For the longest time, I looked at America as a nation unfit for the glory, wealth and power bestowed upon it for its victory in WW2. I had this idea of America as a kind of Bonnie & Clyde era country, with flivvers and six guns, sharecroppers and buffoons in handlebar moustaches thrust upon the world stage before its time. If you've played the campaign of Red Dead Redemption, that's a good rendition of that view. There might have been a lot of sophistication in the world that built the Woolworth Building in New York City, but then again, what would anyone buy of substance from Woolworth's? Probably nothing worthy of a world power. And so that unsophisticated nation of the early 20th century tried to apply all of its formulaes for success to the world, and it always seemed to be a clunky affair.
When I think about Bing Crosby and Louis Armstrong singing and playing into those newfangled springy microphones, I look forward a few years to their color pictures. And I see the romantic beginnings of Post War America. When I think of the Three Stooges and Hope & Crosby, I think of the millions of American men who would be drastically affected by WW2. Not very bright men, but men with patriotic courage and faith, with grit and determination over a narrow range of endeavors. Men who make for good soldiering, given the proper equipment. And those men came out victorious behind Monty, Ike and Bradley, despite never having to go to Russia. And we pulled it off, and the world breathed a sigh - Allies triumphant. And those men came home, created a Baby Boom and went to college on the GI bill, moved to brand new suburbs and started driving brand new Cadillacs. In the 1950s we invented a brand new American Way. 1953 was worlds apart from 1933.
It's very hard to argue with the winners, but children always find a way. If Dad was silent and demanding, maybe he was trying to raise you in a way that didn't require him going back in his mind to the days of brandishing a bayonet in the Ardennes. 'Because I said so', makes sense in a world of military orders, but must have looked very strange to causeless rebels in the new suburbia. Maybe we should rename the Baby Boom to The Children of PTSD.
I was born in 1961, on the cusp of something called Generation X. I belong to both worlds, the world of the Boom and the world of the X. My father was a Marine, but he never served in combat. So I knew how 'Because I said so' worked. But I also knew how people who lived through 1969 figured that the end of the world was near and how what transpired before their births was considered unacceptable. I watched the kids older than me reject it all, telling me there was nothing worth respecting in the polluted, racist, push-button, nuclear world we would inherit. I too felt the urge to get out of the American city and go hug a tree, or smoke one.
Eventually, however, I came to love math, science, engineering and mutant superheroes. And there was something precious to me about the fact that my grandfather worked at Yale University and recited from Ovid. I found a world worth discovering, protecting, honoring which wasn't all about rejecting everything in America and in my parents generation. I became distinctly aware of the difference between my future and the future predicted by the Counterculture. I was, in that way, suspect of the Baby Boom.
It's important to note that I also recognized the duality of the Boomers who were pefectly capable of aping their parents' dignity and resolve, manners and standards. Richard Feynman may have been the only genuine man of those years. Everybody else dressed up in grey flannel suits at work and listened to Steppenwolf at home. It was an impenetrable two-faced world. When 1992 rolled around I looked at Bill Clinton and Jerry Brown and it looked as if it was inevitable that the Boomers would finally wrest power from their Cold War parents. But both of those men exemplified quite perfectly what made me queasy about the Boomers. They wore suits. They loved Rock & Roll. They were lawyers who smoked weed. They were longhairs who could 'act presidential'. They danced the dance required of them, and I think ultimately they didn't care about anything but the expedience that finally got them more power than their shell shocked parents.
But I understand.
Generation X remade America through the computer revolution. We didn't put the culture on hold to go smash fascism in Europe. We figured out ways to actually get new functional ideas into people's heads improving upon what they necessarily did. The revolution was actually an evolution of process. For me and my X colleagues, we had to rethink what existed, rationalize it and find a way to fit it into our new machines. We did not have to drop out of society and undo Western Civilization in our heads, spending seven years in Tibet, jail or Jonestown.
I regret the loss of conformity to standards that has melted down over the years as the Boomers replaced the Cold Warriors. I regret the damage I see done to patriotic faith and courage for the sake of the Boomers' counterculture. I resent their attempts at rethinking what human beings are and their multicultural multisexual identity posturing. I am convinced that their struggle to undo and outdo their own parents has generated cynicism at an existential level of threat. I am also convinced that there are millions of parents like me, who have the potential to have undone that threat in one generation. I don't think they're evil, just stupid. And so I find it appropriate to cast them as they so often cast others, as victims of people who had to deal with the hardest reality of all - whom they rejected. To all those 'guys' who say, "Don't call me Mr. Smith, call me Jack, Mr Smith is my father", I say hit the road Jack.
I guess it's a little late for all this...but I'm ready to clear the decks. Now about that Medicare subscription benefit..
The last gasps of George Carlin exemplify how the Boomers, for whom he was a guiding countercultural light have failed to understand humanity. His contempt for pretty much everyone and everything outside of himself was palpable. I have more to say about Carlin, but that's for later.