Two recent events that escaped the notice of press, radio and TV seem to me worth reporting, because they bring hope to a nervous and disenchanted world.
First, my wife's brother phoned from Bakersfield to say that his son and daughter-in-law, Gregg and Robin Bresson, had become the parents of their first child, a daughter, and that mother and child were home already and doing fine.
"They named her Ashley Nicole," he said, sounding as if he thought it was the most beautiful name in the world. (It does sound like a name out of "Tender Is the Night.")
But the most remarkable thing about this news was the excitement of my wife's brother, Ernie. He obviously thought the appearance of this granddaughter was a wondrous thing; that he was the luckiest of men, and that the world was a joyous place.
The other event was reported in a bulletin from Duke Russell, my Hollywood correspondent:
"Flash! Scoop! Attention all the ships at sea. . . . Prince Charles did not leave the United States. I happen to know where he is at this very moment: in St. John's Hospital, Santa Monica.
"His mom and dad are just fine. So is he, all 10 pounds and 2 ounces. 'Charlie' Murray Russell is his name. Hip hip hooray for Chick and Jaye, our son and daughter-in-law respectfully and respectively!
" 'Charlie' was born on Nov. 11. What a date! What a time to arrive on our little planet, right in the middle of the Cola, Revlon, Burger wars. I sure wish him well, I can't wait to read him some Captain Marvel stories. I'll even tell him how I used to fly in a B-17 Flying Fortress (over the Grand Canyon and nearby). . . .
"Hopefully by the time we're playing catch with a football, the corporate takeover craze will be a thing of the past, due to new laws and the Green Hornet's grandson and the offspring of Mandrake the Magician, Buck Rogers and Punjab and the Asp."
What struck me as significant about these two events was the exuberance with which they were reported by the two grandfathers. I'm afraid I imagined that grandfathers would no longer be so euphoric about the birth of a new child, the world being what it is.
As Russell hints, it is a time when even the fountainheads of our system, the giant corporations, have become greedy and predatory monsters, feeding on one another, blundering like infants. What kind of a world is it in which Coca-Cola abandons its traditional taste? When American Telephone & Telegraph is shattered into a dozen lesser companies scrapping for its business like a litter of piglets? When Bob's Big Boy seriously considers getting rid of its Big Boy mascot?
What is there left for us capitalists to believe in?
These newcomers also come at a time when the heads of the two most powerful states in history are meeting on neutral ground to play poker with our futures; at a time when those two states have enough nuclear weapons stockpiled to destroy the world eight times over. Can we really expect that either will sacrifice any of his power in the hope of raising the expectations of peace?
It is a time when forests are being ravaged, wild life is vanishing, cities are being trashed, the air is polluted, pop music is pornographic, the streets are unsafe, human rights are shrinking around the globe, politicians are corrupt, half our income goes for arms, the country is sinking hopelessly into debt, sports crowds are turning into mobs, one-third of the world is hungry, and Capt. Marvel is dead.
I forgot to say that we may be heading for that nuclear night, when the entire race will simply freeze and die, vanishing like the dinosaurs.
One might suppose that a grandfather would think twice before celebrating the birth of a new grandchild in such a world.
Yet here we have two grandfathers who are ecstatic about the arrival of a granddaughter and a grandson.
Maybe they know that the world has always been a dangerous place; that in earlier times no one could walk abroad without a bodyguard; that disease used to carry off one out of six of our children before they were 10; that human life expectancy used to be 35 years; that only 20 years ago our schools were segregated; that women couldn't be firefighters or police officers or midshipmen at Annapolis; that 40 years ago blacks couldn't play baseball; that once we didn't have refrigerators or television or aspirin or Coca-Cola or light beer; there were no credit cards, no savings and loans to pay high interest on our money, no National Football League.
Maybe these grandfathers know that their own lives have been worth living, despite the turmoil of the Depression, World War II, the Cold War, inflation, high taxes, the national debt, the dismantling of AT&T, pollution, crime, disease and all the other horrors of our times.
Maybe they know that there is just as much oxygen in the world today as there was when they were born, and as long as we can breathe there is hope.
The main thing is that, despite the adverse signs, they still think the world is a place of brightness, promise, joy and value. They are still glad to see a new child enter it, with everything to learn and everything to experience.
They still want to see their lines continued, into the utopian future.
They still believe in Capt. Marvel.
And so do I.