While we're on the topic of great rants, Stephen Masty at The Imaginative Conservative takes on the "greatest generation" in his latest post:
America’s so-called Greatest Generation is great only in comparison to the rubbish that followed them, which frankly and literally they begat. The rest is mostly sentimentality, projecting onto an entire generation what we may more rightly respect about our own dear relations.
While it may sound ungrateful to the veterans of the Battle of the Bulge, from where did these ghastly Boomers come? Did they spring like Athena from the forehead of Zeus, fully-armed with credit cards, neuroses and BMW motorcars? Or did they have parents?
The so-called Greatest Generation created Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society that metastasized welfarism and made permanent the culture of entitlement. They created or enabled the Permissive Society that shattered millennia-old values leading to the decline of marriage, a level of narcotics-abuse never seen before in a developed country, an epidemic of sexually-transmitted diseases and the industrial-scale production of bastard children. They ran America when Roe-v-Wade opened the floodgates to 50 million abortions since.
Too nice to argue and too weak to put their foot down, they spoilt their offspring with the kind of good-natured generosity and blind tolerance that is far more harmful than parsimony and even cruelty.
Having inherited a work-ethic from their parents who fed them through the Great Depression, they built America’s post-war economic surge but then wiped the cultural hard-drive, hoping to free their creepy kids from what the “Greatest Generation” saw as a work-a-day encumbrance and we now see as a missing ingredient of national strength.
In that sense, they were hopeful ideologues of materialism as much as any of Chairman Mao’s acolytes were ideologues of communism. If they had religion in their fox-holes and bomb-craters, they failed to pass it on to many of their progeny.
OK, that felt good. Yes, the fact of the matter is that this generation, while retaining many of the old virtues we justly admire, nevertheless ushered in the Age of Aquarius and the subsequent collapse of civilization we are living today. To be fair, they were war-weary and probably war-traumatized. That's not psychobabble: war either strengthens or weakens the moral constitution, more often the latter. I think it is fair to say that Americans of this generation began to lose their inherited Christian faith, while those who retained their faith hardly tried to pass it on. Planned Parenthood was formed in 1942; Levittown was launched in 1947; "rock and roll" was an identifiable genre by 1951; Playboy magazine was founded in 1953. In the 1950s atheism became chic and respectable, and by 1963 both prayer and bible reading were banned in public schools. Etc.
I think, however, that there may be another cause of the Boomers' revolt, one that involves their parents' experience but mitigates their culpability. In his essay "Rosie the Riveter and the Gender Warriors", Gerald L. Rowles explains how the war impacted the family:
The predictions and findings of the emerging social sciences of the 1940's were not particularly well received, in part because of their relative newness and in part because of the social euphoria of the war's end. Everyone had been subjected to enough doom and gloom after five years of warfare and death, and now was the time for celebration and launching career/family pursuits. But something had changed, and was continuing to change, dramatically, in the family arena. Blankenhorn, in a subdued, almost tongue-in- cheek manner, goes on to recount predictions we all know as reality today.
"Some experts feared that a mother on her own, might overidentify with her child, thus undermining the spousal bond (i.e., mother and child would become so tightly bonded that father would become virtually superfluous to their emotional needs). Or that a single mother might become so reattached to her own parents or other close relatives that the returning husband would be treated as an intruder."
And then, in the predictions, research and concerns of the social scientists mumbling in the background, we find the predicted source and intensity of the anger we see today: "Moreover, the mother's independence as a solo parent and worker might lead to an increase in sex (gender) antagonism following the war." "A Stanford University study of returning fathers found that they had a hard time establishing good relationships with first-born children (those born before or subsequent to their departure). Compared to fathers who did not go to war, these fathers tended to be more critical of the oldest child, to discipline him or her too harshly, and to be more easily annoyed by disruptive behavior. They tended to view their son's behavior as too babyish or girlish." "In many ways, military service had diminished these men in their roles as fathers and family men... They were fathers, but of unknown children whom they had only seen in pictures; they lacked any warm interpersonal relations with these children and were vague and uncertain in the role of father."
In a contemporary study of middle-aged adults who had been children during WWII, Blankenhorn quotes the author (William A. Tuttle) as concluding "for fathers coming home after prolonged absence in a military environment in which they either gave orders or promptly obeyed them, there seemed little doubt that their sons and daughters should respond to them as buck privates had to first sergeants... A militaristic approach to family life provoked resentment and sometimes rebellion among children, in turn leading some fathers to crack down even harder. One woman remembers a fighter-pilot father, a man she never really knew, disturbing the secure nest she and her mother had made with her paternal grandparents: 'suddenly, I was no longer a princessly half-orphan but a spoiled brat! He scolded, I cried, Mom and Grandma stood up for me,... Many years later, Mom told me what a rocky time it was for all concerned.'"
In the parental homefront aftermath of WWII, these kinds of conflicts - on a wide-ranging scale of intensity - were played out in millions of American homes, affecting the lives of millions of baby-boom boys and girls who have become today's mothers, fathers, and single parents. Many post-war mothers resented being summarily moved back into the homemaker role, displaced from the work place by men who had previously been friends, family and lovers, who now, in many cases seemed to be strangers. Fathers, returning home from the close-contact horrors of a distant war, many still in shock, were groping to move into their new, instant roles, as fathers and providers. Many would remain in shock, to varying degrees, for the rest of their lives.
As Leo Priebe, A WWII veteran poignantly wrote in the Des Moines Register in 1995, "war either makes you a Christian or a savage. I saw them both." Mr. Priebe goes on to recount the lingering, buried effects of the war experience which suddenly came to the surface when he returned to Frankfurt on vacation: "One evening some thirty years later, as I stood on the balcony of our hotel overlooking that beautiful city, the words came back to me - 'we leveled Frankfurt last night' - and the tears came."