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Greatest Generation, My Ass...

Sometimes, people say or write stupid things. Ronald Reagan is a particularly egregious example and I could quote many idiotic things that he said. However, the single-most idiotic thing that he ever said (please do not argue with me here, because this quote is not only stupid, it has created the most long-lasting damage to our nation) is this: “Government is not the solution; government is the problem”. I don't think that even that the “Great Communicator” realized the effects of that particular quote when he read it from the teleprompter. Yet there are many other jerks who have inflicted a lot of damage.

Tom Brokow wrote a book. He was looking for a catchy title. Naw, he was looking to make a buttload of money. He did. He chose for his title, “The Greatest Generation”. Sounds harmless, no? I disagree. Because it caught on. I have heard this meme a lot and every time I do, I just want to scream and/or barf.

The World War Two generation did accomplish much. The threat to the entire world was real and they did conquer that. In no way do I wish to minimize their accomplishments. What they did was astonishing. All of them. Hell, I cannot even imagine the courage of African Americans fighting for rights that they did not possess, but hoped that their children might. Or Japanese Americans stripped of all rights, impoverished by their government, their entire families imprisoned in concentration camps, fighting to prove that they were actually Americans. But the greatest generation? With Jim Crow, rampant misogyny, homophobia, religious bigotry, etc..?

All generations are the products of their time. It is difficult to be too far outside the mainstream. I know that. So let us not over-glorify or idealize a time period or the residents thereof and let us not vilify subsequent generations. I am a Baby Boomer. It is not my fault. I did not ask for it, I just was born. Oh, well. I have seen Baby Boomers demonized a lot, most of it deservedly.  But a lot of good things happened with our involvement (if not leadership, most of which was from the slightly older, but not combat-ready in the early forties, generation). Civil rights advanced. Women's rights. But we were not the greatest generation. Hell, no. But we were freer and more educated than our parents. We thank them for that. And we were more tolerant and more liberal (in the broad sense of the term).

Some people like to condemn the children of boomers. They were spoiled brats, the “Me” generation. They turned out way, way better than we did. They had a head start, though...

The Millennials... how much have we all read about them? How self-centered and all else they are. Wrong again. Better than us. Thank God. Way, way better. And better by far than anything that has come before.  Ever.

The upcoming generation? Wow. They are really great. They are tech savvy, well-educated, more diverse and, and... just incredible! But are they the greatest generation? Yep, so far, but they are not the greatest generation. The greatest generation is the next one. Always. If we lose sight of that, we lose everything. The greatest generation is ALWAYS the next one.

That is why I am a liberal, and why Tom Brokaw is a douchebag.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Yeah, pretty much (8+ / 0-)
    Tom Brokaw is a douchebag.
  •  If what made them great was their response to` (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Pearl Harbor,

    and if FDR goaded the Japanese into attacking Pearl Harbor,

    then that would make FDR the Greatest President for an additional reason.

    Generations in a particular country seem to be defined by their challenges, which appeared to be greatly simplified by the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Without it, would the US's "greatest generation" have done anything about the genocide and other horrors of Nazi Germany, Imperial Japan, and/or colonial European powers? Would they (including FDR) even have pulled themselves out of the Great Depression of the 1930s?

  •  When I was young, (10+ / 0-)

    I thought most old people dumbasses. Then I got old, and found out that I was absolutely right. Most old people are dumbasses.

    We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

    by PowWowPollock on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 02:31:02 AM PST

  •  I wouldn't worry about what (0+ / 0-)

    a generation calls itself. I can't wait to find out what millennial call previous generations in a few decades.

    "...So the world might be mended"

    by Cofcos on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 03:56:24 AM PST

  •  Before the war (3+ / 0-)

    I just finished reading Those Angry Days: Roosevelt, Lindbergh, and America's Fight Over World War II, 1939-1941.

    Cricky!!! Roosevelt was a dithering finger to the wind "leader". The interventionists and isolationists went at it hammer and tong and he manly stayed on the sidelines waiting for an event that would finally present an opportunity to enter the war against Germany. Even though public opinion shifted towards more aide for England and even entering the war, he was scared of the right wing nut jobs of the day.

    And Lindbergh was a total fool.

    I highly recommend it.

    "If you pour some music on whatever's wrong, it'll sure help out." Levon Helm

    by BOHICA on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 04:39:18 AM PST

  •  Nice first diary, paulex. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    P Carey, paulex, chemborg, NancyWH, quill

    Let's have some more...or the douchebags win.

  •  Saved the world from the most evil menace (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rduran, dallasdunlap

    in the history of the earth, and 400,000 gave their lives to do it. Take a trip to Normandy dude. A thousand years from now they'll still be recognized as the greatest generation, because they were.

    •  I have been to Normandy, dude. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NancyWH, quill

      And your count is way, way off.  There were over six million killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust.  

      But this is not a contest.  

      And I still believe that the next generation is the greatest, always.  I stand by what I said, and I believe it with all my heart.  

      "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

      by paulex on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:09:16 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Probably eleven or twelve million were killed (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        P Carey, quill, JeffW

        in the Holocaust - if by Holocaust you are referring to the Nazi extermination system. Six million is the ballpark figure for the number of Jews killed, but they weren't the only victims. The 400,000 number cited by Slipper is the number of American deaths (418,000) in the war.
           Of course Americans were reluctant to get involved in World War Two. We had every chance of losing. Look at the casualties sustained by other countries in the war. The result seems inevitable now, but at that time there was every possibility that American cities could be the targets of massive bombing campaigns, or that we could have lost so much of our fleet that we'd have to sue for peace, or that our great armies might be defeated and slaughtered.
          As for emore's question as to whether the US would have pulled itself out of the Great Depression absent Pearl Harbor: The Depression was definitively over by 1940.

  •  Bad thinking. Really, really, really, really, bad. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, dallasdunlap, JeffW, gsenski

    Please don't argue with me. I knew many of the people who made up the Depression Generation, which became the WWII generation, and which saved the world so people of subsequent, not-so-great generations could sit in their robes in the comfort of their homes and mutter nonsense into their computers instead of their mugs of coffee.

    Talk about ungrateful....

    Might and Right are always fighting, in our youth it seems exciting. Right is always nearly winning, Might can hardly keep from grinning. -- Clarence Day

    by hestal on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 04:56:03 AM PST

    •  No. It Was Their Parents Who Made Life Comfortable (8+ / 0-)

      It was their parents and grandparents who built the New Deal when they were children. It was their parents who ran WW2, it was their parents who created the GI Bill for their "Greatest" children to go to college on the cheap and buy houses, it was their parents who reached out to fallen allies and enemies alike and ran the Marshall Plan and reconstruction in Asia.

      The Greatest Generation ran the Vietnam War and launched the Reagan Revolution to undo everything their parents had created.

      The true Greatest Generation has never even been identified much less thanked.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:06:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Congrats on your first diary. I don't have an (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gooserock, RiveroftheWest

    opinion on Tom Brokaw, but I do believe that "The Greatest Generation" was a label well deserved. I think I understand your position on things such as civil rights, women's rights, Jim Crow, Japanese internment, etc.

    Yet, here is a generation (my father's) that was born of depression, thrust into a world war following an attack on their country by a foreign nation, and then took part in some of the most drastic social changes our nation had seen since the Civil War.

    I won't argue whether they were the greatest generation--I am sort of partial to mine as the greatest ;-). But I do know that my parents, both of whom served in the war, fought hard to end segregation, fought hard for women's rights, and fought hard to teach their children respect for human rights. And through it all they wore a certain humility that I sometimes miss in my and later generations.

    Thanks for the thoughtful diary. I look forward to reading more.

    •  Brokaw Is a Tweener, Last Pre-Pill Throwbacks (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      P Carey, ypochris, NancyWH, quill

      who was contrasting his elders the Greatest with his half successors The Worst Generation that rejected war and included uppity women and brown people.

      Brokaw's half generation is the Tea Party.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:08:37 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well put. For me, the Tea Party is a (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NancyWH, JeffW, RiveroftheWest

        mystery. I know plenty of people in their 70s and they are--almost entirely--as conservative as they come. Yet the only person I know that is a Tea Party believer is a woman who was like a second mother to me as a child. She has evolved into a sort of robotic nut when it comes to political views--the sort of stuff that comes out of her mouth routinely floors me. How did that even happen?  Her husband (an engineer and a dyed in the wool conservative) thinks the Tea Party approach simplistic, dangerous, and funny.

        Go figure.

    •  Your parents sound wonderful... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      P Carey, NancyWH, RiveroftheWest

      ...and I actually envy you for that. Although, my folks were pretty damned good in their own way, too.  But they were not WWII generation;  they were younger than that. My grandparents were of that generation, and I really, really do understand what you are saying, as well as the others who disagree with me.

      I can only repeat, I believe that the next generation is the greatest.  I believe that with all my heart.  But it will not end there, because they will have children, who will have children, and each generation will be greater than the previous, or this nation has failed.

      Besides, if we have a "greatest generation", doesn't that mean that we should just give up?  I mean, our best days are behind us, right?

      "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

      by paulex on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:46:05 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Tolerance was indeed more prevelant. Today less. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    P Carey, NancyWH

    "Laws alone can not secure freedom of expression; in order that every man present his views without penalty there must be spirit of tolerance in the entire population.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    "It's an universal law-- intolerance is the first sign of an inadequate education. An ill-educated person behaves with arrogant impatience, whereas truly profound education breeds humility.”
    ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    "Don't be in a hurry to condemn because he doesn't do what you do or think as you think or as fast. There was a time when you didn't know what you know today.”
    ― Malcolm X

    “Well, when the president does it, that means it is not illegal.” Richard Nixon, 1977.

    by Kvetchnrelease on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:25:12 AM PST

    •  Wow. Really? (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paulex, RiveroftheWest

      Tolerance to do what?

       Allow African-Americans to sit anywhere they wish to sit on a bus?  Or to drink from any public water fountain they encounter?    NOPE.

      Allow gay couples to come out and tell the world how they feel about each other?  Or to get married?  Or to be legally recognized in any way, shape or form to protect survivor rights and benefits?   NOPE.

      On and on the list goes.  If there is one thing that wasn't more prevalent "back in the day" than it is today, it was TOLERANCE of the "other."  

  •  Oh, come on! The Great Depression, WWII (0+ / 0-)

    generation had to shoulder more responsibility and put up with more hardship than any other American generation except (maybe) the generation that fought the Civil War.
       This was the generation that brought us the Civil Rights Movement. It was the generation that landed on the moon.
       The unfortunate interned Japanese Americans? A misstep in the scheme of things. But millions of their fellow Americans were drafted and shipped off to war and endured incredible hardships. Where would you rather be? In a safe internment camp where you can get inside out of the rain and you get three meals a day, or in a ditch at Anzio, with artillery raining down on you? Or how about catching a nap on the deck of a ship while waiting to jump into a landing craft, knowing that three out of four of the people on the LC will be killed or wounded in that first wave?
      The Japanese Americans were subjected to injustice, but the deal they got was a lot better than many other Americans got.

      It's dumb to generalize about whole generations. But it was the "Greatest Generation" that gave us Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and LBJ. The Boomers brought us Reagan and Bush. It's the Boomers who brought us "greed is good" and "yuppies."
       Millennials? Too soon to tell.  In the 60s it looked like the baby boom generation was going to usher in a new America. What we got instead was stultification and reaction.

    •  Um... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Are you serious?  Really?

      Okay, I'll play along:

      It's dumb to generalize about whole generations. But it was the "Greatest Generation"

      I rest my case...

      And by the way, why are some people taking my examples of Japanese internment, etc., as an indictment of WWII America?  Read my damned post! I used it as an example of extreme courage! Or do you not think that the fighting Japanese Americans were courageous? Or African Americans, who were most often given either the most menial or dangerous jobs? I used the most extreme examples of courage that I could think of, right off the top of my head. Next time I will endeavor to come up with more white folks to avoid offending anyone's sensibilities.  

      That said, Japanese internment and the treatment of African Americans was incredibly unjust.  That was simply not the point of my diary, however.  If you would read it, you would discover that.

      "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

      by paulex on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 07:13:51 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Unfortunate? A misstep? You really believe (0+ / 0-)

      that most of those interned wouldn't have rather been fighting for their country or working alongside their former neighbors? I knew some of those people, went to school with their children. They lost their farms and their businesses because of irrational fear. There was great courage and patriotism in that era; there were shameful episodes too and we shouldn't deny it..

  •  I must say, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    as a 60 YO, I have had my own personal doubts about this "greatest generation" meme as well.   Feeds too well into the lip service we give the military, while playing games with their health care, pensions, etc.  I don't understand why we don't have national holidays for medical workers and teachers, like we do for vets and the war dead.  They, too, have sacrificed much for the betterment of the country.  I guess you have to "go big" to con people into picking up a gun for Big Business, er, I meant Freedum!  Welcome to DK.  You sparked a great conversation!  

    "The light which puts out our sight is darkness to us." Thoreau

    by NancyWH on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 08:04:04 AM PST

  •  Maybe it really is backwards (0+ / 0-)

    Perhaps, though, there isn't really a contradiction here.  Each generation was the "greatest," and can be considered the "greatest" in its own right because of what they have accomplished.  Self-aggrandizing labels are just that, labels that really don't mean anything and are ultimately of little consequence.  In other words, just because Brokaw calls that generation the "greatest" means exactly what in the scheme of things?  

    Now we have hindsight and can conclude that the "greatest" generation isn't really that great, because they are on the whole more homophobic, racist, make up the largest part of the bizarre tea party movement, are more cranky about "Obamacare" than the average American, seem to be for the most part cranky, ornery and contrarian.  

    What we have to ask, however, is whether a formerly "greatest" generation becomes a later era's "worst" generation by virtue of aging themselves into becoming "cranky curmudgeons," a phrase all too familiar to us who have seen our parents or grandparents age from vibrant, often brilliant, people into disagreeable, child-like "stomp on the ground" contrarians.   In other words, if you contend that every new generation is the "greatest" for humanity to survive you also have to keep an eye on the boomerang effect and the unraveling of said generations "good deeds" by their own selves later in life.

    If I had a quarter for every 65 and older person telling me that they "used to be liberals but then woke up" I would be rich today, so perhaps there is a constant recycling of "greatest" to "worst" generation (from our perspective) that is inevitable, just part of the human condition.  

    •  Yes, there may be some truth to what you say... (0+ / 0-)

      But really, when I say that the next generation is always the greatest, there is an implicit aspirational quality there.  I kinda thought that was obvious, like global warming or evolution, or other stuff that should be self-evident.  

      Trying to do the best for the next generation, is that not the very definition of a progressive?  I have always thought so.  

      "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

      by paulex on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 08:52:09 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You are basically implying that every next (0+ / 0-)

        generation is made up of progressives (or mostly so.)  However, if you look at what has happened over the years, idealistic young people are slowly turning cynical as they age and then arrive at the cranky stage I described above.  On balance that has given us a 50-50 society (if you measure ideology in party favoritism.)     We might be turning the corner, slowly, to a 55-45 society, so long-term you might be right (from a progressive's point of view) but it has been a long, long road with many ups, but also many downs.  

    •  But wait (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Someone who went to combat in WWII, at 18 in 1944, would be 88 today. I don't think octogenarians make up the bulk of the Tea Party. It's the Boomers that make up the Tea Party.

  •  I have no idea which generation is, was, or will (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bluehammer, swampyankee, edrie

    be the "greatest" as judged by those of the future.  I do know a few things:
    1)  There are assholes in every generation, and if we elect them to high office we ordinary folks are going to get screwed.   2)  Whatever you choose to think of the generation that fought WWII, you can thank them that you're not speaking German or Japanese and working in a slave labor camp waiting to be tossed into an oven or pit grave after your gold-fillings are extracted.  3)  Since Vietnam every generation following has been content with a "volunteer army" because it meant "they" could choose not to put their own behinds on the line.  Forgotten, apparently, is the fact that "citizen soldiers" and their families have a powerful voice.  The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would be long over by now if everyone was being affected and was howling at Congress.  

    Finally, "your ass" needs to learn a little respect.   You may have been to Normandy and perhaps been awed by it's solemnity and overwhelming symbol of sacrifice.   Think what it's like to see it and visualize the fields of fire and to see it having felt the fear those men felt.  Never, in the history of the world, have so many common men faced such ferocity and kept moving, as did the men of that generation...there and in Africa and the Pacific.  It's not a throw-away...yeah, yeah, so what...line.

    Who cares if they're the greatest.  They are worthy.  I can think of some who aren't.          

    The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Dante Alighieri

    by Persiflage on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 08:55:55 AM PST

    •  Please read this. (0+ / 0-)

      Here is a direct quote from my diary.  

      The threat to the entire world was real and they did conquer that. In no way do I wish to minimize their accomplishments. What they did was astonishing.
      Perhaps you could point out anything specific that I said that was disrespectful, anywhere in my diary.  I never attacked anyone, just the meme of a "greatest generation".

      "Your ass" needs to learn to read.  

      And you have no idea of my history or circumstances.

      "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

      by paulex on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 09:18:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I read and comprehend quite well, thank you. (0+ / 0-)

        I believe is was your ass that was part of the title of your diary, and that was disrespectful.  Would you care to elaborate on your "history and circumstance" so we can see from whence your views have evolved?  

        The darkest places in hell are reserved for those who maintain their neutrality in times of moral crisis. - Dante Alighieri

        by Persiflage on Sat Feb 08, 2014 at 05:10:04 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  To whom was it disrespectful? (0+ / 0-)

          The "my ass" referred to the EXPRESSION "The Greatest Generation", not to any people at all! The MEME! I disagree with the meme and stated my reasons quite clearly. Again, I believe that the content of the diary made that quite clear. You may disagree with me on that, but I simply cannot understand how one can be disrespectful to an expression or meme.  

          As for my personal history or circumstances, none of your damned business.  I certainly do not have to justify myself to you.

          Again, I stand by what I wrote and I think it is fairly clear.  

          "No matter how cynical I get, I just can't keep up." --Lily Tomlin

          by paulex on Mon Feb 10, 2014 at 07:56:32 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  the quote is incomplete (0+ / 0-)

    "In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem".

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