In the late 1990’s, I picked up a book entitled “Generations.” I’m a big history buff, and the notion that history could be mapped out in a different way was intriguing. After reading this book, I felt like a vegetable juice commercial had just played out: I figuratively slapped myself in the head and said, “duh!” William Strauss and Neil Howe had, in 538 pages, nailed a Great Truth. A generation of people has a common identity, common experiences, and common reactions to events. It merely follows that each generation, in reacting to events through that common lens of life experience, would behave in a fairly predictable manner. Psychology and sociology with a dip-dab of common sense: hence, duh!
Reading Strauss and Howe’s other books expanded and reinforced the idea. In particular, The Fourth Turning took the dynamics of Generations, applied it directly to history, and then played it forward. The authors laid it out in 1998: America was heading into a crisis of the same magnitude and scope as The American Revolution, the Civil War, and the Great Depression/World War II. (for funsies, add up the time lapse between each of those events, and then fast forward the same number of years) The authors never got specific about what types of crises would occur, because the specific events weren’t really important. What was important was the way each generation would react to the spark of an event.
Okay, Shadowstalker, so we’re in a crisis like some others before us. It’s bad, gonna be bad…but hey, those other three mentioned turned out pretty good, right? Everybody pull together, some flag waving, it’s all good! What’s this Civil War II crap?
For starters, bunches of people died in the Revolution/Civil War/WWII. For those who didn’t die, some starved. Raping and pillaging and torturing disrupted their lives. American lives, ordinary folks like folks you know. People had to do either heroic or cowardly things. We’re talking Mel Gibson-movie level stuff, here. And, what happens over the next few years will have lasting effects, shaping the destinies of our grandchildren. America dealt with decisions made during the Revolution right up to the Civil War, and the Civil War’s aftermath shaped America right up through World War II. And yes, we are still dealing with stuff that FDR and Churchill and Stalin blithely carved up at Malta. The economic policy that our government is blissfully shredding was put in place in the Depression, to prevent the kind of meltdown America is suffering through right now. During a crisis, history matters, and the results are not guaranteed beforehand to be good. There are hundreds of ways that the Civil War could have turned out better. We live with how it is, for better or worse.
With the singular exception of our President, Barack “Whatever” Obama, the power brokers across the country are all Baby Boomers. Those of you who remember or have heard of the 1960’s, take note: all those young people rioting and burning draft cards and taking over their student unions? Baby Boomers. They paused, got the good jobs, raised those perfect Millenial babies, and now they’re back doing the same things they were doing in the sixties. They burned their student unions when they were young, and brought down one Presidency. It’s time for an encore before they’re swept off the stage by Time itself.
Baby Boomers are willing to fight, and the conservative ones are willing to fight hard and ugly to remold society into their notion of what’s not evil. People are already dying and more will die: those without health care, people who can’t support themselves without honest work, people too uneducated to become a productive part of society. Life and death in big numbers are flowing out of Washington right now. Policy matters.
We’re in a war. The actual shooting may not have started, but the war is happening whether or not our side shows up. Unfortunately, our side is unarmed and we ain’t Bruce Lee. If we don’t fight, we die: maybe literally. What can we do?
It’s time to take a stand, tell them “we will give no more ground”. And mean it. Our pocketbooks must close to non-progressive causes, our votes must follow our principles. We have to be loud, and louder still. We have to actually do things. Push recall elections, push boycotts, push hard and push back!
Winston Churchill said it best, ” We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.” The consequences, if we fail, will reshape America into a country that none of us will want to claim as our own.