Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Greatest Generation ... and Mine

Tom Brokaw’s 1998 book gave title to my parent’s generation. With the exception of the founders, they may well have been the “The Greatest Generation” … not only in our national history, but in the history of the world.

The young 18-25 year old men and women who rose to the challenges of world war in Europe and the Pacific inarguably saved the world from decidedly evil forces and, as stated so eloquently by Colin Powell, the only land we ever asked from our vanquished enemies was enough to bury our dead.

This they did after living through the “Great Depression” (I certainly hope the period is able to hold its title) of the 30’s. When they came back from the war, they began rebuilding a peacetime economy the likes of which had never been seen anywhere else in the world. They did this by sacrificing their desires for a better future for their children and grandchildren. They stayed in smaller homes than they might have liked. They drove their cars a little longer than they might have liked. They might have run a tab at the local grocery store, or had a smallish “revolving charge account” at Sears or Montgomery Ward in order to buy a washer and dryer, but they most decidedly did NOT carry thousands – or tens of thousands – of high interest credit card debt to buy the newest big-screen TV for themselves or newest game box for their children (us).

Their elected representatives were also a bit more responsible. One I recall from a period when I was much younger – probably early 1970s – addressing the federal budget, said something like “$10 million here and $20 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about big money.” Our generation of “representatives” says the same thing, but they are speaking of HUNDREDS of BILLIONS of dollars, and "representatives" like Charles Schumer actually say that we "don't care".

So – getting back to the “generations” theme … the “Greatest Generation” willingly sacrificed their comforts and aspirations and desires in order to provide a much better future for their children and grandchildren.

Conversely, this generation (mine) is, on an increasing scale and frighteningly rapid pace, sacrificing the aspirations and desires of our children and grandchildren on the altar of our own instant gratification. If you think about it, it leaves my group in an enviable position … generations before and after us, all sacrificing for our comfort … SWEET!

I wonder … what kind of world are we leaving for Allison and Jackson – my grandchildren – and will they have anywhere near the respect for us in 40 years as we have for our fathers.

Sadly, I expect not.

1 comment:

  1. Nicely put. Unfortunately, it's not improving with my generation and I doubt it will with theirs either. They might not have the ultimate respect for your generation, but they will have respect for you as an individual because they won't have a choice ;) Too bad I can only change the world a few kids at a time...