Some thoughts to consider as you read on:
As it is written in Ecclesiastics, “One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh.” The headline of last week”s edition of The Onion read, “A shattered nation longs to care about stupid bullshit again.”
The Who says, “I”m not trying to cause a big sensation/I”m just talking “bout my generation.”
Our generation is one that has grown up surrounded by the “stupid bullshit” recognized by The Onion. The photo that accompanied the story featured images of Brittany Spears, Gary Condit and Danny Almonte, among others, superimposed over a shot of the wreckage from the World Trade Center attack. I have applauded relevant satire in this column before, and I certainly do so now: The Onion could not be more poignant.
Today marks the one-month anniversary of the WTC attack, and our nation”s and our generation”s general navet, continually surprise me.
My 20 years in the country have been, by some standards, the most prosperous years (economically, socially) in history. But meanwhile, our generation”s greatest accomplishment seems to sit somewhere between Aguilara and Tarantino. Our greatest moment has probably not come.
And now, to most of our continued astonishment, we are engaged in a real war. There may be no Normandy or Guadalcanal. There will be no liberation of Paris, or Auschwitz, or a V-E day (or V-A day).
There will be no mass conscription, and probably no draft. Instead of Roosevelt and Churchill, we have Dubya and Blair. Instead of Hitler and Mussolini, we have Osama bin Laden, and a network of religious fanatics-turned terrorists who are capable of acts of unbelievable horror, as gruesome of those of our nation”s enemies fifty years ago.
I don”t know what the real objectives were of World War II. I don”t know what Roosevelt and the boys were hoping to really accomplish.
But at least when the concentration camps were liberated, and the Nazis were out of Paris, and the world was safe from fascism (God-forbid!), victory could be claimed on some level.
The challenge presented to our generation does not have so clear a resolution. And before I go off sounding too much like our Commander-in-Chief, let me get to my point. I didn”t ask for this shit, and neither did any of you. Our generation was perfectly content when the great argument was over the age of a Little Leaguer from the Bronx.
The “stupid bullshit” referred to by The Onion is not glamorous. It does not help to shape a generation, or to develop character. But it was safe. Tom Brokaw was not going to write any books glorifying our generation of apathetic, over-privileged consumers. But there was peace, and there was a sort of sanctity, nave and misguided as it may have been.
There was an article in The New York Times Magazine recently that said that it is now OK for liberals to feel patriotic. I hardly need the permission of The New York Times magazine to do anything, and regardless, I don”t necessarily feel all that patriotic these days. Further, I am not comfortable with the notion of fighting and killing to preserve a “way of life.” But in spite of my darkest cynicism, I do realize how valuable the “stupid bullshit” is. In retrospect, I imagine we all long for the time when Gary Condit”s malfeasance was the primary national debate.
Our generation is being presented with this mess, and it will be faced for better or for worse, successfully or unsuccessfully. Despite the rhetoric of President Bush, failure is very much an option, and we all need to consider that as we make our decisions. But life”s goal is not to seek out means to shape one”s generation. With all due respect to the veterans of wars past, we do not necessarily need to follow their example.
Pardon my ramblings. If you”ve stayed with me, thank you. My thoughts these days, as I imagine is the case with many of you, are all over the place, and I am sure that is reflected here.
But if there is a point to this column it is this: We didn”t ask for this nasty little quagmire, but we”ve got it. We can do with it anything we want, whether that requires action or inaction. Each man or woman is master of his or her own fate, and we owe nothing to history only to ourselves.
David Horn can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com