“Nothing was more evident at the recent 2005 White House Conference on Aging than the palpable greed of seniors. Perhaps they see it as getting even with their Baby Boomer kids for how we aggravated them in the 1960s and ‘70s.”(Washington Times 2005)
Adding insult to injury, that generation decided they didn’t want to be called old people; they wanted to be senior citizens. By inference, then, everyone else is a junior citizen. Few people like to spend their lives being “junior” in anything, especially if they have worked and struggled like everyone else on the planet.
It would be news to the WWII Generation, not long on making the fine distinction between honesty and appearance, but accolades cannot be demanded; they can only be deserved.
The Greatest? Only Muhammad Ali in recent history
Whenever a person claims greatness for herself, isn’t there a justified hint of suspicion that they are, in fact, not the greatest? Muhammad Ali claimed to be the greatest, though, and he really was in the single thing he claimed to be the greatest in. Perhaps that’s what confused people on that issue. But it needn’t have. He knew himself, and realized not only that he had the talent, but also the will to be great.
In the case of the Greatest Generation, they have simply appropriated a title that is too broad, in fact, to be meaningful, but makes them feel good while, by contrast and inference, making everyone else feel bad. It is bogus a priori. They did not achieve it, but were granted it by someone who was busy plowing his own field of fame and fortune and, if truth be told, might be considered to have used that generation as fodder for his own mill.
Does Brokaw think the Founding Fathers are chopped liver?
Does Brokaw really believe they are the single greatest generation in history? If he does, he didn’t even deserve to be a talking head, being ignorant of the American generation that wrote a new political book for mankind, the Founding Fathers. Being ignorant of the artist/scientists of Venice during the Renaissance who opened up the universe for us, often at the cost of their lives. In fact, there is no single greatest generation in history, American or other.
But, just in case you are not yet convinced that the so-called Greatest Generation was actually rather ordinary when it wasn’t being foolhardy or reckless, here re some cogent questions to ask regarding the true greatness of the Greatest Generation, raised at one time or another in many blogs, but perhaps notably on the TwelveAngryMen blog:
· Whatever your opinion of the reasons for the Vietnam War, its management was execrable. Why, since Boomers were young adults or children at the time is the Boomer generation blamed for it? The decision makers, who are properly to blame, were the World War II generation.
· Who was in charge during the 1970s when stagflation was destroying jobs and lives, and during the next decade? Not the Boomers.
· Who presided over the sudden deification of the old over the young during the 1960s and 1970s, leading to the giant expenditures for and shortfalls in “entitlement programs” such as Social Security?
· Whose programs gutted inner cities, leaving rat playgrounds where nice little neighborhoods had once been, or creating Soviet-style high rises as replacements for human-scale houses and apartment blocks? (TwelveAngryMen blog 2005)
It is difficult to credit how a generation that truly was the greatest at anything could be so completely responsible for the despicable juggernauts above.
Clearly, they can’t claim greatness based on these blunders. But what about the war itself, the war that helped Brokaw create the undeserved cache? Were they the greatest then?
The “Greatest” were more like World War II duds than Scuds
A brothersjudd review of Brokaw’s book indicates that the answer is resoundingly no. Among other things, the review asks:
· How difficult a task was it to win WWII? With Japan failing miserably in its desperate gamble at Pearl Harbor and the German offensive grinding to a halt in Russia, was there any way that we could have failed to win the war or wasn’t this merely a mopping up operation, however costly?
· Did this generation’s responsibilities cease on V-J Day? Besides the question of the Soviet Union, where was this generation during the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, etc? Were they responsible for these failures or merely unsupportive of our soldiers during them?
· Do the difficulties of the Depression and service in WWII really justify the massive transfer of payments that this generation has secured to themselves from future generations? Social Security, Medicare, etc. are justly called entitlements; why is this generation the one in our history that felt entitled to so much in exchange for their service to the nation?
· Do they bear no responsibility for the enormous deficits that were rung up throughout their lifetimes, in order to pay for the thorough Social Safety Net they demanded? Deficits, mind you, which our generation will be the one to pay off over the next twenty or thirty years.”(CSPAN booknotes 2009)
The brothersjudd website does misappropriate some responsibility, however. Those who would debunk the Greatest Generation myth ask:
· If there really was a horrible darkness falling on Europe and this generation fought it out of a sense of duty, why did they stay out of the fight for a full two years, until the Japanese attacked us?, and,
· Why did they declare war only on Japan at that point, waiting until Hitler declared war on us to return the favor?”(CSPAN booknotes 2009)
WWII Generation members also claim that their horrific experiences during World War II entitle them to the appellation the Greatest Generation. Really? They saw a fraction of the battle time experienced by Vietnamese troops; WWII troops saw an average of 40 days of battle spread over four years, while US troops in Vietnam saw 240 days EVERY year. (McCaffrey 1993)
The Vietnam Helicopter Flight Crew Network website noted that, “One out of every 10 Americans who served in Vietnam was a casualty. 58,169 were killed and 304,000 wounded out of 2.59 million who served. Although the percent who died is similar to other wars, amputations or crippling wounds were 300 percent higher than in World War II. 75,000 Vietnam veterans are severely disabled.” (VHFCN 2009)
Brokaw doesn’t even have greater amounts or greater depth of service on which to base his unreasoned and unreasonable accolades.
WWII vets dodged the draft in much greater percentages than Vietnam vets
Nor will bravery or patriotism put the WWII vets over the top as compared to Vietnam vets. In a speech in Washington DC in 1986, Gen. William C. Westmoreland noted that 2/3 of those who served in Vietnam were volunteers, whereas 2/3 of those who served in WWII were drafted. Adding to the debunking of the WWII patriotism myth, McCaffrey noted that during Vietnam, many volunteered for the draft, so that even some of the nominal draftees were in fact volunteers. (Westmoreland 1986)
The brothersjudd author is guilty with those two questions, however, of doing precisely what he accuses the WWII generation of doing to the Baby Boom. The WWII generation was not responsible for staying out of WWII: that was THEIR fathers’ decision. They are guilty of much, but not of that.
The brothersjudd website author also notes that the Baby Boom might be the most coddled generation ever to walk the earth, but also asks, who raised them? It is highly likely, however, that the Baby Boom is not nearly as spoiled as the World War II generation would paint them…anymore than Baby Boomer soldiers were as cowardly as they were painted by the World War II generation; just the opposite considering they served more days under worse conditions than any WWII vet did.
Besides that, the Baby Boom is taking care of its parents, both via the transfer payments that are Social Security and Medicare, and by doing without the “grandpa” assistance their own parents enjoyed while raising their kids―because the Baby Boom’s kids’ grandpas are off in Sun City, enjoying their locked-in transfer payments, i.e., Social Security, and fully vested pensions. Meanwhile, the Boomers worry about how they will ever retire, what with the enormous demands on their resources, including:
· The sums going out for transfer payments such as Social Security and Medicare
· Supplemental help so their WWII Generation parents need never miss a vacation
· Costs, both direct and indirect, for the care of parents unable to care for themselves
· Education for their own children, and
· Recouping the 40 percent of what little they had managed to save for retirement that was wiped out by the Bush recession.
Add to all that the fact that the WWII Generation was the very last one to get defined benefit retirement plans, and it’s a miracle Boomers haven’t once again manned the ramparts and demanded change, as they so effectively did during the Vietnam War.
As for Brokaw’s chosen few: Are they the Greatest Generation? Hardly. The term Greediest comes immediately to mind.