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Joan King: There comes a time to accept our limitations
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Decisions, choices ... choices, decisions. There is no escaping from them no matter what your age. And when you reach your 80s, it becomes harder. For instance, my children are beginning to press me to make some decisions I’d much rather ignore.

My home is in a fairly isolated location. Should I continue living here alone? The strange thing is, I wrote a story about just such a situation over 10 years ago. The woman in question was being badgered by her daughter to carry her cellphone with her at all times. She rebels and kicks the offending object under her bed, where it is missed when an intruder invades the house.

At the time, I didn’t even have a cellphone. The phone was a minor part of the plot, and the heroine of my story had other defenses against the trespasser, but looking back now I feel an eerie sense of deja vu. I am not superstitious, but I’m investigating a new and better cellphone. I’ll get some sort of under-the-arm holster for it, like those FBI people have in shoot-’em-up TV dramas.

In all seriousness, when and how do we face our limitations? As a nation we are can-do people, but I am amused at those who insist on American exceptionalism, the idea that we are somehow exempt from the forces that affect others countries and other people.

The Texas Board of Education just voted to replace their old history books with new ones that “... better reflect the state’s conservative political philosophy.” If only it were that easy. It is said that history is written by the victors, and right now Republicans are in charge of much of the country. But we live in a global society, and we handicap our children if local history books are badly out-of-sync with global reality.

We are limited by our history, but the answer is to change ourselves, not try to change our history. This becomes more obvious with age. Choices are limited, decisions harder. There is a greater necessity to be honest with one’s self. I would like to believe I am an exception to this business of getting older, but I’m not.

There are a number of similarities between individuals and the social and political structures they create. They are born; they grow. Hopefully, they become fully mature.

We are a young country. Texas is a young state. Compared to much of the world, we are teenagers. Think for a moment about how a 15-year-old makes a decision. If it feels good, do it; if it doesn’t, ignore it. Facing reality doesn’t seem to be part of the mix. I definitely don’t like getting older, but I can’t change it, and I better not ignore it.

America will always have its detractors. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We learn from our critics, but not admitting our mistakes does nothing but make us vulnerable the next time around.

I haven’t seen the new Texas history books, but as a child I enjoyed watching the cowboy serials at the local movie theater. I have a pretty good image of what people mean when they refer to a “cowboy” mentality. The good guy’s are very, very good, and the bad guys are real stinkers. Furthermore, the good guys always win.

Fourteen years ago this month, the Taliban destroyed the Buddahs of Bamiyan. Those magnificent statues were known throughout the world, not just as religious icons, but as great works of art, but they were turned into rubble because a Taliban religious leader declared them to be idols. Today, Islamic militants are destroying similar religious artifacts in Iraq.

How does this compare with rewriting Texas history books? Both are attempts to influence history by controlling what people can experience or study. In both cases the decisions were based on religious or political ideology. This is very limited thinking, indeed.

Joan King is a Sautee resident. Her column appears biweekly.

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