Greatest Generation Not to Be Replicated

Bill Neinast

The belief that history repeats itself is not always correct.  About one quarter of the last century of our country’s history is not likely to resurface.

Those were the days of the Greatest Generation.  This was a rare time in our history when the entire country was united, talked with one voice, and acted with one  muscle.

This was a generation that was born in poverty.  The country was in the midst of a severe depression with rampant unemployment.  Homeless men, called hobos, roamed the country.

Their roaming was facilitated by the railroads.  As my hometown was a rail hub, there was a so-called hobo jungle at the switching yard (a series of short rail lines where freight cars were switched around to make up trains headed for different destinations).

The hobos would roam around town begging for food. They would knock on our back door and ask my mother if they could do some yard work or cut some wood for our stoves for some bread or bacon.  Mom and the other women around town would normally respond with a gift of a small sandwich, or some such.

This sad part of our history was brought to a screeching halt on December 7, 1941.  There was an immediate demand for every adult to either put on a military uniform or operate plants that manufactured ships, planes, tanks, and every type of war material imaginable.

The country responded with one voice.  A home that was not involved in some way in the war effort was rare.  At least one family member of every home was either in uniform or serving as Rosie the Riveter.

Any young man who tried to avoid the draft for any reason was derided as a “slacker.”

A home without a flag in the window with a blue star for each family member in service or a gold star for a member killed in action was a rarity.

This, then, is a very brief history of our country talking with one voice and acting with one muscle.

This situation continued, to a certain extent, through the Korean War that began just five years after Japan’s surrender in 1945.

That relatively small war did not require the total commitment of the nation, but those who were called on to participate responded promptly.

Now fast forward 15 years.  President Lyndon Johnson decided to stop communism in its expansion in Asia and went to the aid of South Vietnam with a half million man army and supporting air and naval forces.

This country then splintered into many pieces on the first day of the commitment of troops other than advisors in Vietnam.  

Men like Bill Clinton fled to foreign countries to avoid the draft.  Donald Trump avoided military service by claiming student deferments and physical disability because of a spur in his foot.  Instead of being called slackers, they were hailed for resisting the war.

Service members in uniform were spat upon in the streets and called baby killers.  Riots and demonstrations were frequent all over the country.

Next came the war in Iraq.  Although the service personnel were not derided and harassed, there were frequent demonstrations under banners of “Bush lied and people died.”

Today, although our service men and women are still facing death in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, there is no war in the traditional sense.  Generally, those in military uniform are getting the appropriate honor, recognition, and respect.

Unfortunately that will to serve Is not universal.  Currently, our President is trying to negotiate China, our largest trading partner, into an agreement that will treat us more fairly.  He wants to stop China’s stealing our software and manufacturing practices and to lift its tariffs on items imported from us.  

The tariffs now being imposed on Chinese products being imported over our shores may result in slight price increases on some products and will reduce agricultural exports  from our shores.

Now listen to the protests.  There are cries in the media of, “We do not want to spend a few pennies to help our country and, notwithstanding those subsidy payments to help affected farmers, will not accept a reduction in farmers’ profits.”

Remember that while those silly protests are going on, we have American men and women putting their lives on line for the country in hot spots all over the world.  

What are the members of the Greatest Generation still among us thinking about this objection to losing a few dollars to support the country?

Look now at our nation’s capitol.  It is hard to find appropriate words to describe the division, bitterness, disrespect, and hostility among our so-called leaders. 

 They are supposed to set the tone of the country, and what kind of tone are they setting?  Some of that tone is reflected in the demonstrations against the police and judicial system.

So here’s the perspective.

The United States is a misnomer.  There is nothing today or in the foreseeable future that would or could unite us like the attack on Pearl Harbor did.  

The destruction of the towers in New York on September 11, 2001, did not and if that attack on our nation did not, what could?

The Greatest Generation will never be replicated.



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