TOM BROKAW, NON-HISTORIAN AND ENTERTAINER, IS RESPONSIBLE FOR ANNOINTING AN ARBITRARY AGE GROUPING AS “THE GREATEST GENERATION.” THIS IS A BAD IDEA!
Most everyone appreciates the service of men and women during World War II. I certainly do. Nevertheless, “generation” is a mental construct rather than an existent thing. People living through the 1930s depression and World War II constituted a diverse group of individuals. It is fallacious to reify them into a sentimentalized and romanticized “thing.”
Just as there is no such thing as a unicorn, there is no such “thing” as a “generation” with characteristics that can be ascribed to the group in general – whether it be the “Gen Xers,” the “Millennials,” or the “Baby Boomers.” Many generalizations we hear about specific demographic groups – some positive and some negative – are nothing less than harmful stereotypes. These stereotypes have become useful for rendering some generations into “lesser thans” and therefore undeserving of government benefits such as Social Security. Furthermore, invidious comparisons with the mythical “Greatest Generation” have been used by certain individuals who have a vested interest in promoting intergenerational conflict.
New York Times opinion page contributor Tom Friedman, for instance, extolled the virtues of the “Greatest Generation,” while denigrating the “Baby Boom” generation. Here is what he had to say last May:
“Our parents were the ‘The Greatest Generation,’ and they earned that title by making enormous sacrifices and investments to build us a world of abundance. My generation, ‘The Baby Boomers,’ turned out to be what the writer Kurt Andersen called ‘The Grasshopper Generation.’ We’ve eaten through all that abundance like hungry locusts.”
Yes Friedman, in his nonsensical statement, included himself amongst those selfish “Baby Boomers,” but he has made a fortune writing nonsense and doesn’t have to worry about food, shelter, and medical care in his old age or at any other time in his life. Furthermore, to blame a mythical generation for budget deficits caused by lobbyist-funded Republicans and Democrats is convenient scapegoating.
I was certainly opposed to the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, tax breaks for the wealthy, huge tax-funded give-aways to the medical-industrial complex, the military-industrial complex, the agriculture-industrial complex, and every other possible industrial complex with a bevy of high paid lobbyists on K Street. Corruption leading to massive losses to the federal treasury is not endemic in any particular generation.
I THINK WE SHOULD STOP NAMING AGE CATEGORIES AND TREATING THEM AS THINGS. THIS ONLY SERVES THOSE WHO WOULD LIKE TO SCAPEGOAT AND HARM PEOPLE IN THESE AGE GROUPINGS.