The race has a subtext, a historic encounter between the Old America and the New, and suddenly the Old America—those who are literally old, who married a guy who fought at the Chosin Reservoir, and those not so old who yet remember, and cherish, the special glories of the Old—will rise, and join in, and make themselves heard. They will not leave without a fight.
So writes Peggy Noonan of the presidential race. These few lines, taken out of context, evoke thoughts of George Carlin. How we laughed that sneaky, little laugh of the guilty when he would launch into his seven-words-you-can-never-ever-say-on-television bit. But now in the cold light of advancing middle age, how puerile it seems. We were no different than the two year old who learns how to say, “caca,” then proceeds to repeat it endlessly, tittering every time he utters the forbidden word. It seemed harmless enough at the time, but it was the first step in the slow downward evolution of our television, movies, and music into a cesspool of amorality so pervasive that families now have to screen the offerings coming into their homes.
That is the problem with the New America. It was forged by a generation whose very “baby” boomer moniker relates not only to the population demographic, but to the immaturity of its members. They enshrined a Peter Pan syndrome of entitlement, irresponsibility, and self-indulgence as the cultural norm. In other words, it is a generation that didn’t grow up, one that dragged its adolescent antics- the mindless pursuit of “cool,” the indulgence in mind-altering substances, the sexual revolution, and a pervasive distrust and disdain of all authority- well into adulthood and beyond where it has metamorphosed into a Hydra-headed monster. As it moved into positions of power, its members spurned such traditional values as duty and self-reliance and self-sacrifice at the same time they accommodated themselves to the acquisition and conspicuous consumption of wealth, a greed unconstrained by traditional strictures.
So now we jump on political bandwagons without real thought; we expect others to take care of us. There is no such thing as civil discourse. People who disagree with our political positions are incomprehensible, stupid, even evil. We forbid the public mention of God, but subject society to scatological description of every conceivable sexual practice. We neglect our children in the pursuit of our own fulfillment or the McMansion in the suburbs. Then we turn and attack and even sue teachers, school bus drivers, or the police when they impose the limits we have failed to instill in our children. We have forgotten the concept of the well-earned shame. Everything is someone else’s fault. We are a nation of angry people, no one getting quite enough.
As a baby boomer I bear my part of the blame, only I’ve grown up and looked around at what we helped create. Frankly, our sole achievement as a generation has been in the arena of battling discrimination, although even that process was started by the greatest generation and has become tainted with the pall of political correctness, moral equivalence, and just plain excess. So forgive me if I side with the Old America. It was a country that produced strong, independent, god-fearing people. I miss it. We need it. More importantly, our children do, too.