John / Nica 65 / Health

Back in the day, in the 1950s, when I was in elementary school and then junior high school, there were many ways in which the United States then was similar to Nicaragua today.

Here is a list that Deb and I compiled in no particular order of importance:

  • Kids played outside without adults organizing them or even paying them much attention.
  • No one wore seat belts and if you had a pick-up it was standard practice to pack the back full of as many friends as would fit.
  • People freely littered, casually tossing trash out of car windows.

  • Rivers and lakes were badly polluted.
  • Dogs still had their balls and animal sex in the streets was common.
  • Men didn’t question that their gender entitled them to privileges unavailable to women. Mostly, women stayed home, kept house, and raised kids.
  • Abortions were illegal, but happened. Women died.
  • Visible gays were effeminate. Others were closeted.
  • Church attendance and religious belief had a much more pervasive place in the life of the community.
  • A very small percent of the population went to college and the many didn’t finish high school.
  • Women professed wanting to arrive at their wedding night a virgin, but usually gave in to pressure from guys or their own desires.
  • Corporal punishment at home and at school was seldom questioned. Spanking kids was commonplace. It was a rare kid that didn’t get whacked once in a while.
  • You could be a quirky, unusual person without receiving a psychiatric diagnosis. You would probably get tagged with a nickname and maybe be teased, but nobody would try to fix you.

So is there any take away from this list? Does it hold any clues for our service as Peace Corps volunteers in Nicaragua? Optimistic progressives of my generation believe that “the arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice.” No matter how inconsistent, no matter how much remains to be done, the last sixty years has moved the United States toward being a more just country. I even believe this in the face of Trump. So there is every reason to think that Nicaragua will also make progress. It may take a long time and it may look very different than our progress. Nonetheless, it is thrilling to contribute to this in any small way.

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