My step-father is one of those guys who knows a whole lot about a whole lot but has never been to college. He’s a retired sheet-metal worker who spent two tours in Vietnam as a Seabee and raised five kids, with an assist on two more. He is as optimistic as he can get after all the shit he has seen.
He understands that Barack Obama is our last, best chance to start delivering on the founding documents, which explains why Colorado is trending blue these days.
He is also more than a little pessimistic. He has seen his generation squander and lay waste the country they were given to protect. He has seen the middle class systematically squeezed as pensions were raided and jobs shipped overseas. He has lived with the pain of injuries suffered while fighting OUR country’s war in Vietnam, pain that we failed to fix when he managed to make it home alive.
He has seen every promise broken by our government that it has ever made. Worst of all, he has seen the change in our government as his generation inherited the mantle of power from the World War II generation and promptly turned it over to corporate America, a trend that started with Nixon’s election in 1968. He has had a front-row seat for this takeover.
Yet he remains hopeful because of the next generations coming up – Generation Jones, Generation X & Y, Millennials – are poised to move into positions of greater responsibility and have been challenged to get involved by a charismatic and transformational leader.
That is why he is still hopeful.
As we had this conversation the day before the most recent primary (he predicted a loss for Obama, but hoped it would be small) I realized that the only reason we are even in a position to make this country work for all people is because of the lessons learned at the knee of the Baby Boomer generation. Many of us have Boomers for parents. Many of us were raised on protest songs and stories about a more turbulent time. A time when rights were being fought for while a peaceful center had been found as well. We were raised on dreams about a City on a Hill, of a utopia that can exist if we all care enough to make it happen.
We were taught that we could create reality, but to never trust the government. Everything we see today shows us they are right – we can create reality and the government can’t be trusted.
This was a nice line of thought for me, because the Boomer generation has also been the one that hastened our destruction and allowed (in fact propelled) our government to evolve into a fascist state, corporate-controlled and bottom-line focused. That is also their legacy. A mountain of debt and a plan for the future that has no strategy. Tactics that concentrate at the ground beneath our feet instead of goals seven generations out. That is their legacy as well.
They created a reality that is demonstrably monstrous.
I wonder what my generation’s legacy will be. So far Generation X has been trying to do good by most people. We also have our ruthless capitalists that are squeezing every last dime from whatever advantages they can exploit. I think it is a smaller percentage in Gen Y, my little brother’s generation. They are starting to think in terms of ecological and sociological capitalism – doing well by doing good, for profit and for benefit.
This sustainability trend is picking up steam across the current generations.
Our defects, as a species, seem to be fixing themselves quicker than they can kill us. Just when we couldn’t wait another moment for a solution, we have back-to-back-to-back generations who are more capable and willing than ever before to take on the challenge. If we can continue to evolve at the rate we have seen recently, it is hard for me to not hope that we can in fact achieve all those pretty words that Thomas Jefferson used to define our nation in the Declaration of Independence, before the compromises of his day turned black Americans into 3/5 of a human being.
At the end of the day, the Boomer legacy is one of starting us down a path toward change. They saw an opportunity to turn our country into something drastically better than what they would be given by their parents. In large part, they have been very successful. The job hasn’t been completed because it was always a multi generational effort to get over 400 years of national disgrace and a bloody past.
I guess all I have to add is: Thanks!