Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The Current Generation Gap

When I was coming of age in the late sixties, the term “Generation Gap” was used widely. It was an attempt on the part of both sides of the Gap to reconcile the strong emotions involved. The biggest issues of the day were the Vietnam War and the military draft. The older generation generally did not understand the abhorrence of the younger generation. The older generation had fought the good fight of World War II and looked at Vietnam as a continuation of the same fight. Vietnam was the first war to be televised on a daily basis; the horrors of that war were in our living rooms everyday. There was no avoiding the flag-draped coffins coming back. The entire population was asked to make sacrifices. Families were ripped apart over these issues.

Middle and lower class America were where the Generation Gap occurred. Upper class America had methods at their disposal that any of them wishing to avoid service in Vietnam, was able to do so (i.e. Bush’s Air National Guard enlistment). Many sons were disowned when they decided to avoid the draft by going underground or moving to Canada. Many families still feel guilt over encouraging their sons to go fight in the war only to have them return dead, maimed, or emotionally crippled for life. In the best of cases reconciliation occurred. The end of the Vietnam War brought the end of the draft. America has since operated with all-volunteer Armed Forces.

It should be noted that in Vietnam unlike the Gulf Wars, there were NO reservists or National Guard troops called up to duty in country. This is because neither Johnson nor Nixon felt they had the political capital necessary to make such a move. The mainstream media would not have let them get away with doing so. Not only is the Bush regime allowed doing so with impunity, many reservists and Guard members have now served multiple tours in Iraq. The Generation Gap of today occurs not just because of age but also because of experiential knowledge. Those of my age and older remember the sacrifices of Vietnam. We are well aware of our peers and siblings that will never be the same. In the end Vietnam was a huge tragedy with its unneeded loss of human life and potential, no matter what high ideals were the motivation.

To be sure, only the most gullible still believe there are similar high ideals for the war in Iraq. The Generation Gap that exists today is one of ignorance and apathy. Most young people have no strong feelings either way about the Iraqi war. This is exactly what Bush wants. The country is not asked to make any wartime sacrifices. There is a subtle but definite dismissal of any concerns for the troops, “They all knew what they were getting into when they volunteered.” The middle and lower classes are so busy trying to make a living and eat; there is no time to be concerned about how they’re being shafted by the Bush regime.

It is our duty to close the current Generation Gap. Education is necessary to replace the ignorance propagated by the current administration. We must make those in ignorance realize the number of deaths occurring, both American and Iraqi. The only way to truly support the troops is to bring them home now. Apathy may be the end of the grand experiment that is democracy in America.

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