Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Pessimistic Generation?

First off, I would like to wish a very happy birthday to my most excellent Mom! I tried calling earlier today and they must be gallivanting around. I swear, they have a busier social life than Ken and I do. I hope to talk to her later today. Love you lots, Mom!

Rosie the Riveter I've written before about how my family has always talked politics, and an interest in such matters was always encouraged. During the election, I talked with my folks about things that were happening, especially with my Mom, but it became increasingly clear that Dad and I were on opposite sides of the court. After the election, we didn't talk much about it, but Dad would drop little hints about becoming a "socialist" country, although he said that although he doesn't like the President's policies, he (Obama) is his commander-in-chief and he will respect him as such.

A while back, Dad and I were talking on the phone, and what was it that came up...oh, it was health care, surprise, surprise. We got to talking, and things became heated. Of course, I love my Dad, and I know he loves me, but as you all know, I am quite passionate about the subject of health care reform. We eventually agreed to disagree, but I felt bad that the conversation had gotten beyond the normal bounds of civil discussion. (I'm sure plenty of people would have heard this and thought, "What? You think that's bad? You should hear my family!" But we're an easygoing bunch, and even just raising one's voice is beyond the norm for us.) Later that evening, I called up and apologized, and Dad said it's okay, honey, and we exchanged "love yous." A week later, I was talking with Mom, and she put Dad on the phone saying that he wanted to say something to me. He apologized to me, saying that he felt bad that I felt bad, and doggone it if I'm not choking myself up here! Anyhoo, bottom line is we're cool as cucumbers, we know that nothing can ever come between us...but it's probably a good idea if we don't get into further discussions like that!

One of the things that took place in the discussion was that Dad feels that he's witnessing the end of our country. I asked how he could think that, and he replied that he's seeing us becoming more and more socialist, and that republics such as ours typically last a couple of hundred years and then fail. After asserting that we are far from socialist (the free market still reigns), I wondered what he thinks has happened with England, France, and other countries, ones that are much more left-leaning than ours, but are still going strong. After discussion in this vein, I finally said that I guess that's the difference between us, because you are pessimistic about our future, and I am optimistic. I still feel that we have great things ahead of us, discoveries to be made, challenges to be met.

Optimism As I pondered this discussion later, it surprised me that my Dad, someone who is a part of the Greatest Generation, would feel this sort of pessimism. After all, he and his fellow WWII veterans (here and around the world) and those who stayed at home and kept things running, pretty much saved the world from a despotic dictator. When they returned, their hard work turned our economy into the powerhouse that it is (or was), and their belief that all things were possible if you worked hard enough is what put a man on the moon. I realize that there were problems to be dealt with concerning civil rights and women's issues, but there is no denying that the Greatest Generation did great things...why the pessimism now?

The only thing I can think that it might be is the vast social changes that we've witnessed in the past few decades. I would say that folks in my parents' generation were, by and large, a conservative bunch. I suspect that the changes we've seen in the social fabric of our country are quite jarring to many of them. My folks are pretty cool, and quite tolerant people, but these are profound changes that I'm sure make them and others feel as if their entire world is different, and not one that they entirely understand.

I'm on the tail end of the Baby Boom, on the cusp of Generation X (as is our President). We are definitely a more socially liberal group, kids when the sweeping social changes set our country on its ear. I was too young to remember a lot of that, but did some research on it as I got older. I never felt that there was anything I couldn't or shouldn't do because I was a woman, and I never felt any sort of fear or hatred of minorities, and that was thanks to my parents. I find it interesting that although they may have felt some unease at what was happening, they never imparted any sort of ideas to me that any of it was wrong.

Baby Boomers This may have had unintended consequences. As we broke down the walls between us and the rest of the world, and as communications improved, we came to see that we were part of a global economy, and it was no longer a matter of "my country right or wrong." Events of the previous eight years have shown a disastrous foreign policy that has led to widespread hatred of the U.S. in many countries. I choose to see us not as the moral arbiter of the world, but a country that can lead by example (including taking care of our own when it comes to their health care needs) and can exhibit a humanitarian attitude that wishes for the betterment of all.

I think this is where I differ with my Dad and some others of his generation: it is no longer just about us. It is no longer about how wealthy we are or how powerful we are. We do not stand alone in this world. Environmental practices on the other side of the world affect our entire planet and pose as much of a risk to us as they do to anyone else. We certainly have a moral obligation to help those in need in our own country, but we cannot focus merely on that and ignore the rest of the world. As Roland the Gunslinger says, "The world has moved on." And we are part of it, whether anyone likes it or not.

I'll close with a song from one of my favorite bands, The Rainmakers.

Spend It On Love

You tell of man who took a hundred dollars
Spent it on lottery tickets and beer
Won a couple of million, left his wife and children
Lived himself to death in a couple of years

Should have spent it on love
Spend it on his children
Spend it on the ones who need it the most
Take your little bundle put her in a basket
Leave her on the doorstep of her future home

I hear of an army taking lots of money
Spending it on guns and rows of barbed wire
Blew it all away
Their homeless and their hungry
Had to bite the bullet
Taste the bloody war

Well Johnny in the belly of a billionaire,
Swallowed by the music he played
Gonna have to ride that camel through the eye
Of a phonograph needle someday

I hear of a country
Where they say the city's all have pretty streets
That are paved with gold
They may not be gold
But they were built by people
Paying heavy taxes for a dream they still hold

Spend it on love
Spend it on the children
Spend it on the ones who need it the most
Take your little bundle put her in a basket
Leave her on the doorstep of her future home


  1. The world has become a very small place in the 60 plus years since WWII and I think that is something that the 'greatest generation' and the boomers on the beginning part don't understand but we as older boomers more do. Does that make sense? lol

    ps... LOVE Rosie the riviter! Pumpkin (my dd) has a shirt with her on it!

    be well...

  2. This makes me think of a ride I took in airport shuttle years ago from Williamsburg to Richmond. There was an older gentleman from one of the Scandinavian countries in the shuttle and we talked about politics and economics. He talked about how the world had changed and how communications and air travel had made it a smaller place. He said,"I think that we'll have peace when each country owns a little bit of other countries. The possibility of economic loss is an incentive to settle matters in ways other than war."

  3. Unfortunately, when you listen the the radio, or watch the news, the most vocal folks are the ones who feel they are entitled to something. There was the greatest generation, I think we are becoming the entitlement generation with a twist - people say they deserve more, but don't make the government bigger. Sorry folks, you either do for yourself, or if you want assistance it takes a bigger government footprint. I think the right answer is somewhere in between, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, look out more than a few months, and stop whining. OK, stepping down of my box now.

  4. My parents are deceased, but I can absolutely see myself having a similar discussion/argument with my dad on those issues. Generational thing? Perhaps.

    Happy Birthday to your mom. It's my daughter's birthday today, too.

  5. I think that the spirit of accomplishment that evolved during World War II and afterward was really squelched by the Eisenhower years. Our sense of community and working together, all races, all sexes, all political sides, etc to win the war at home and abroad was converted to the complacency of Eisenhower's "Affluent Society". The trouble was his view of what would be that affluent society was exclusive. Women were supposed to go back home and cook and clean for their men. The poor went back to being invisible. We all pretended that diversity didn't exist. All of a sudden, rather than celebrating our culture and society in the aftermath of the World War, we concentrated on business and profits, and cultivated greed over sense of community. That generation squandered all our resources to spread wealth to the few, rather than caring for our many. It's a shame, really. We could have really evolved into a caring and wonderful society. But after 8 years of Eisenhower's complacency, we were already to entrenched in the system of big business to come out unscathed.
    That's my two cents worth.

  6. It's cool you can actually debate the issue with your dad, Beth. Especially an issue like this. I think older people who fall into that belief tend to be hard to argue with in a respectful way.

  7. Dear Beth, you are an amazing person. Your words brought me to tears, Part of it was the love that came through for your mom and dad, but the other part was the optimism that you make me feel every time I read your writings. I think that your analysis is dead on, to quote another song lyric, "We are the world." Thank you for always reminding me that the glass isn't half empty; it's half full.

  8. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Beth's momma!!!! How sweet that he wanted to tell you that he was sorry that you were sorry. :) It made me grin reading that and I wanted to go give him a big hug!

  9. The chats you have with your Dad remind me of those that I have with mine, although my Dad and I tend to agree more often than not. My Dad is one of those rare breeds who has become more liberal as he gets older, not vice versa.
    But I love how your Dad called so he could tell you he felt bad that you felt bad that he felt....well, you know.
    As far as the world getting smaller, I'm all for it. I like the idea of knowing who else is out there and what they think and feel and so on. I think as we all grow closer, figuratively, but maybe not literally, we'll realize that we aren't so diferent from one another, no matter where we live, how we speak, the color of our skin, our socio-economic standing, gender, age, orientation.....blibbety-blah-blay-blue.
    We are all very much alike.

  10. Well, this health care issue has struck a chord in you! I have been catching up with your entries and you have been on a roll.

    I am not necessarily in agreement with Milwaukee Dan regarding the Eisenhower years. And I am not too sure that your Dad is wrong about the end of the American era of dominance in the world of economics.

    Maybe the difference is the outlook that the people in his generation had in their emergence compared to what has occurred with the boomers and Gen X. The latter two seemed to have a growing sense of entitlement which is what fed the greed that is prevalent.

    I am glad that you both were able to talk things out and not let something like this remain a distraction in your relationship.

  11. Thank God your dad went to war for us....and for the sacrifices he and the millions of others made to get the U.S. to where it is today. My dad and i had a conversation on the phone 3 wks ago that also surprised me. He wants to vote for Palin. Read that again. OMG. I went OFF on him. He is sick or something....WTH......

    the world is changing and changing quickly. I see things on a daily basis that even surprises me. Glad you and your dad did not get upset with each other.

  12. Hi Beth just back again from my latest trip away. So catching up on the "reading" always I just love your words of wisdom and agree with Sheria in all she says...
    love for now Sybil xx


I'm funny how, I mean funny like I'm a clown, I amuse you?