The American people may be awakening from their slumber and are confronting the real crisis that is our fiscal nightmare as evidenced by the Tea party movement and other such grass roots political stirrings not aligned directly with, and mainly opposed to, the establishment political institutions that have held the reins of power for over a century in Washington. Some, like Warren Buffet’s business partner think it is already too late. We can hope that it is not.
A couple of conservative activists have produced a documentary film whose premise seems to be something I’ve been saying for years: that the Baby Boomer Generation (my generation) has squandered the gift given us by our parents, a gift appreciated by them all the more from knowing the deprivations of the Great Depression and won by the bloody sacrifice of World War II, that of a prosperous and free America. The “Greatest Generation” knew sacrifice and knew the value of giving back to the community. Our Generation knew rebellion against the establishment and burned draft cards and bras all the while reveling in a sense of entitlement self-absorption reaffirmed leading to rejecting as outmoded the ideas of limits – on executive compensation, risk avoidance, and commitment to providing for the common good. For all the lefty talk of utopian wealth redistribution for the common good we seem to have, as children of the 60’s just made it all about concentrating wealth in the hands of the few while devastating whole communities shipping their jobs overseas tearing apart the very middle class our parents fought and died for to build.
To gain perspective on the level of sacrifice I refer to a headline in this morning’s Washington Post. It refers to the “milestone” that is soon to be reached in our war in Afghanistan in that we are approaching the total of 1,000 US Servicemen killed in that conflict in the eight years since it began. While in no way diminishing the individual sacrifice even one death represents or the totality of the grief of the family and loved ones of any soldier killed, it is instructive to consult the history to gain perspective on the level of sacrifice our parents had to endure. Sixty five years ago as I write this the battle of Iwo Jima raged in the pacific. Iwo Jima is a volcanic rock island just 6 miles long and was deemed necessary to capture for its airfield to be used in supporting the bombing of Japan. In less than 1 month of fighting over 6,000 US Servicemen were killed on that hellish island with over 20,000 wounded.
This is but a sampling of the sacrifice the “Greatest Generation” endured coming home to want nothing more than to build a nation based on peace with prosperity tempered by a focus on preventing the kind of financial meltdown the speculative practices of the roaring twenties had contributed to, being realized in the Great Depression of the 1930s. This and more they did wanting nothing more than to spare my generation the kind of derivation and sacrifice theirs had to endure coming of age.
Our generation took what was given and flourished coming of age in the 80’s and 90’s we had achieved the pinnacles of power where, while thoroughly rejecting the modesty and caution of our parents we built McMansions and created bubble after speculative bubble until we have now maxed out the country’s credit card.
The fix will be painful and will require sacrifice this nation has not seen in over half a century. The generations we have spawned hardly even know of it from the history pages they weren’t taught to study in school.
Is it too late to learn the lessons and take the medicine?
I wish I knew. I wish I hadn’t failed my country with all my fellow baby boomers in such a profound way.