World War II Generation and 1960s
I've seen on a number of occasions the older people having a heart-broken look on their faces when they see younger people not living by "traditional values."
I've seen the same look on the face of my grandmother, who had been a card-carrying member of the Soviet Communist Party, when others in the family were making fun of Lada cars.
The causes were different, and the beliefs were different; but characterologically, the American patriots and the Soviet patriots were very similar to each other. The Soviet patriots were not evil - at least my grandmother wasn't. They simply believed in Marxism-Leninism in the same way as some in America believe in Christianity. The party line was different; the character was the same. On both sides, they were dogmatic, conformist, nationalistic and authoritarian. These negative traits were balanced with better qualities of loving, nurturing, responsibility, commitment and willingness to work hard.
These qualities were practiced by World War II generation all across the board, including by people who were enemies of each other.
In many cases, wars are fought by people who are much like one another. Comes to mind a poem by Hardy: "Had he and I but met / By some old ancient inn, / We should have set us down to wet / Right many a nipperkin!" Yes, it is true that the World War II generation won the Second World War; it is also true that it fought the war for the other side. The older Germans I met talked and acted a lot like older American Republicans. And a person who's lived for some time in Germany told me that the older Germans who fought in the Second World War had much in common with the older people in Missouri.
Does that make the World War II generation evil? Absolutely not; but neither is it inerrant, and neither is it the universal definition of good. The people who see it as The Greatest Generation have to explain the conduct of those among that generation who were Nazis. And while there is every reason to celebrate heroic conduct by those of the World War II generation who actually performed acts of heroism, it is also important to remember where that generation has been in the wrong and which of their practices deserve to remain in the past.
There was an advertisement in 1950s featuring a man spanking a woman with the sign, "If your husband ever finds out." The top bracket tax rate in 1950s was 92%. Women were being publicly caned in Dallas for showing too much ankle. A doctor was running around the country performing frontal lobotomies. Joseph McCarthy was destroying countless lives because of mere suspicion. The world of "A Streetcar Named Desire" and "One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest" is gone, and gone it should remain.
To the people who want to roll back everything that has happened from 1960s onward, the question to ask is, Why did these changes happen in the first place? The idea that there was a bad crop, or a narcissistic generation, is running hollow, seeing as that generation has produced Steven Jobs, Al Gore, Patch Adams, John Lennon, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, Jane Fonda, Ted Turner, Gerry Spence, Hillary Clinton and any number of other greats. The real reason for the changes that happened is simply that many of the ways and institutions of that time were wrong; and those who want to bring back any form of 1950s will have on their hands one or another form of 1960s any time.
The World War II generation can and should be respected for their positive qualities; however their negative qualities should be consigned to the dustbin of history. There is no merit in bringing back the blindness, brutality and bigotry of the past. Respect what is respectable, throw away what is not respectable.
And yes, this should be done with respect to every generation, whatever its present age or place of residence may be.