speak out in protest. What is the legacy we are leaving to our children on this planet when we feel we must replace everything as soon as it is no longer shiny or beautiful? The question we need to answer is who are we as a people when human beings and animals have become as disposable as dusting cloths? The decision we face is whether we are willing to stand up for the people and creatures who may not be perfect, but who can enrich our lives in so many ways. We need to stop tossing the essence of our humanity away.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved. Small excerpts of the column may be republished as long as appropriate credit is given. To request permission to publish larger portions or the entire column, e-mail email@example.com.