Ruminations on the generation gaps
Guest Post by John H. Manhold
A friend and I were discussing the plight of the book selling industry awhile back and the fact that so many people we knew found so little time to read. He added his dissatisfaction with the almost complete lack of interest in history that appears prevalent today. I reminded him that some people still had an interest and that I was preparing to present material about WW II at the national meeting of the Historical Novel Society. He also is a veteran of WW II and has a huge library of books dealing with the conflict. He asked if I had read Bluejacket by John A. Hutchinson a Radioman 1st Class, USN? Hutchinson had served mostly aboard a destroyer, but also spent time aground in Guadalcanal, and participated in numerous major battles from Guadalcanal to the Japanese surrender in Tokyo Bay.
I said that I had not and he loaned me a copy. I found the book not only to be most descriptive, but additionally, and quite suddenly, it brought sharply into focus the differences between today’s generations and ours that experienced WW II. It was startling not only in the matter of the position of today’s single mothers, gay marriage, criminal behavior, and activity of the ACLU, but particularly so in the light of present day action by the President and members of congress. Hutchinson stated quite succinctly what most members of our generation who fought in WW II believed. Specifically, he stated:
“We Hope to be remembered as the products of a different country and society from what the United States of America has become in the last fifty years. Products of a far more disciplined society with rather rigid moral and social standards to which everyone was expected to conform given how society chastened and disciplined offenders. The way of the transgressor was hard. We were taught individual responsibility, that evil is due to character flaws in the individual and not to the shortcomings of society.”
Having finished the book just prior to leaving for my presentation at the society meeting, was most fortunate because I discovered that it was impossible to discuss WW II without comparing the beliefs of our culture with those of today’s society. Right or wrong, the people of that Era had strong basic beliefs and the United States grew to be the most powerful nation in the world. Compare it with today when our Nation’s standing is being questioned as a result of irresolute decisions and actions, and when our credit rating is in danger as a result of the confrontational attitudes of our elected politicians. Think also about the bitter conflicts about birth control, gay marriage and service in the armed forces.
These problems simply did not exist in WW II days. Everyone worked together for the common good. It was unpatriotic to complain or not work together. Tremendous pressure existed for survival. In a somewhat different manner, pressure is great today. However, if closely examined, is not much of today’s pressure self-imposed? Everyone must “live the American Dream”. They must own a home as large as their acquaintance, have the best of automobiles, children who have all of the latest gadgets, and they must chauffer them around to supervised activities. These desires and actions place great strain on personal time and seemingly non-stop pressure on their bank accounts and credit cards. And then, there are our elected government representatives who have forgotten the people they represent because they have the “pressure of being reelected”. After all, they do not want to lose many of the perks that are unique to the position.
Perhaps our dilemma rises from the fact that we have had it too good for too long and we are finding ourselves very close to the problems faced by Greece, Ireland, Portugal and the rest. The result is that we are arriving at a place, such as exhibited by the air traffic controllers, that the pressure has become unbearable. If this is the case, possibly we should remember the old time-honored expressions: “bite-the-bullet” and “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen.” For persons such as the controllers, the answer is simple. If they are unhappy with their present positions and salaries and do not wish to continue making secure the lives of persons who fly, they should quit or be removed. Replacements always can be found. I remember a number of years back when Regan fired all of the traffic controllers. They were replaced within a week, and we no longer had to worry about safety for landing our aircraft. Instead, as an example of the manner such activity is viewed by the far-sighted overseers today, is to provide more time for rest to alleviate the problem.
The WW II veteran author also went on to say, “We were taught to depend on God, to persevere in adversity, and to take care of ourselves and our families, and not to depend on society or government to look after us.” AND in explanation of some of his highly specific statements: “…while I hold strong moral, ethical, and religious beliefs, I am a very private man who usually keeps these tenets within. I feel that my relationship with my Maker is just between Him and me,”
With respect to the reference to God, some people today will not agree. The ACLU is making an attempt to have all of the crosses removed from National Cemeteries and, as reported in the Florida newspapers, a graduation ceremony for three hundred was held up by court order because one person complained about a prayer before the ceremony. Minor actions, no doubt, but with all of the other problems facing us today, isn’t the fact that these “small problems’ are being pushed so strenuously a little picayune? But perhaps my suggestions are a little “too old fashion” and it is true. I am speaking from a generation that would refer to these thoughts as ‘common sense’ and a belief in democracy where the wishes of one person were not allowed to interfere with those of three hundred.