Skip to comments.Baby boomers can't let go of the past and look to the future
Posted on 03/20/2004 8:26:56 AM PST by qam1
DALLAS -- No one can ever accuse baby boomers of having an inferiority complex. In the 1960s and early '70s, their mantra was: "Don't trust anyone over 30.'' Now it has become: "Don't listen to anyone under 40.''
As a 36-year-old, I got a taste of that this week following an appearance on National Public Radio. Invited to be a guest on "The Diane Rehm Show," I argued that the presidential election should be about the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq -- not the war in Vietnam. I maintained that the personal decisions that John Kerry and George Bush made as young men are not as relevant as the political decisions the two have made since Sept. 11, 2001. And, I said, the fact that so many middle-age Americans -- in both parties -- seem intent on using this election to re-fight the Vietnam War is more evidence that the baby boom generation craves the spotlight and enjoys nothing more than talking about itself and its experiences.
That didn't go over well with another guest on the show -- David Halberstam, Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam-era journalist and best-selling author of The Best and the Brightest. Halberstam insists that, when it comes to Vietnam, it matters -- even now -- who went and who didn't. He said that those who went to Vietnam tended to, upon their return and for the rest of their lives, "do more reading." And become more engaged in world affairs.
I don't know about that. President Bush didn't go to Vietnam and he's not known to be much of a reader. But, after 9-11, I would say he's pretty engaged in world affairs.
Halberstam also drew comparisons between what happened in Vietnam and what is happening now in Iraq. He said there's enough "historical resonance'' between the two conflicts to "raise again the question of whether absolute American military superiority can be undermined by the political undertow of a country with a very difficult cultural, historical background'' -- one that includes having lived through a "colonial past.''
As opposed to, say, the United States, which started out as 13 colonies? As long as we're poring over history books, why not start at the beginning? Besides, does anyone out there really think that the administration set out to "colonize'' Iraq?
That's nuts. The fact that polls show a majority of Americans still support the war -- even if they question the way it has been managed -- suggests that most people see the conflict for what it is: an extension of the war on terror and an attempt to neutralize what National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice has called "strongholds'' where terrorist outfits like al-Qaida could find support.
And how did my opinions go over with the NPR audience? Well, judging from the 100 or so angry e-mails, I would say, like the proverbial lead balloon.
Some self-identified baby boomers seemed to want to send me to my room with no milk and cookies.
One letter ended this way: "I suggest that Mr. Navarrette and his Gen X buddies miss an episode of 'Friends' and go visit the Vietnam Memorial in [Washington] D.C.''
Another suggested: "Crack a book now and then. Those video games are bad for your eyes.''
And another said of her cohorts: "I'll admit mistakes. Apparently, we raised a generation of self-indulgent people with no sense of history.''
That's the thing with baby boomers -- such a high opinion of themselves, such a low opinion of everyone else.
Self-indulgent people. No sense of history. These are the same things that, 30 years ago, members of the World War II generation said about baby boomers. How they were self-centered, spoiled and soft, and that they knew nothing of sacrifice and making do with less especially compared to those who lived through the war and the Great Depression.
At least one letter writer hinted as much: "Unfortunately for people my age, there's a group of people older than we are who fought World War II . . . and they've never forgiven us for 'losing' in Vietnam. Those older veterans disrespected the veterans of my era from the get-go. I'm hoping that'll end this year [with a Kerry victory].''
And I bet you thought this election was about where the country is headed. Nope. For some, it's about where we've been. It's about redemption and second chances for a generation that feels like it never got the respect it deserved and which now can't bring itself to respect the generations that follow it.
Now, if you will excuse me, I think "Friends'' is about to start.
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I always challenge the baby boomer lefties who brag about their generation stopping Vietnam, that it took 10 years after Gulf of Tonkin for the war to actually end. Even if you accept their self inflated egos and they did stop the war, taking 10 years to do it, is really not something to write home to mom about.
And I'm not too sure about my mother. ;-)
I'm amazed at people who actually believe that cutting the South Vietnamese off at the knees and leaving them to their fate while we bugged out was a GOOD thing?!
As a person somewhat older than the "boomers", I can say that I have certainly experienced that from some of them....
To be fair. There are many "conservative boomers" out there too.
(Also, being a father of "baby boomers", I have to say.....it does seem to take them a bit longer to "grow up" than it did back in my generation)
I'd like to see the data on this. Oh, I forgot, this dude is a "Pulitzer Prize-winning Vietnam-era journalist". He's much too important and well read to need to use actual data -- his opinions are what matter most. Blech.
That's my fear, too.
Yeah, I really look forward to the day when baby boomers demand Viagra be included in the Prescription drug benefit.
I agree, The boomer generation had some of the worst citizens in America's history, and some of the best. So many times we forget the brave men and women who fought and died in that bloody mess of Vietnam, which Lyndon Johnson made worse by his bungling. We forget also that Johnson was from an earlier generation called the "Criminal Democrats".
As to the material, I agree with the author that Halberstam is definitely a one-hit wonder with his book on Vietnam. I am of the boomer generation but was at the tail-end of Vietnam, graduating high school in 1973. I did register for the draft and the war was always in the back of everyone's mind during high school. This is what makes it so hard to avoid as a divining rod to a generation's soul.
The replay today on the presidential election stage of who went and who didn't is probably the last round-up for this contentious piece of history as a measuring stick of a man's worth. I agree with the author that it is best set aside and use the 9/11 measurement as rooted in today's reality.
Well, now you know three people.
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