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Saturday, November 17, 2007



Abraham Lincoln was a master of telling short stories to make a point. One I remember well is of the farmer out cutting hay in a field. He is interrupted by his ten-year-old son running towards him shouting, "Daddy! Daddy! You gotta come quick!" The farmer calms his excited son down and asked what the problem is."Well, Daddy, sister is up in the hayloft with her boyfriend. She's got her skirt pulled up and he's got his pants pulled down..and Daddy, they're gettin' ready to pee all over the hay!"

The farmer says, "Son, you got all your facts right but you've drawn the wrong conclusion."

At least the boy had his facts right, unlike William Kristol of The Weekly Standard. In his latest display of selective elitism, NOT-SO-GREAT GENERATION(The boomers will be best remembered for their self-glorification.) Dr. Kristol starts out with a response to a Tom Brokaw comment that the Boomer Generation ended segregation:
Whoa! The '60s generation changed our attitudes about race in America? Rosa Parks, Bayard Rustin, and Martin Luther King Jr.--were they from the Vietnam war generation? Earl Warren, Lyndon Baines Johnson, and Hubert Humphrey? For that matter, James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman, murdered on June 21, 1964, in Mississippi? None of these was a member of the " '60s generation." None was a boomer.

There really was greatness in the "greatest generation." It fought and won World War II, then came home to achieve widespread prosperity and overcome segregation while seeing the Cold War through to a successful conclusion. But the greatest generation had one flaw, its greatest flaw, you might say: It begat the baby boomers.


With all due respect to Clinton's intelligence and Bush's determination--it's hard to make the case that boomer presidents were an improvement. (And some of the most impressive characters in the Clinton and Bush administrations--Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Vice President Dick Cheney, to name two--weren't boomers.)


America's hopes for the future rest mostly with the 9/11 generation. Despite their unfortunate propensity so far to vote Democratic, these young men and women will, I believe, turn out to be far more impressive than we boomers who begat them. It would of course be a fitting fate, after all the soaring rhetoric about the boomers, if they turned out to be basically a parenthesis. They may go down in history as occupying space between the generation that won World War II and presided over a relatively successful second-half of the twentieth century, and the 9/11 generation that will deal with the threats the boomers neglected during that quintessential boomer decade, the '90s. It is the 9/11 generation that will have to construct and maintain a new American century. The best we boomers can do now is help them get started on the job. Meanwhile, the experience of the boomers should hearten us: America is such a great country that it will end up surviving even a not-so-great generation.

I've never been all that comfortable with Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation" simply because it is a selective view of history. Growing up in the Depression and sacrificing during World War II are significant, no doubt. But there isn't a Paul Harvey giving his "rest of the story." Some things happened that are commonly known and many that are not.

Not many know of the "Wanna Go Home" riots that afflicted American military installations after World War II. To be fair, these weren't the guys who fought during the war, but their replacements. They wanted to go home. Now. Harry Truman, George Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, and anyone else who saw the growing threat of the Soviet Union in Europe wanted to maintain a large American military presence.

But they wanted to go home anyway. So did their wives, mothers, fathers, congressman received a flood of baby booties from constituents to dramatize the fact that all these babies wanted their daddies back.

So they were brought back. It emboldened the Soviets but not many in America cared. By that time the American populace was busy building the new suburbia and.....making babies. Lots of them. By the early 1950's regimentation and keeping one's mouth shut was the form of existence chosen by most of that generation. It culminated in the era of McCarthy, wherein people lived in fear of expressing an opinion.

Kristol refers to Robert Rubin and Dick Cheney as "most impressive characters." And that they are not boomers. I might be mixing generations here, but Rubin, Cheney, Bill Clinton, and Dr. Kristol ALL went to fine schools. They ALL went into government "service." Yet NONE of them took the opportunity to personally fight communisim. Kristol makes the point that many boomers ridiculed their peers' struggle against communism.

Well, there's two ways to do that: either march in the streets in protest calling soldiers baby-killers, or pursuing an exclusive college education while avoiding military service while at the same time extolling the virtues of a war they refused to participate in. Either way it was an insult to those who did serve in Vietnam whether they wanted to or not.

And would it be rude to ask just WHAT generation made the decisions about the Vietnam War? I can't rightly place the then 20-somethings and teenagers of the 1960's as having made major policy decisions.

Each generation deals with the cards it is dealt. Those cards are dealt by the elites; people like Dr. Kristol who on this day makes the statement: "America is such a great country that it will end up surviving even a not-so-great generation."

Perhaps William Kristol would be satisfied had there been more than the 58,000 names on the Vietnam War Memorial. And perhaps someday a descendant of William Kristol will condemn the generation that "lost" the Iraq War, conveniently forgetting that his ancestor's wisdom is what got us there in the first place.
This post kindly featured at MemeOrandum
Cross-posted at Michael Linn

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Anonymous Tom said...

Shame that Kristol uses stereotypes of 60's hippies to defame an entire generation. And that partisanship colors our perceptions of everything.

5:15 PM  

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