Commentary: More front-porch sitting could benefit America


Just before the recent Republican caucuses, TV journalist Tony Dokoupil was in Iowa asking voters two questions: What do you love about America? And why do you think love of America is fading for some people, mainly those of younger generations?

Several people were stumped for answers, but one woman did not hesitate to answer the second question. It’s a change in families.

“I don’t think people sit on the porch enough, … and they don’t know the American way,” she said, then added: “The internet took over and built a bunch of idiots.”

“Idiots” is a strong word, but the woman has a point. Too often, it seems, younger people depend on email and texting and social media to communicate. Perhaps they don’t talk enough face to face. They don’t sit on the porch with their parents and grandparents and siblings and kinfolks and talk about things in general. And without actually saying it, the porch sitters appreciated being in a family that loved them.

I’ve always been partial to porches. Which probably tells you something about my boyhood years: back when the best time of the day was swinging on the front porch, taking a break from hide and seek and chasing June bugs and lightning bugs and sometimes the girl who lived behind us.

Ten miles down a blacktop road was my grandparents’ farm, where the porch swing was active nearly every Sunday afternoon. That’s where most of the Hudgins clan gathered to enjoy their misery after devouring too much of Mama’s chicken and dressing and apple pie.

Nobody ever talked about love at Mama and Papa’s. It was always present, but nobody talked about it. The only time I saw Mama kiss Papa was when he was lying in a casket in the front bedroom.

It was on the back porch, where the dog resided, that we grandkids took our baths when we stayed over. There was no bathroom, no water heater. Just a dug well with the coldest water east of  Colorado and a potful of stove-heated water to dull the pain when we eased into that elongated tin tub.

Call me a romantic, but I sometimes yearn for those front-porch Sundays in the swing, if not for those back-porch Saturdays in the tub. There was something wholesome and cleansing about it all.  We kids hadn’t been exposed to anything racier than the Song of Solomon. Only our naiveté exceeded our innocence.

Did we kids back then love America? I guess we did. I don’t remember the subject coming up.

Did we appreciate what we had? Well, one of my uncles sitting on Mama and Papa’s front porch served on a bomber during World War II, although he never talked about it, and I’m sure we were thankful for his service. At least we were free to enjoy life in a free country.

Maybe that’s the answer. Gratitude. Maybe we need more thankfulness and less complaining. But could it be that selfish politicians are a big part of the problem?

Phil Hudgins is a retired newspaper editor and author from Gainesville, Ga.. Reach him at