Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Some History According to Train

I've been thinking about the greatest generation for a few months now.

I've come to the conclusion that they weren't so great. And I wonder if some of those veterans never left the 1940's behind.

Jesse Kornbluth's review of 'My Father's Secret War," in, leads me to wonder if war wasn't always traumatizing and we just never [pre-Freud] recognized or allowed for the scope of what it did to those who had to live with their memories. Because aside from the glory of winning, what is left, except the terrible deep fear of having to be 'on' 24/7 in order not to be killed, and the necessity of having to keep going, maintaining an impervious front as you watch people you serve with get killed and maimed, interspersed with brief moments of a deep and enduring camaraderie that afterwards only will have its comfort mitigated as it reminds you of what you and others lost.

And then what we do is glorify veterans' experiences without allowing them to cry about the damage done to them. Because that 'weakness' would denigrate the victory or some crap. Male indoctrination at its worst.

So, the greatest generation is a group of people who were innocent in good ways and also in bad ways. And the 50's? An extension of the innocence as they elected a president who was a general and a genial paternalistic icon. That this was a huge group response to the utter trauma of WW II was not even on the screen. They stopped growing, on some level, lulled by their accomplishment.

The 60s were a rude awakening for the greatest, because their children saw the hypocrisy in government and social institutions, spurred on by the civil rights movement which was also a rude surprise to the "G." Throughout it all, the greatest stuck together, seeking solace, even refuge in DoubleyaDoubleya Two as a real war and their 'winning it' as justification for their existence. OK. But what this all engendered is a group of people who mass-produced children in response to this trauma, tried to stay teenagers in response to their lost adolescence, and rigidly rejected change as a threat to the status quo.

Too many of them had children in order to fit into this rigid society [remember how strange childless couples were when you were growing up?] and too many of those children suffered damage as a result. While I absolutely abhor the rampant entitlement many of today's children exhibit, I see the opposite as just as dangerous.

I have met one person after another who, although now in his/her 80's, is still childlike in ways that are not complimentary, and which has made the aging process less graceful than it could be. And I'm being kind.

I will read the Franks book, if only to find if she also saw this and overcame it to have compassion for someone who was a victim of both war and what followed after and who could not in his lifetime mourn what had happened to him but was destined to act it out.