I looked quietly into the wry grin of a sailor this afternoon at work, wondering where he was going and if he had any idea what he would see.
I’ll bet his mind was on the same thing when the picture was being taken seventy years ago. As I pieced together the invitation for this man’s 90th birthday party on behalf of his daughter, I contemplated the youth torn from the faces of his entire peer group by the horror of battle.
His is a generation defined by its stand against the thrust of world domination.
Today’s ethos haphazardly focuses its attention on the next big thing, whether it be a new gadget or budding starlet. This breeds a society that reveres the young primarily for its potential while pushing aside the aged based solely on the perception of outlived usefulness.
As with most grandchildren before us, we’ve traded time with our grandparents for modern conveniences.
Instead of sitting still for fifteen minutes to listen to a story about surviving the push into Europe as Hitler’s armies sabotaged everything in sight, we collectively bounce our minds from one bass-ackwards “reality” show about a group of misinformed individuals to another. We wonder why our children are overweight and under-motivated or why our economy is financed by China without looking in the right place for the answer: the mirror.
The minute we began choosing instant gratification over determined pursuit, mindless disconnection over earnest study and 10-word soundbites over nuanced answers, we sowed the seeds of our current situation. When someone made “intellectual” a dirty word instead of an ideal, our collective waistband ballooned and our IQ thumped lifelessly against the floor.
I freely admit I have my share of guilt. All of us do.
Our society is built on the labors of The Greatest Generation, which is passing more and more every day behind the veils of dementia and death. To take time and listen to the stories–or read them, if you must–is to understand how much harder your life could be, how much can be accomplished by a group of determined people and how much what was preserved before you is worth fighting for.
The American Dream was defended on someone else’s watch. Will you complain from your couch as it fades on yours?