William F. B. O'Reilly is a consultant to Republicans.
A friend I grew up with had a peculiar habit. Every few steps, he would lean down and touch the ground, as if to be sure it was still there. I don't know the root of his condition, but his need to feel terra firma is beginning to make sense.
Last week a new mobile device called the Blackphone was announced. It's perfectly marketed for our time. The Blackphone is a smartphone that's supposed to block National Security Agency spy satellites from tracking your every word and keystroke -- the ones we type into our palms to interact with the world's people and knowledge.
Another personal drone hit the market recently. There's nothing especially novel about this one. It's your basic fly-silently-around-the-neighborhood number that takes high definition and infrared video of whatever you want it to. Call it the Peeping Huey. Not to worry: If neighborhood spy drones proliferate, we can probably shoot them down soon with personal ack ack guns squeezed from 3D printers.
Stop the world; I want to get off.
The pace of technology is exciting and appreciated -- truly -- but it's beginning to give me angst. I'm no Luddite. I'm actually a gadget a guy. It's the speed of the change that's making me want to touch the ground.
I'm convinced that having kids brings on the angst. It certainly exacerbates it. The faster the world lurches into the future, the more I feel a responsibility to tell my daughters about the past and to harp on traditional values. And maybe that's it. Maybe it's the not the future that's so worrisome, but the speed with which the past is slipping away. Has there ever been a time when the generation that preceded us seemed so disconnected with the one rolling out? My father was born in 1923; his father in 1867. The differences between those years and today are simply extraordinary.
But it's not just technology. America itself is changing so quickly. There seems to be a blind rush to alter things and to abandon or ignore basic Constitutional tenets. The federal government is now in our face everywhere. It wants a piece of everything. Common Core is the latest. The U.S. Department of Education swears it's not a national curriculum -- that would exceed its charter -- but just consider the program's name.
And while the feds seek to centralize learning -- among other things -- universities push aside core curricula that have informed western civilization for a millennia in favor of populist moosh. Geoffrey Chaucer ("The Canterbury Tales") has been replaced with courses like "The American Vacation" (University of Iowa) and "Arguing with Judge Judy: Popular 'Logic' on TV Judge Shows" (University of California at Berkeley.)
New York City is pondering non-citizen voting in municipal elections. After decades of teaching kids not to smoke pot, legalization is now the rage in various forms. It's like we learned nothing from the '60s and '70s. Successful Americans, whom we used to be taught to admire, are now villainized by our president. Economic collectivism is being preached by the "me" generation. Wrap your head around that.
When I was a kid, I saw people of my parents' generation get teary eyed at the lyrics of Simon and Garfunkel, especially the words:
"Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio? A nation turns its lonely eyes to you
What's that you say, Mrs. Robinson
'Joltin Joe' has left and gone away."
A nation that so deeply understood the sentiment behind those lyrics is now itself vanishing before our eyes.
I hate it.
William F. B. O'Reilly is a Newsday columnist and a Republican political consultant.