Monday, November 15, 2010

Far Greater Generation

Tom Brokaw may not have coined the title "Greatest Generation", but he certainly gave it a permanent place in our psyche.

I don't contend a single qualification of the Americans who lived and served and experienced the sacrifices and the decisions of World War II.

They deserve all the thanks and honor we can give them.

But as my fellow Nebraskan, Dr. Mary Pipher observed in her book The Shelter of Each Other--Rebuilding Our Families, when the wolf is at the door and the enemy is external, coming together is so much easier to do.

When the wolf is inside, it's a totally different deal.

I fought the Cold War in the Vietnam era. I've actually heard WWII veterans say in front of Vietnam veterans, "I fought the GOOD war." I found it gracious of the Vietnam vets that they kept their silence and didn't shout, "Excuse me, but we didn't get any more of a choice than you did."

I've had it stuck in my face for much of my life that I'm a "baby boomer". As if I had a choice. I'm supposed to be one of America's first worthless generation, a generation that lost America's first war, the generation of free love and no morals. The generation of Americans that expected the government to do everything for them. Totally spoiled. Well...

I've got a beef with a few things. The Greatest Generation did great things in WWII. But it was also that generation that got us into Vietnam and then could not figure out what the hell to do with it or how to be honest about it. A guerilla war for national unification was constantly fought with the mentality (on America's part) of a traditional European land war with fronts and opposing powers wanting to annex adjacent territory. It was none of those. Greatest Generation was not great enough to see that or to make an appropriate course correction if they did. Political calculations colored everything but were colorblind to the color of blood--my generation's blood.

Even greatness has limitations.

Our country, our culture, our families, our political system and our economy and our churches and our entire way of life are threatened today by insidious enemies from within even as our way of life threatens the entire planet without. So far, we are not responding well at all. We are mostly like the grumbling Israelites longing for "the flesh pots of Egypt." We're looking back. We still like Ike and wanna go back there.

We haven't found our Moses to show the only way: forward.

I don't know who the parent was who left their child's note at the Oregon Vietnam Memorial in May. I wonder if the adult(s) involved had any more of an idea how to spell, construct a simple declarative sentence or to reason than the child who made these letters in crayon. At least the kid had the wisdom and the courage to say something, whatever it means.

So here's my response to the accusations that my boomer roots and birth date have made me a substandard American:

1. We've never bounced a check.
2. We've never been in jail.
3. We've never been in credit card trouble.
4. We've been married to only each other for nearly 40 years.

5. We've raised a daughter who has been employed and self-sufficient since she graduated from college over 8 years ago.
6. Our house is old and paid for.
7. Our cars are old and paid for.
8. We pay our taxes.
9. We inform ourselves and vote.
10. We have never collected a dime of unemployment compensation.
11. We have household income at the poverty level.
12. We go to church and actually provide church and meals for people who are homeless and mentally ill.
13. We've never sued anyone, but I have helped to defend others wrongly accused and sued in court.
14. We've both interrupted education tracks and careers to serve our country and live overseas at well below poverty level.
15. We've never expected the government to provide for us.

16. We've let our elected representatives know repeatedly what we think is right and necessary.

None of this deserves an award or a certificate of achievement. It's simply the minimum standard we should expect of everyone who lives here.

We've got serious problems here in the USA, and they are bringing the nation to its knees. We have actually glorified war over responsibility.

These problems will not be solved by entertainment and thinking no deeper than 140-character tweets. They will not be solved by spending even more money on election campaigns.

"Getting the message out" is not the impediment to moving forward. Being clueless or careless is.

Crushing burdens have been handed to Americans under the age of 35, burdens which Jean and I have decried in every way we could because we foresaw them. We are not ready to quit, but we are discouraged. VERY discouraged.

And here's my take on things. If Americans under the age of 35 can figure out how to salvage the mess that's been left to them, they will far, far exceed the Greatest Generation in imagination, courage and sacrifice. They will indeed have earned the title "Far Greater Generation".

By comparison to what today's younger Americans face, the challenges of WWII were flat out idiot-simple.

Younger Americans, we're here to help. Let's talk.

Time we got going. Waiting makes none of the tasks ahead easier or simpler.

Prayers accepted and appreciated. Thanks!


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