Thursday, June 12, 2008

Boomers: One more chance to get it right

A Conservative’s Viewpoint

By: Bob Steinburg

Boomers: One more chance to get it right

Unlike some others from my era, I remember the ’60s. Our ranks were filled with folks who were out to change the world – idealistic, perhaps to a fault. It was a time of rebellion and discord between the young and the establishment. An unpopular war was raging in Vietnam, along with social and anti-war protests on college campuses across the nation. “Make love not war” was the slogan of the day as young Americans tried to redefine morality often through minds that were clouded by drugs, alcohol or both.

There were reasons for them to feel angry. Life-long friends, family members and classmates were shedding their blood and sacrificing their lives to support a war our nation was either never totally committed to win or lacked a long-term game plan. Historians and military experts have debated whether we could have won.

In a New York Times op-ed piece in 2005, Stephen Morris argues convincingly that the Viet Cong were defeated in 1972. In 1974-75, the U.S. reduced its level of support, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. This continues to haunt the veterans of that war and our society as a whole.

There are similarities between ceasing our military operations in Southeast Asia in the mid 1970s and the pledge of Barack Obama and a Democratically-controlled Congress to pull out our troops in Iraq – even as the surge is showing unparalleled success and victory suddenly seems attainable.

In 1973-74, like today, the world was in the midst of an oil crisis, which eventually led to gasoline rationing in America. At $4 per gallon, gas might just as well be rationed for many of us who can’t afford it.

President Nixon was embroiled in Watergate and today Bush’s approval ratings are very low, although higher than our Democratically-controlled Congress.

Distrust in our governmental institutions and corporate “greed” concerned many Americans back then. In the Vietnam conflict, many Americans believed we were at war to merely feed the greedy owners of our giant industrial military complex.

Today there are those who believe corporate profits are excessive and therefore somehow evil, even though we live in a capitalistic society.

The “baby boomers,” those of us born between 1945 and the early ’60s, are primarily offspring of the “Greatest Generation” who fought at home and abroad to secure victory in the epic struggle against Imperial Japan, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Unlike any war before or since, our nation united as one.

As children most boomers were taught to respect our governmental institutions; we learned the importance of the family unit, a Judeo-Christian faith and having community spirit and pride.

We were also taught to respect and admire those in positions of leadership. Loving thy neighbor was taught to many of us along with those words of Lincoln “that all men are created equal.” However, night after night on the evening news, our television sets revealed the shallowness of accepting those precepts.

To try and find a single reason why the peace and tranquility of the 1950s, when America yearned for a sense of security and stability, evolved into a generation who rebelled against the status quo would be difficult. Initially it was civil rights protests against discrimination and then the battle for freedom of speech on college campuses. The assassinations of three inspirational advocates for social change angered and divided us. And then, Vietnam.

I suspect many boomers felt we could never stack up to that Greatest Generation although many of us are still trying. It was, after all, idealism that set the stage for civil rights reform. We can be proud of that. But culturally, many of us are coming to realize we dropped the ball. And as a result to some degree society is paying for our transgressions.

Today many Americans indulge in only what makes them feel good. God, in most circles, is socially acceptable, but only on our terms. We have abandoned our churches and our civic organizations. Tolerance has been redefined to mean anything goes, regardless of how vile, uncivil or immoral-not just by Christian values but by the very standards of any civil society.

We’ve walked down this path once before. I wonder if we as a nation have learned anything from it. Perhaps we are destined to repeat our mistakes once again.

In 1976, America turned to a peanut farmer from Georgia who few outside of his state knew. Jimmy Carter’s presidency was an abysmal failure, chiefly because he had no foreign policy experience, which became painfully clear to the world during another Middle East crisis.

Two gentlemen are seeking the office of the presidency of the United States this year. Like Carter in 1976, one of them has no foreign policy experience and is the most liberal of Democrats. His opponent has a plethora of foreign policy experience and is the author of the surge that is turning the tide in Iraq.

Which will it be? The baby boomers have one more chance to get it right.

Bob Steinburg is a free lance columnist whose weekly column "A Conservative's Viewpoint" appears in newspapers in New York and North Carolina. He resides in Edenton, N.C. and may be contacted at

The views expressed by the author may make perfect sense, but may not express the views of the staff and ownership of WoodShavings.

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