This I Believe

William - Chicago, Illinois
Entered on July 26, 2007

I belong to a special group of people who, until now, have labored without benefit of title or recognition as a group: Heel Diggers. Being a Heel Digger cuts across all socio-economic, racial, ethnic and gender lines. There is but one crucial criterion for being a heel digger: when everyone else is goes along with the latest new social trend, we dig in our heels and wait a spell before we jump in.

Heel diggers watched with a certain self-satisfied bemusement as child rearing experts popped up on television to intone with authority usually reserved for emperors, presidents and boxing promoters that the simplest method of establishing effective communication with our children is to have dinner with them as, and this is where it really gets precious, a family. Heel Diggers were bemused because we never stopped eating as family units in the first place. We didn’t care when our kids told us they were the only ones who had to eat with their families.

Most Heel Diggers are probably middle aged. We remember when we were kids and we absolutely had to have something because Johnny or Janey down the street had it. The answer was always the same:” So if Johnny jumps off a bridge, are you going to jump off one too?” Heel Diggers have pretty much stayed grounded in the old “jump off a bridge” analogy as the Trend Racers have abandoned it because if Johnny down the street has it, then by golly my kid has to have it too.

I’m not exactly sure when the “my kid has to have it too” trend took root, any more than I can pin point when families stopped having dinner together. Obviously there’s no exact moment for the advent of any social trend. My guess is that as technology speeds the rate of living, social icons get tossed out just because we don’t take the time to reflect on the fall-out from change. I mean, what parent who gives in to the “Johnny has it” syndrome stops and reflects that they might be ruining their kid’s value system by allowing the child to believe that his or her self worth is tied to a pair of gym shoes belonging to a kid who probably can’t even spell “gym shoes.”

Heel Diggers aren’t big fans of video games. We like board games like chess, scrabble and monopoly. Plain Folk Heel Diggers will tell you that “kids are too high strung as it is. They need to do something quiet with their families. Maybe then they won’t need to ride around with the music blasting out of their cars, drivin’ them deaf while they drive us crazy. “

The fancier Heel Diggers will suggest that board games not only represent quality family time, but that they are also excellent socialization tools because the interaction is among the players, rather than between the players and the games. They will also suggest that because everything is a matter of speed in video games, as opposed to the deliberate thoughtfulness of chess, these games further contribute to the ever decreasing attention spans of our young people. Different educational levels, same results.

I hope I haven’t oversimplified Heel Digging. There are powerful politicians who dig in their heels at the slightest suggestion that what they are doing might be wrong, no matter how obviously boneheaded their course of action is. And we needed to abandon many of the behaviors of the past, from acceptable racism and sexism to the harsh whippings that were handed out in some communities. No thoughtful Heel Diggers, no matter how religious, would dismiss evolution as some passing whimsy (especially with all those dinosaur bones lying around.)

But there is something noble, maybe almost spiritual, about digging in to say that this fad or that trend doesn’t apply to me, or to at least being cognizant of the abilities we sometimes lose with technology ( think; how many kids can do time tables since calculators came out?) The idea of being a Heel Digger is central to one of the most fundamental of all human struggles: striking the proper balance between the individual and the group. I believe that ever expanding technology and the subsequent speeding up of the pace of life will continue to push the pendulum ever further into the group and away from the individual. It may become more difficult to pick out what music we like as radio stations are gobbled up in conglomerates that push music designed for the most common of common denominators.

I’m tempted to suggest bumper stickers for Heel Diggers that encourage other Heel Diggers to honk. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that would just be another trend Heel Diggers would ignore.

In this I believe.