column, under the influence of the Thanksgiving spirit, I
celebrated the luck of my age group, born in the USA as it was
winning World War II, and becoming a senior citizen before the
national debt exceeded the country's Gross Domestic Product
I'm happy to have
been young/middle-aged after the invention of the birth control
pill and before the discovery of AIDS. Now I'm grateful for
having been able to sign up for Social Security and Medicare
before they run out of money.
Should they go
bankrupt, my age group will probably get to keep at least
limited benefits; unless, of course, we are "put to sleep" by a
desperately broke government run by younger boomers and older
Gen Xers. Even if that happens, we can be grateful for having
had a long life, partly due to antibiotics and other medical
wonders, during a period of economic prosperity.
Also, nothing can
take this fact away from us: My generation rocked! When in
history was music better than during my youth? While my parents
watched Lawrence Welk on Saturday evening as they dressed to go
dancing to Big Band music, I was in my room listening to the
romantic musicals of the '50s, from "Brigadoon" through "West
Later, my son had
to listen to the musicals of the '60s with me. After sitting
through the tale of Don Quixote in "Man of La Mancha," he named
his stuffed toys "Donkey-hotay," "Monkey-hotay" and "Rabbit-hotay."
He sang a selected song from "Hair" for his kindergarten music
period, and his teacher called me; nowadays, DSS would show up
at the door.
My friends and I
were watching television when Elvis made rock 'n' roll history
on "The Ed Sullivan Show." Around a decade later, I first felt
my unborn son moving while I watched The Beatles on that same
I had "MacArthur
Park" and "House of the Rising Sun," Jefferson Airplane and The
Eagles, then lived to watch k.d. lang sing Leonard Cohen's
"Hallelujah" at the Vancouver Olympics. I also got to see "Les
Miserables" and "Wicked."
can probably find all this on the Internet. The pleasure impact,
however, in the midst of so much available entertainment, might
not be as strong for them as it's been for me.
As children, we saw
Disney musicals only in theaters; today's children watch them
and "Shrek" at will. They also can't escape the ugly parts of
our culture of which I wasn't aware until adulthood.
My parents got a
television when I was 12. We and our friends all watched the
same shows, from "I Remember Mama" to "Dragnet" and "Wagon
Train." As a young mother, I saw an educational piece about
computers that predicted they would take over the culture; I
found it frightening.
Better to watch
"Star Trek" and imagine a future in which problems on Earth were
solved, allowing Americans and Russians to serve on a spaceship
together with aliens like Mr. Spock.
When my son was
small, I didn't allow him to watch violent TV shows or movies.
Try avoiding them today!
It was an innocent
time in my small town. I didn't learn about the Holocaust until
college; there was no racism there because almost all of us were
Caucasian. Abortions were illegal, and it was all we kids could
do to get basic sex education ("Don't do it until you're
married!" My son was born before I figured out what the "it" was
that I wasn't supposed to do.). And we certainly weren't told
anything about alternate lifestyles.
I'm not saying this
was better, just that it was innocent.
By the time some of
my age group emerged from our cocoon, Jews had vowed "never
again," the Civil Rights Act was being drafted, women were
liberating themselves, and some of our friends were declaring
themselves "gay." Things were getting better, freer.
Of course it wasn't
long before freedom turned to excess, after which political
correctness took the place of some freedom. Which brings me to
my conclusion. None of my happy life would have been possible
if, shortly after my birth, the Nazis and Japanese had won World
War II. My happy life wouldn't have lasted long if the Russians
had won the Cold War, or the nuclear bomb we practiced
"surviving" by ducking under our desks had arrived.
It didn't occur to
my age group to worry about radical Islam until 2001, but I'm
sure I wouldn't be happy living under Sharia Law, or any other
fundamentalist religion. I wouldn't be happy living under any
version of totalitarian government, and understand it can happen
anywhere that citizens aren't eternally vigilant against it.
When I say that
I've lived during the best time in history, I'm talking about
the best time of the last 200,000 years, since humans evolved;
history is only the past. The future history will be created by
the decisions of our present.
I remain optimistic
that with reason and technology we can deal with cultural
change, maybe climate change, and even today's scary economic
change — as long as we understand that liberty is our highest
value, and pass it down to our grateful descendants.
Enjoying best of times, but what of the future?