Tom Brokaw popularized the term the Greatest Generation from the title of a book he authored. It covers the accomplishments of that generation of American’s who lived through the great depression and fought in World War II, and moved on to create a country of affluency in the 1950’s and beyond.
As much as I like Tom Brokaw, I wonder at his classification. Surely the greatest generation would be the one that fought for independence and established the bases of the country we have today. What other country’s populous can vote for its leader every four years and if your choice doesn’t get in, wait and vote again four years later?
Surely the greatest generation must be the late 1700’s to early 1800’s which included agricultural technology of the cotton gin, the reaper and the thresher to be followed a century later by mechanical planters, gasoline engine tractors, row crop tires, combines and pickers. We moved farming from a business for self sufficiency to mass production. What country can maintain itself let alone have population growth if it can’t feed itself?
Surely the greatest generation must be the people who fought to keep a country together in the midst of division. Some fought and died for a people, and others a position of unity in the 1860’s.
Maybe the greatest generation is the one that put a man into orbit, on the moon and determined that finally it should be recognized that all men ARE created equal.
I think Tom Brokaw’s greatest generation was great, but it’s because it’s close to us and we can remember it. But we are about to forget it. How many of us remember or even know what our grandparents, or parents did for us by living in those years? Those people are fading away as is their stories. I noted with interest this last Veterans Day, that broadcast television did very little, in fact almost nothing to show any movies from those times. Sure, a lot of those movies were Government propaganda films. But movies like “To Hell and Back”, the story of Audie Murphy the most decorated soldier in WWII or Tora Tora Tora or the Red Tails would have been great choices. Sure the news programs attempted to act like they were doing their duty by giving a 30 second sound bite about USS Arizona survivors returning for a ceremony. But come on, does that really count?
Like refusing to re-broadcast the destruction of the Twin Towers in New York, Television Executives would prefer to not expose us to such harmful entertainment. You’re better off watching their selection of sleazy programming of sexual innuendo, or rocket launching drug dealers and vulgar language.
Yes, we’re losing the greatest generation. We’re even losing the memory of them, but we’re also just losing who we are. Veterans day isn’t really seeing as true holiday, nor is George Washington’s or Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays. To save money the Federal Government combined Washington and Lincoln’s birthday recognition to “Presidents Day”! Let me add that I learned that this year only 32% of American businesses will recognize President’s Day as a holiday, while 43% recognize Martin Luther King’s birthday. I guess it’s best to be important close to the current generation. Maybe in 200 years they’ll be asking, Martin who??
Maybe it’s just that people believe the greatest generation is the one they are living in, after all they don’t know anything about the others.