Sunday, March 4, 2007

Brokaw's Greatest Generation

After seeing Clint Eastwood's "Letters from Iwo Jima" last weekend, I started thinking about America's recollection of WWII. Peter Brokaw popularized the idea of the WWII generation as the "greatest generation." While I certainly do not want to diminish their sacrifice, I think there is some merit in exploring how perceptions of this time.

The positions in the war were easier to define. There was no mistaking the enemies: militaristic fascist governments with imperial aspirations. The Germans were willing to use genocidal means to achieve empire status.

The roles have become more fluid, and it is difficult to assign the "good" and "bad" labels. Piscean categorizations are loosing potency. We have entered new territory, and people long for a time when they could wrap their brains around what was happening. Is our affection for the "greatest generation" a nostalgia for a time when all our information was delivered from a handful of sources, when we could trust that our leaders would boldly lead us into conflicts against clearly defined enemies?

The future is bringing different challenges. May we respect the past generation while not longing for the simplicity of the past.

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