In his bestselling book, The Greatest Generation, Tom Brokaw wrote about the generation of Americans that, first and foremost, saved the world from the Nazis. If they hadn’t accomplished that, the world would be a very different place today. The sacrifices they made are unthinkable in today’s world. I recall a friend coming back from a 6-month tour in Iraq, and while I agree they are to be lauded for their service, soldiers in World War II spent four years in fox holes, with much less of the conveniences our servicemen have today.
But they did even more than that. When they got home and resumed their lives, they accomplished great things. They used the GI Bill to become the best-educated generation the world had seen up to that point. They invented new technologies, such air conditioners, television broadcasting, affordable personal cars, hi-fi and stereo, satellite communications, fast-food drive-ins, shopping malls, inexpensive mass-produced clothing, plastics, nuclear energy and automatic transmissions. And how about the transistor, the early computers, carbon dating, organ transplants and discovering DNA? As well as a space program that in a short time went to the moon.
They built a national highway system, massive bridges and tunnels, and wonders of the world such as the Hoover Dam. As Rachel Maddow states in a one of her TV spots, our parents and grandparents left us a great infrastructure. It helped enable the United States to become a greatest power the world has ever seen, with a great economic boom that raised our standard of living to the highest in the world. And they managed to do it all with low taxes, and miniscule Federal deficits; in fact, there were occasional surpluses.
Granted, there were a lot of things that were far from perfect, but they tackled those issues and did things like pass civil rights legislation and voting rights acts to try and address things that were incongruous with what America stood for. And we would learn the lesson of the misguided military excursion in Vietnam and not undertake those kinds of interventions in the future.
Then came the next generation… one that many of us belong to, or at least our older brothers and sisters. The “baby boomers.” Those of us in the 40 to 60 year-old range. It started out in the ‘60s and ‘70s with great hope and promise. Peace and love was the battle cry, and a goal that we would do away with all the worst of what existed in the world. We were past the time of senseless prejudices, and with all the great economic power and technology, we could create a new world that alleviated hunger and hate. In the words of John Lennon, “All You Need Is Love.”
And what has this generation, which received more resources and opportunities from its predecessor than any generation in history done with this great opportunity? We have squandered it. Not in a small way, but in such a massive way that it boggles the mind.
We have crumbling bridges and roads, and no money to fix them. We have massive deficits, yet the money has been wasted so much we have nothing to show for it. We have wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have lasted for years with no victory in site, and we haven’t even paid for them. We have gone from the best-educated people in the history of the world to having our youth lag behind much of the world.
We’ve gone from having the best medical care in history to a system that is the most expensive in the world, yet our life expectancy, among other indicators, ranks well below even some developing countries.
We have leaders in our financial sector that are more interested in short term quarterly profits than long term, sustainable growth, which led to one of the greatest meltdowns in history. And when the government tried to bail them out, they took the money and used it for bonuses rather than using it to reinvigorate the economy. And we have politicians that responded by giving them more money.
We have politicians that want to dismantle programs such as Medicare and Social Security which led to eliminating much of the problem of our elderly ending up in poverty. We have politicians that are more interested in serving their wealthy donors, and giving them tax cuts and loopholes, than trying to keep America fair and just.
What are we leaving to the generation that follows us? As of this writing, your share of America’s debt is $46,138.27. And it goes up by $50 a day. Just how is it that a previous generation could accomplish so much, and leave us so much, and actually pay for it all, yet we are leaving a failing nation that needs so much done, along with a huge debt to pay off?
We have failed our predecessors. And it gets worse every day. Until we realize we are all in this together, and we have to sacrifice and not be so self-centered and greedy, we will continue to send America down the path to oblivion. This great country is doomed if we don’t get it together. We should be ashamed of what we’ve done.
We actually had a chance to turn things around after the 9/11 attacks, when the nation seemed to come together, but President Bush blew it when he decided to fight two wars without paying for them, and without asking Americans to sacrifice for the effort, not only financially, but by contributing personally in other ways, be it working toward the war effort or joining in directly. In World War II, everyone contributed in some way, and it brought us together. We needed to do that again.
It’s not too late, but we don’t have any leaders, in Congress or the White House, that can turn the tide. President Obama talked about change, but he has failed to bring it about. We need to find some new leaders who can bring us together and create an atmosphere of unity, and desire for accomplishment. And we need to find them fast.