I want it

Posted on December 1, 2020


Watching a football game the other night I was half listening to the ads which are entertaining until I hit one with only four words.

It began with a chant “I want it” and proceeded from there to repeat its message, with music, fast cars, good looking women, “I want it!” “I want it!” “I want it!” was a constant refrain as the video moved through scene after scene that appealed to the baser instincts of greed and sex, never pausing for more than a second or two. And then the last three or four seconds, and scenes, were “I want it NOW!” “I want it NOW!” “I want it NOW!”

I forget what they wanted and wanted it now, but the ad struck me as the quintessential modern, totally spoiled American child in her twenties or thirties. “I want it NOW!” Perhaps my immediate ancestors felt the same way about the flapper girls and bootleg booze of the 1920s, wearing short skirts and behaving wickedly.

What left me dumb struck was that perhaps this ad represented the mood and thinking of modern Americans in the main. I want it, and I want it now.

At the same time, I exchanged some emails with a friend Will who was born in 1937 and the Depression years came up. I mentioned that my grandfather, Dr. Lawrence Garvin Clayton, had died in 1935. He was born in South Carolina in 1856, or five years before the Civil War.

He was a great doctor in the old fashioned way, delivering thousands of babies in and around his home in Central, South Carolina (Lindsey Graham’s home town too), tending to the sick by reaching them on horseback (he loved Morgan horses), and even trying to rescue a couple of men hung by lynch mobs in his lifetime. One, by the way, was black and one was white, lynched by a black mob just in case you think all lynchings followed the stereotypes you might be familiar with.

Want to know what the Depression was like? Read John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath for starters. Most of us did in high school.

What was it like for doctors in the Depression? Surely, they must have been above the impoverished and distraught farmers from Oklahoma’s Dust Bowl who headed to California to escape the drought and poverty in Oklahoma. Strange how history turns things around. Today many Californians head to Texas and places like Oklahoma to escape their home state.

My friend Will in his reading on doctors in the 1930s wrote: “no one out on the farm had a telephone or electricity. That is how it was in 1937 when I was born in Kansas on a farm some 14 miles from the nearest doctor. It seemed like every time a doctor was badly needed it was during a storm in the middle of the night. A neighbor woman delivered me and my brothers. A doctor was not needed for something that simple. If there were complications someone died. If all went well there was new life in the house to celebrate. Every sort of home remedy was in the house or barn and if that failed to work then someone or something died. Nearly every family lost a child along the way. Life was hard, but love abounded among neighbors.”

I can’t improve on Will’s narrative, or my grandfather’s life as a country doctor. When World War II broke out in 1939 and we joined the worldwide fray on December 8, 1941, the immense war effort broke the back of the Depression. The “greatest generation,” a phrase created by the journalist Tom Brokaw, was underway.

The freedom and liberty in America has always led to excesses in expressions of individual and collective liberties, from the flappers of the 1920s to the gigantic monopolies created by such economic moguls as John D. Rockefeller and the rulers of social media apps today, although I suspect Facebook and Tweet will have shorter lives than Standard Oil or Ford (Henry Ford). Steve Jobs (Apple) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) probably deserve membership in the capitalist hall of fame.

“I want it NOW” seems like such a sad refrain of what young people want, not at all like their grandparents and perhaps even great grandparents of the 1930s. The lessons they learned in fortitude and faith were passed on to us, children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. Sacrifice, like Jesus did on the Cross for all of us, was as great a principle as liberty and freedom to realize their dreams. Selfish indulgence summarizes the “I want it NOW!” generation.

So, what is the truth that has led to all our good fortune and circumstances? Stand up and say something in whatever forum your voice is heard, at home, in church, at the Y, Rotary Club, in your classroom if you are a teacher, working with the guys and gals of your place of work, wherever you may be heard.

Let me assure you, you won’t be popular with some or all depending on where you are. But remember the ancient Christian adage, speak and “know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)  

Published as “Ad/’s sad refrain reflects nation’s selfish mood” in The Tuscaloosa News, Sunday, Nov. 29 2020

Posted in: Life in America