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Whatchagot Loran..?
Michael O'Casey
Michael O'Casey's View from the Riverbank

Georgia Bulldog fans of my generation know Loran Smith as the “original voice on the sidelines” during the Vince Dooley, Erk Russell, and Larry Munson era of Georgia football.  In every game when the late great Larry Munson had a break in the action, invariably he’d ask, “Whatchagot Loren?” Smith would reply in his soft nasal Southern vernacular to describe what was going on, good or bad, on the sidelines and what the coaches were doing to keep the heat on the opposition or encourage the Dogs to hunker down.  The game was not complete without his continuous analysis.

Recently Loran wrote a column for U.S.A Today entitled Let’s get on the front porch and daydream about respect. He accurately described life in the South Georgia of my youth which included cotton fields, tobacco fields, and the swing on our front porch. As a young boy I remember the evenings after dark when my sister and I sat in that swing beside my paternal grandfather and listened to his stories about Custer’s last stand, Crocket at the Alamo, Sherman’s march through Georgia or drifting timber rafts down the Altamaha River to Darien, Georgia (my grandfather was a farmer and timber rafting in the early 1900s was his winter job). For someone with five years of formal schooling, he was well-read with distinct memories of the Spanish American War, WW I, the Great Depression, WW II, and during my pre-teen years he routinely followed our involvement in the Cold War and Korea each day in the Savanah Morning News. 

Loran accurately pointed out our change in attitude toward guns from a time when they were used for hunting and protection against home invasion to the current wild-west environment whereby weapons replace logical discussion to settle even minor disputes, but he didn’t dive into specifics.  In his defense, even a basic discussion of the problem requires no less that a small book. Even so, some argue that changing social traditions are connected at the hip to our violence problem.   

Two months ago a black Republican female opined on CNN that the problem in the black community began when the welfare program allowed women with children to divorce or separate from their husbands and “marry” (her terminology) the United States government to better provide for their children, but her prognosis applies to poor females of all races.  My sister worked for the local DFACS, and early in her career one of her responsibilities was to check on welfare recipients, sometimes late at night, to make sure there was no husband on the premises.  I know because I rode with her sometimes.

That practice effectively removed the husband/father from the family and became an unintentional assault on the traditional family. Had my family qualified, it might have eliminated my paternal grandfather and his enjoyable nighttime stories in that front porch swing. 

Along with financial dependence on the federal government, many mothers chose television and, more recently, cell phones and video games to serve as babysitters.  Not only have we given up personal responsibility for financially supporting our children, we have abandoned the moral responsibility of teaching them right from wrong and how to deal with disputes rather than shooting at each other.

Nowadays we rightfully ask how anyone can look down the barrel of a gun and shoot a nine-year-old child, but it might be a logical  outcome when a gamer can shoot hundreds in a competitive video game, see the blood spatter when the bullet hits the target, touch the reset button and start over time after time.

My sister and I learned family, American, and world history, and we felt loved and secure in that swing in the evenings after dark on our front porch. Our grandmother often chuckled when Papa exaggerated occasionally; it was her subtle signal not to accept everything at face value.  But it was a special time. If I could sit in that swing again, I’d probably get whiffs of the smoke from his Prince Albert pipe tobacco wafting through the nighttime air. 

Cell phones, social media sites and violent video games don’t teach history or compassion for our fellow man. Although Georgia Public Television provides outstanding history programs, much current TV content is off limits for my granddaughter.

In the final analysis, parents have abandoned the major responsibilities of raising their children to pursue personal ambition and self-serving agendas.  Too many children don’t feel loved; why should we expect them to act as if they did?