7/03/2009

The Greatest Generation

My parent's generation is being called "The Greatest Generation (TGG)," also known as the G.I. Generation. To be honest, most of the honors being bestowed on that generation comes from themselves. A MSM hack, Tom Brokow, is printing money catering to the egos and self-delusions of the generation born around 1910-30. His credibility is, at best, suspect. Brokow, having been born in 1940, is probably jealous because he's a member of the in-between generation -- the coolest of which were Beatniks and dullest and more numerous became IBM executives and MSM talking heads-- that is neither Boomer or TGG.

Members of the TGG would include famous characters like Joe McCarthy, John Wayne, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsberg, Billy Graham, Walter Cronkite, Howard Zinn, and Johnny Carson. TGG World Leaders would be from the terms of US Presidents Ike Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronny Reagan, and George Bush I.

Having offered a respectable portion of the best and most courageous of their generation to fight on all sides of WWiI, TGG made some awful sacrifices. The US members of TGG take a lot of credit for having been on "the right side" of a "good war." If being on the right side makes for greatness, their German and Japanese peers must be "the worst generation." Using that weird criteria for greatness, the Boomer Generation and the X-Gen'ers rank pretty low, having failed miserably at their "bad wars." It should be noted that all of those "bad wars" were initiated by TGG members, except for the most recent Iraq screw up which was handed down to a loser Boomer by his TGG father and a bunch of Nixon political failures.

To their credit, it would be worth noting that 1960's Boomers stopped an illegal, immoral war begun by TGG'ers. TGG voted to continue fighting in Vietnam, long after the terrible cost to both the US reputation and economy and the incredible Vietnamese cost were obvious to their children. The social, economic, and personal cost of opposing that TGG war has never been considered by the MSM hacks (particularly, that suck-up Brokow) and I don't believe Vietnam or Joe McCarthy appears to be costing the TGG'ers much credibility. The proud direct descendants of TGG among my own and my children's generations are characters like Bill O'Reilly, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Dick Cheney, and the Republican working class and the cast and crowd of conservative spokespersons. If those folks impress you, I can understand why you would call the G.I. Generation "TGG." You are clearly often asking yourself, "What would TGG do?" And answering that question with their usual behavior.

On a recent trip to North Dakota's historic monuments and museums, I came upon a diary of a young U.S. Army calvary private and, later, I found myself among the gravestones of boys who had died "in the service of their country" in that lonely, disconnected place. There were more than 200 graves in that yard, many marked with fake headboards that were inscribed with the entry made in the fort's log that recorded the fatality number, victim's name, office, date of death, and cause of death. The real headstones were small rocks with a number carved into the face. Almost 100 years ago, the "important" bodies were moved to a military graveyard when the fort was decommissioned. Everyone else stayed comfortable in their eternity on that North Dakota hillside. Obviously, most of the causes of death are no different in Iraq today than they were in North Dakota 120 years ago. The causes of the causes aren't much different, either.

In 1870, a collection of ruling class assholes wanted to have the taxpayer pay for a corporately-owned railroad that ran coast-to-coast. First, the people who lived in the way of that railroad had to be disposed of, so young men were recruited to "serve their country" in outposts like Fort Ransom, Fort Lewis and Clark, and others all over the west. It was an overwhelming invading force and the locals (Native Americans) were forced into living lives underground as "terrorists" opposing the invaders with their primitive tactics and ineffective weapons for decades. The "good guys" won, because history tells us the good guys always win, having absolute control of the recording of history. The bad guys vanished into reservations, the nation's manufacturing and construction work force, and to inner cities.

Outside of the odd designation of the "good war," the overwhelming numbers of generations in US history have been bad generations involved in bad wars. Almost without skip, each generation creates a greed-inspired war for which young men and innocents will fight and die. The size and the good or badness of the war seems to me to be insignificant. It appears to me that to be among the class of generations that can be called "great," a generation either has to have skipped the cycle of sending children to war altogether or to have gone to war and done everything possible to keep the next generation from dying the same pointless way.

Brokow's TGG doesn't fill that bill at all, having fought a war and having sent its children to several even dumber wars. There are certainly many truly great people in TGG: men who wouldn't fight and went to jail for their beliefs; parents who fought against having their children sent off to wars; men who once fought and later refused to believe politicians and profiteers who argued that wars are "easy." These great people spoke the truth regardless of how unpopular it was at the time. Every generation has members of that caliber. The real mark of a generation, though, is how its majority acts and speaks.

Nixon's "Silent Majority" was composed of TGG. TGG spawned and empowered Joe McCarthy and Nixon and Ronny Reagan. TGG spent more of its life in power in fear, rather than acting from courage. Sure, they'd suffered the most recent depression and one of the world's most vicious wars, but many of TGG were so timid that they consistently gravitated to conservative, dangerous white men. I fail to see the greatness in that attitude.

All of the poor qualities endemic to Boomers were first seen in TGG. TGG was the first US generation to be overwhelming unconcerned that their children would live less safe, less healthy, and less secure lives than previous generations. TGG burned up resources as if tomorrow was unlikely. TGG went through the world's supply of everything from good farming land to oil with abandon and disregard. They passed that attribute on to their offspring who most admire that careless past (see Dick Cheney and others above). TGG shipped jobs and industries overseas so that they wouldn't have to bother learning difficult concepts such as leadership and creativity. TGG tossed off every useful activity the government and academia could be involved in to create the largest, most expensive, most dangerous military and military-industrial complex in the history of the world. They vote regularly and they voted conservatively.
If the G.I. Generation is great by any standard, they are great spenders of wealth and resources. A man who makes his living selling toothpaste and snake oil may see that as greatness, but I am less convinced. I don't think much of Tom Brokow and I'm disappointed in The Greatest Generation. They haven't left us much to work with and they have left a horde of messes for future generations to clean up.

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