As the last flicker of American Exceptionalism dies out, those not in denial wonder ‘where has that spirit gone‘?
World War II created the greatest generation this country has ever known. Ordinary men and women stepped up and refused to let this country succumb to tyranny and conquest and saved the world in the process.
As one who was born in the middle the “Baby Boomer” generation, I have seen the changes, good and bad.
The competitive characteristics that were responsible for instilling the ability of the “Greatest Generation” to step up and do what was necessary have slowly fallen out of favor, replaced by an “everyone wins” mentality.
And the blame falls squarely on us Boomers, the seeds planted by “The Greatest Generation” – our parents.
There was nothing intentional nor was there some nefarious plot to “spoil” the next few generations. Rather, it was a shared mindset that developed after World War II that the benefits of the sacrifice and hard work of those who returned from war, or survived it, should be reaped by their children.
The Greatest Generation had their lives forged in the flames of the Great Depression only to move to harder times in war. It was only natural that they wished to bestow prosperity on the generations to come. That we would never know the hardships they faced. We would have a far easier life.
And that is a noble desire. As a result, the next generation avoided much of the suffering their parents went through. The country began to place their offspring on a pedestal and granted them the life they never had.
While we had it far better than our parents, we still faced some of the left over competitive nature that was life in the years after WWII. We had achievers who were better at academics or athletics, and we held them in high esteem. And we had a high water mark to aim for.
“I want to be a better athlete” than another kid. So we worked for it. Some succeeded, others did not. And only winners got a trophy. The losers got a valuable lesson.
Bullies, dodge ball, teasing, harassment, failure and success were a part of life.
The athletes were the top dogs. And often the bullies. The wimps turned to their brains and accepted that they were genetically precluded from dating a cheerleader.
And the “Jocks” ended up working for the “wimps” and the circle was complete.
And as good as we had it, we rebelled. While the Greatest Generation sported close cropped military style hair and preferred a clean shaven “military” look, we got in their face with long hair and beards and by the end of the Vietnam War grew to so despise anything that reminded us of our parents that many even spat upon returning soldiers, even the wounded ones.
Folk songs became protest songs. The rather benign Beatles phenomenon metastasized into the West Coast drug infestation as we watched our top idols Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison take self absorption and overindulgence to fatal levels.
And we failed to heed the exceedingly wise warnings of Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young who told us to “Teach our children well” in spite of the drug induced haze they were so fond of achieving.
And we failed to teach our children well.
We exchanged the pedestal our parents placed us upon for an overprotective bubble and insisted our children were equal in every way to everyone else’s children.
And we are creating a generation of children who believe that if all cannot excel, none should. Instead of wanting to be the best that we can be, we strive for the lowest common denominator.
And we make them believe they are all the best. A trophy, once a symbol of success and achievement is now simply a token that shows one participated. Nothing more than a monument to mediocrity.
And we wonder why we cannot compete in the world.
Watching President Obama roll out the red carpet for a visiting Communist Leader this week whose country has surpassed us in every way is a clear and compelling reason to change the course we are plotting for our children and grandchildren.
China is not so much rising.
America is falling.
But as long as we all get a Trophy, we are OK with losing. And China is laughing all the way to the bank.