By Hollis Wormsby, Jr.
Back in prehistoric times, before the birth of or even the thought of man, huge creatures roamed this earth and sat at the top of the food chain. These creatures varied greatly in size and form, or for that matter even in diet, but collectively they formed a life form known as dinosaurs. For much of their reign these dinosaurs were the absolute terror for other life forms because of their size and, in many cases, because of their predatory nature, they were the absolute top of the food chain. While I have seen a lot of movies that portray humans in conflict with dinosaurs the research I have done on the topic says that for the most part dinosaurs became extinct before there was much of a human presence on earth. Even some stories I’ve read say it is probable that the decline of the dinosaurs was one of the signature historical moments that made evolution of human life possible.
It is widely believed — and I say it this way because there is no one who was really around 60 million years ago to say exactly what happened — that dinosaurs were wiped out as the result of a large meteor that hit the earth with such size and velocity to create a dust storm that blocked out all light and heat from the sun. Some articles suggest that the temperature of the earth dropped by more than 27 degrees Celsius, causing much of the world to stay below freezing for decades if not centuries.
Dinosaurs were not able to adjust to these climate changes and the loss of plant life the animals used for food and their inability to adjust to the changing life conditions is what led them to become extinct. Based on their history, anyone perceived to be unable or unwilling to adjust to the changing times may be referred to as a dinosaur.
The changes that the dinosaurs could not adjust to were environmental, but the changes I am having trouble adjusting to are historical and cultural. Somehow, as a man born in 1956, and raised with the values of the time, some of the behaviors being suggested as progress just do not make sense to me. And I understand this makes me a dinosaur.
I was born into an era where there were boys and girls, men and women, and marriage was a union of a man and a woman. I will use the “I have had friends from all walks of life” defense to say that I have had friends from all walks of life, and based on that I can grow to the point of acknowledging that loves may come in all forms, but for me marriage is still the union of a man and a woman. And I know, that makes me a dinosaur.
I was raised in a time when parents taught their children discipline and in my household my dad had the philosophy that the teacher was always right, and if the teacher called we weren’t even allowed to have an opinion. Now we have parents wanting to sue if not fight teachers for trying to discipline the child they did not teach discipline at home.
Just a couple of weeks ago here in Jefferson County, a student admitted that they struck their teacher with a closed fist, and the teacher was suspended and had charges files against them for taking the child to the floor. In spite of the knowledge that their child threw the first punch the parents announced the next day that they were suing the school and the teacher. In my time, my dad would have beaten the living crap out of me, if I had so much as back talked a teacher and brought me and his belt to the school the next day to see if the teacher wanted their turn. Did I like it? No. But did I ever think of hitting a teacher? Hell no. Thinking this way, I know, makes me a dinosaur.
When I was young if you were accused of murder, you probably didn’t get bond before your trial, and the only likely sentences were going to be the death penalty or life without parole if you were convicted. Some people say those kinds of sentences did not deter crime, but one thing is for sure you cannot rob or murder someone else from inside a jail cell. In today’s Birmingham, and I think in much of the nation, we have a revolving door of justice, where depending on who the victim is, and who is willing to testify, you can murder someone in cold blood, even with an existing record of violence, and you just might walk away with 20 years with three to serve, with credit for time served awaiting trial. So, you took the life of another human being and wind up serving only three years. I know some people think this is progress, as they don’t want our young men disproportionately behind bars, but for me, if these young men are disproportionately creating havoc in the community. Asked about the inmates he experienced in making the movie with Gene Wilder about life in prison, Richard Pryor said: “I think for some people, prison is exactly where they need to be.” And I know thinking we need to hold people accountable for violent crime, especially for repeated violent crimes makes me a dinosaur.
Well, I also tried to do some research on what if anything the dinosaurs created toward greater humanity as they made their slow trek to extinction and I couldn’t really find anything. This was really important to me as I wanted to parallel that with what I should do with my old dinosaur self as I move closer towards the end of my own journey. Unfortunately, for me, no matter how you look at or what you read, once you can’t adjust to the changing conditions, you are doomed. Or at least that’s the way I see it.
Hollis Wormsby has served as a featured columnist for the Birmingham Times for more than 29 years. He is the former host of Talkback on 98.7 KISS FM and of Real Talk on WAGG AM. If you would like to comment on this column you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.