Ninnies of the Nanny State
Aspen, CO Colorado
I was born in the exact middle of the 20th century when ” owing to some inexplicable cosmic alchemy ” America first transmuted gold into lead: The Greatest Generation gave birth to the Me Generation.
I’ve spent my life on a sandbar, with one foot in the foam of receding ghosts ” Americans who celebrated individual accomplishment, self-sacrifice and liberty ” and the other foot in the septic tide of her present: an age of self-absorption, blame-shifting, dependency and group-think.
The Greatest Generation gave America FDR, JFK, Amelia Earhart, penicillin and the cure for polio. We boomers have contributed LSD, Woodstock, Donkey Kong, Clinton, Bush and the cure for erectile dysfunction.
The Greatest Generation survived the Depression, toppled tyranny, put a man on the moon and explored the frontiers of outer space. Boomers have toppled societal taboos, survived dropping acid and explored the frontiers of inner space. America’s greats gave us Hemmingway, Steinbeck, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jackie Robinson, Dr. King and civil rights. Boomers have contributed Hunter S. Thompson, Dr. Phil, Barry Bonds, abortion rights, and gay marriage.
The greats unraveled the Soviet Union, toppled the Berlin Wall and expanded the free world: We boomers are losing the battle of the midriff bulge and are incapable of securing the border between America and the Third World.
The Greatest Generations’ expresidents either died in office or retired to obscurity in places like Independence, Mo. Today’s ex-presidents shun obscurity, conduct outreach missions to terrorists and earn hundreds of millions signing books and shilling for sheiks.
Before his death, President Kennedy asked Americans to focus on what we could do for our country. Today’s presidential wannabes ask us to consider what America can do for us.
The day Kennedy died, I was playing in a Saturday morning middle school football game. My coach/history teacher called us to the sideline and told us to take a knee. Our parents encircled our huddle ” pressing in to reassure ” faces peering down from above, but we were numbed by the news of Kennedy’s assassination.
This was back in the days when nobody felt threatened by the voluntary recitation of prayer on school property, so Coach Reed led us in the Lord’s Prayer. Afterward, Coach said, “Boys, we’re going to be OK. There are lots of Americans who can lead us, because the Constitution is our playbook.” Then, he added, “Go home with your folks, and they’ll tell you what to do.”
I was 12 years old and unaccustomed to the violent, monochrome images of ballistic whiplash on the news. We sat on the floor with backs pressed against our parents’ knees, and watched 3-year-old John-John salute his father’s flag-draped casket. We listened to the hooves striking pavement and the muffled Marine Corps band.
Government school “grief counselors” hadn’t been invented, so we relied on parental cues. We rode the swells of grief in watertight family lifeboats that were moored in churches on Sundays and buoyed by a commonality of cultural values.
Coach Reed had come home from the Korean War, and my dad and his brother were Navy vets. They carried us in their hearts, like sharp grains of sand, across the world’s oceans, onto the beaches of Iwo Jima and Normandy, up the flanks of Mount Suribachi, over the tank traps into Berlin and alongside the Chosin Reservoir. Then they came home and pushed us into the world like bright pearls.
We inherited the greatest country on Earth from some of the most independent-minded, doggedly selfreliant people ever to tread the continent. In return, we’ve redefined America as a country steeped in moral relativism, stripped of cultural dignity, wedded to government, and contemptuous of the people and principles that made her great.
Today’s presidents-in-waiting tell us to demand things from America: We’re told that the fruits of our hard work, personal initiative, and self-reliance are “greedy” and selfish, and that our individual dreams should be subordinated to the nebulous regions of “the common good.”
They divide us into black and white, rich and “working class,” privileged and “underprivileged,” male and female, gay and straight, citizen and immigrant. They shatter our communities; then reassemble us into voting coalitions with grievance lists. This broken crockery of self-interest and fear feeds political ambitions, but starves America of her unity and purpose.
Don’t buy into the lies. Don’t be led by the nose ring of fear. Don’t be manipulated by empty promises and theatrical threats. Don’t listen to hateful demagoguery that pits you against your countrymen. Don’t be cynical about your neighbors or envious of their successes.
Be suspicious, instead, of any career politician who tells you he’s an “outsider,” with a new formula for “change.” Our presidential contenders are all U.S. senators ” all politicians who got to Washington by paying their bills with other people’s money, and they’re all pushing the same narcotic of government dependency.
If you want change, don’t look for it in Washington. Start with your family and your community, instead. Or give your grocer $20 for a hand of bananas: You’ll get change.
My hope lies in new generations of Americans, and in fervent prayers that the pendulum of societal excess reverses itself. The rebirth and salvation of America is inextricably bound up in the death of history’s weakest generation: my generation.
It’s long past time for boomers to unplug their treadmills and exit gracelessly.