For anyone under 65 who has understood Tom Brokaw’s book The Great Generation, you have just about 3 years left to find one of its members before they’re all gone. That’s the word from the US Census Bureau; even more important to me, it’s the little pinch from my heart. My parents and their family are all gone, leaving me and especially you with a ticking-short time to touch a living legend.
This label applies to all those Americans who lived during any part of the Great Depression (1930s) and WWII (1940s). Born in 1931, I was there to behold — and gradually to value — their lives. For while there are many generations to whom we can look with humidity pride, this one stands out by the sheer immensity of its times and turmoil. America, yes the world, has never grappled with a peacetime disaster nor a wartime cataclysm like these two over-lapping traumas that took the lives of more than 80 million.
Now I’ve heard, and even agreed with, the indictment that these times were pock-marked with hypocrisy, deceits, racism and sexism. And yet the indictment falls like a collapsing air balloon when one measures the incaluable ways these people clung to their lives, their families, their fortunes, and their countries. Perhaps not all willingly, but all faithfully. What especially distinguishes the Greatest Generation is they mostly did it with a sense of more-than-me. That’s right, they may have been the very last Americans whose sense of the US surpassed their obsession with the ME.
In any case, time is running out. Find out for yourself. Take a GG to lunch and just ask them one question: “What was it like…?”
Filed under: Uncategorized