I believe everyone one has the right to a life of dignity and self worth. Growing up poor in New York City right after WWII in a Scot – Irish household where I was the youngest son with two elder sisters and an alcoholic father and hard working mother, who didn’t understand how alcoholism effected our lives, I have come to appreciate the importance of being fortunate, even to the circumstances of my coming of age during difficult times. Although, we are each limited by our environments, growing up in New York City during the 50 and the 60’s, which were a times of great social and economic change, both my parents were high school drop outs, as was I until social change of the civil rights movement brought into consciousness the plight of the poor and the limitations that it imposed upon parents, children and whole communities. My neighborhood, the Inwood section of Washington Heights, went from mostly Jewish and Irish immigrants from Europe to Latinos from the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. My friends went from The Irish bars to using pot and heroin within my generation. The Vietnam War and the cultural revolution, the Civil Rights, and the Women’s movements all combined to change forever the view of rights, duties and obligations to family, group, country but mostly to the self. Who are you? and what do you stand for? It seemed like I entered the Navy in one generation 1962 and left in another 1968. The world seemed upside down. Everything was questioned. People were marching in the streets, demonstrations for every cause, war, civil right, sexual rights, both pro and con. One’s duty to church and state was just the tip of the iceberg, the real change came in our development of a social consciousness. This Is Your Life and what are you going to do with it? My parents experiences in the great depression were about survival. WWII only reinforced that. Vietnam War and the Civil Right Movement were about revolution and social change. The sexual and drug revolutions added to my curiosity and my wish to become “me” of the so called “me generation” Getting a high school equivalency diploma enabled me to get a good job in the electrical construction industry (IBEW Local 3) which set the course for lifting me out of poverty and into the working middle class. As the old adage says “nothing succeeds like success,” I was able to take advantage of their tuition reimbursement program (fewer then 1% do take advantage of it) to not only completing my college education, but a doctorate in Psychology of Schooling from Teachers College, Columbia University. I have gone on to post graduated work in psychotherapy and drug and alcohol counseling and family therapy, and have been in private practice in New York City for twenty five years. There used to be a show on TV when I was growing up I Led Three Lives, which seems to capture the changes in my life over the years. And I am not sure there isn’t a couple of more lives in there as I continue down the road of self discovery and change.
As I look around the world today and see us as a nation slipping into a battle with a ‘middle ages’ feel to it, The Iraqi War and the war on terrorism. I wonder what will become of the social progress I have seen in my life time? We are so much more aware of the world around us. Life on this great big blue marble floating in space , the earth, has gotten smaller and smaller and the “sins of our fathers are being visited upon us.” I am hopeful we as individuals and as a nation will correct the path we have taken by self examining our wounds both physical and psychic in the wake of 911 and come to terms with the social justice course we embarked upon in the 1960’s that have led to not only my development but to the development of millions. Lifting the world out of poverty would be the way to go if I had my say. It worked for me. It created an atmosphere of hope were despair had rained in my life. Once an individual has been able to see that others care and hard work pays off any thing is possible. I think my life reflects the best of what America has to offer but even more important then that, what the world has to offer, if we all feel responsible for the well being of our self and others “love our neighbors as ourselves,” the result will be dignity and self worth, it worked for me.
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