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Tuesday Sober Thread: The Greatest Generation

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by DrFrylock, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. DrFrylock

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    Despite basically living thick-as-thieves with terrorists, it is TiB member RCGT who reminds us that today is a day that will live in infamy.

    We're losing much of the Greatest Generation these days; I've lost both my grandfathers who fought in World War II. In some sense I don't mind that their generation has the "Greatest" appellation. The double-whammy of the Depression and the War really affected them. It certainly gave both my grandfathers a sober and focused perspective on life, and an appreciation for the simple things that I have tried to emulate (despite not having gone through those hardships myself).

    I look around today and I see a growing sense of entitlement and a lack of work ethic and general perspective on what's important in the world. I work with a lot of Boomers, and you can clearly see their parents' experiences rubbed off on them - not totally, but significantly, and especially as they age. I am not so sure about their kids and grandkids, though. I see a lot of people around my age and younger who are constantly looking for the easiest possible solution to every problem. Nobody seems to want to hear that the best way to solve their current problems is to work their asses off for 3-5 years. It's all about short-term benefit.

    FOCUS: Who have you known in your life that was a member of The Greatest Generation (or the subsequent Silent Generation) and who affected your life? How? Do you think that the later generations are somehow "less great" or is that just "get-off-my-lawn-itis?"
     
  2. Juice

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    I learned more about how to be a gentleman from my grandfather more than anyone else simply from observation. He toured in France during WW2 when he was 18 and saw lots of combat, the guy has balls.

    As for this generation, can you imagine a draft today?
     
  3. Misanthropic

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    Most of that generation, on both sides of my family (grandfathers and great uncles), fought in either Europe or the Pacific. There are a bunch of Purple hearts and bronze and silver stars floating around - these guys weren't in the motor pool, they were in the action. How have they affected my life? Very little, actually. Most of my great Uncles were kind of distant - nice guys, but not really involved with my life. The only one I really saw on a regular basis was my dad's father. And he was a prick.

    The Greatest Generation earned that title as a result of the the circumstances they lived through. They endured some incredible trials that many of us simply could not have dealt with, but objectively, there is nothing about them, genetically, intellectually or culturally, that would make them any more capable than any group before or since. Don't go by my opinion - read the literature. Most folks who lived through either the Great Depression or WWII will tell you they simply did what they had to. And there were plenty of folks whose behavior was less than exemplary during both of these periods.

    Could I have performed valiantly on the battlefield? I don't know. And thank goodness I've never had, most of haven't had, to find out. Honestly, I'm not sure I could have held up physically to much of what the soldiers in WWII, or of today, have gone through. But I have no doubt that there are people in any generation that can rise to the occasion when needed.
     
  4. Misanthropic

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    I think you need to take a realistic look at U.S. history. During the Revolution, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, it was incredibly difficult to maintain a standing army. Conscription was often violently opposed, and soldiers drifted in and out of service. Conscription was typically accepted during WWI and II. Given the presence of massive armies plowing through Europe and Asia, and threatening our own coast, that isn't very surprising, but even then there were those opposed, some of whom fled the contry.

    I signed up for Selective Service when I was 18. In the U.S., this is, essentially, putting your name on the list for a draft, should there be one. I, and all of my friends, would have served if called. I can't speak for you folks of drafting age today.
     
  5. Crazy Wolf

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    My name's on that list. I know friends who'd serve, and those who'd dodge the hell out of it. However, those I know who'd dodge the hell out of it tend to be the kind who'd probably get a Conscientious Objector status instead. Granted, now we've got personal body armor and widespread radios and awesome medicine and vehicles that can pluck you out of the hairiest part of Satan's asshole and deliver you to a base within a few hours. I'm glad that for the foreseeable future, I won't have to risk an artillery bombard or sky darkened with enemy bombers. The jobs that I'm considering after college would sorta make that whole "draft" thing moot for me personally, so I'm not exactly in an unbiased position. If this isn't interpreted politically, and rather as a statement of the somewhat-obvious, I think that a draft would be a lot more acceptable if there was less dissension over how my nation's military was/should be used. Compare the amount of protests 1938-1945 to 1965-1972.*


    *yeah, I know the dates don't match perfectly for the start-end dates for US involvement of their respective wars, but there's often public discourse on matters before they involve American troops.
     
  6. RCGT

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    I do think it's a problem that the living memory of World War II is dying out. If you grew up in that generation, you understood sacrifice. You didn't really have a choice.
     
  7. BL1Y

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    MY grandfather was a bomber pilot and fought in Italy and Africa. Got shot to hell, was the only surviving member of his crew on one mission, went back for more, and was later involved in developing the bomb (he flew planes used in photographing the blast and doing other sorts of studies during the tests).

    When I knew him though, he was a mean old man who gave his grand children rocks for Christmas.

    From him I learned the valuable lesson that even a war hero can be a dick.

    Also, his name was Adolph. Serves him right.
     
  8. audreymonroe

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    I didn't really know my grandparents that well because by the time I was old enough to be aware of their importance, they both had Alzheimer's and I was more uncomfortable around them or even scared of them. Now that they have both died, though, I really miss them because I'm sad that I never got to know them, especially my grandpa. I've been learning about him a little and his life and what he was like, and he just seems like a great man, the kind that you don't really see that often anymore. He had strong morals and he worked hard and provided for his family without grumbling through it like a duty, but actually cared about them and showed it through other ways besides financial support. (But, then again, he also had a near-genius ability to provide for us financially. I have no idea how they did it, but my grandparents are the reason I was able to go to the private college of my choosing in a city when my dad was unemployed for most of my college career. I wish they were still alive if only so I could thank them in person because I am obviously incredibly grateful for that.) He had passions that he pursued outside of work and upheld traditions and was funny and liked to play jokes. He didn't have that cold stoicism that "the Greatest Generation" tends to have either. I remember visiting them in the nursing home, and him looking over at my grandma who was far worse than he was and didn't know who any of us were, and talking about how much he loved her. Whenever I feel like I'm about to give up and then am able to pick myself up again, I always like to imagine it's him somehow that's pushing me forward. I really admire him, and try to live up to his memory.

    As for the other generations, I don't think they can be categorized as better or worse. It's no question that "the Greatest Generation" were heroes, but there are aspects about them, if we're generalizing that in a modern light I'm not exactly fond of too. The same is true for the next few generations. There are things that I find annoying about my generation, but there are also plenty of things that I'm proud of. So far, people have been pointing to our lack of willingness to fight in a war or be drafted as a negative thing, but I don't see it that way at all. I don't think I should elaborate on that though, because it's too political. It's silly to generalize like this, though.
     
  9. ghettoastronaut

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    I'm only a bit disconnected from the Greatest Generation stuff as the coinage is more of an American thing, and my grandparents were more on the receiving end of WWII. My family's military history consists of my grandfather, who deserted from the Italian army. Also, they were liberated by Canadian troops, with whom my grandfather traded cigars for hair cuts. The other side of the family immigrated from Holland, so it's a similar story.

    It seems almost a truism to point out that although they lived through the great depression and fought WWII, this was also the generation that had segregation and fought the civil rights act (although by the same token, this was the generation that brought in the civil rights act). Minorities were treated like shit, even within the military. Homosexuals, if not criminally outlawed, had far more rights issues to deal with than mormons funneling money into a California plebiscite campaign. Every generation is going to have its demons, and though we are definitely poorer for the living memory of WWII dying off (and infinitely richer for it having been fought), I'm a bit suspicious of this idealization.
     
  10. lostalldoubt86

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    If it weren't for my paternal grandmother, I never would have passed math or science. She was a teacher before she retired, and although most people think older teachers are stuck-in-their-ways and uncreative, my grandmother was not. I learned about science through gardening and geometry through building.
     
  11. Harry Coolahan

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    My grandfather and father were in Warsaw during the invasion, and my grandfather got drafted into the front lines of the Russian army. For those of you that know your history, that was maybe the worst place to be during WWII, short of Auschwitz. I have no idea how he survived—though he did take a grenade to the leg. My grandmother stayed behind in Poland as a freedom fighter/insurgent against the Nazis.

    I think this idea of the Greatest Generation is a whitewashed, revisionist way of looking at history. My grandfather came out of WWII with PTSD and never had a single conversation for the rest of his life that wasn't centered around his experiences during the war. My dad grew up in Poland and only got butter once a week to eat with his ration of bread, and lost his family during the war, and it left him emotionally distant and narcissistic. Yes, some people faced adversity and muscled through it, but a lot of people were scarred/broken/killed by it. I don't think our generation would fare any better or worse.

    As for our generation, obviously it is different but it has adapted its strengths and weaknesses to the times. Maybe we are too clever for our own good, but at the same time society now favors innovation over grit. (Which is not to disparage hard work, obviously.) At least we're not growing up in the 60s-80s, when people took pride in being contrarian and counterproductive to society. Everyone is stupid in their 20s, and I'm sure our generation will turn out just as well as any other.
     
  12. MoreCowbell

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    Since I tend to do the whole annoying-contrarian thing:

    The Greatest Generation was the generation of the generation of George Wallace and segregation. The Greatest Generation was the generation of Joseph McCarthy and the Red Scare (although McCarthy himself was a bit older). The Greatest Generation sent us into Vietnam. The Greatest Generation were the people who thought that Elvis was too scandalous for public consumption. So on and so forth.

    Meanwhile, the era of the Boomers involved the fall of Communism, fighting for civil rights, and bringing the world into a previously unheralded level of prosperity. So there's that.

    Culturally speaking, the Greatest Generation's time was one of institutional and widespread racism, sexism, homophobia, and environmental apathy. The Baby Boomers, to some degree and will less-than-total success, spent years trying to fight these legacies.

    I don't mean to shit on them, or to denigrate their sacrifice. And I sure as hell don't mean to suggest that I think Baby Boomers were somehow "better." I just think this whole idea of "My generation was more badass than your generation" is abysmally silly.
     
  13. jordan_paul

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    My great Uncle was in WW2, he was 16 and faked his birth certificate to get into the army. My uncle landed on Juno Beach and managed to make it home after VE day. He lead a really intersting life, he made his way as a professional poker player for years. He wasnt rich, but every 3 years or so he bought himself a new Cadillac from 1950ish right up until the late 80's and had a really nice house in London. From what I was told he was a real wild man back in his day, always driving fast and crashing his cars, getting into fights, and bring home girls like crazy. One thing though he NEVER talked about the war, and got really pissed off when someone asked him about it. Sadly in the early 90's he developed alzheimers and he had to be moved to the big Veterans Hospital in London. I remember visiting him all the time though when I was a kid with my grandparents. In the early stages of the disease we would take him downstairs and my grandfather would light him a cigar, and we would just sit and talk. For such an old man though he was pretty spry, especially when he had a flashback. He broke a male orderly's arm one time because he tried to shake my uncle awake when he was sleeping one time. Near the end he was a sad sight to see though, he lost a ton of weight, and totally lost his mind. He died when I was 14.

    If the shit hit the fan though and all of Canada was called to war for say WW3, Id voulenteer before I could get the chance to be drafed. There's no way I could sit around while my friends are fighting and dying for our country.
     
  14. scootah

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    My grandfather was a 'Choco' or a chocolate soldier. He was deployed from the rural gold mining town he lived in to Papua New Guinea with about 6 minutes training (this is how your uniform goes on, this is your gun, point this end at the nips, Australia's safety depends on you!) and fought on the Kokoda track. This was arguably the most significant war time action that Australian's ever saw, a collection of untrained civilians defending Australia again a genuine and credible invasion threat. Tobruk was an incredible victory for Australians, and Gallipoli was an intensely significant moment - but the Choco's at Kokoda were doing more than aiding our allies - they were defending their homes.

    Pop came home with a sword he wouldn't talk about (a Japanese NCO's sword that's still in my father's possession), married a woman he would never relate to, fathered children who would never have a relationship with him and mourned friends who died, his own failure to die, and his imminent death for 65 years. He tossed my pregnant grandmother out a window and carved up the living room with that sword before it was tied into it's scabbard with string and stored in the attic. One of his war buddies told us the story eventually, that the sword was used by it's original owner to kill his best friend. Pop got hold of the sword in a struggle and used it to kill it's owner, and thought it was the kind of souvenir he should keep. He's been a miserable, cantankerous bastard for the entirety of my life, and as far as I can tell the entirety of my father's life. He's impossible to live with, rude, demeaning, upsetting and basically a prick. But when Australia's safety depended on him, he stood up. He went into an environment he was woefully unprepared for and faced conditions he had no idea could exist, and he did his job and kept his home safe.

    The world has changed since then. I will NEVER be called to face that sort of event. Untrained, unprepared civilians won't be what defends national safety in my lifetime. And thank fuck, because I will never be up to facing what he survived. I struggle to survive the stress of my job and my day to day sometimes. I can't imagine surviving with the memories he has, let alone surviving through the things he lived through without giving up.

    Lately I find myself comparing my own life, my courage and my integrity as a man to my father's. I still don't know how I really compare, and I don't know that I will ever really be sure. But I have a nagging feeling that I will always be the lesser man. My strength of character and courage to make impossible decisions is a weak and flagging thing compared to his. And his tolerance for cultural changes is certainly much greater than mine. I can't fucking stand douchebag kids. At thirty, I already want those little bastards off my lawn, and can't understand why their mothers would let them dress like retards.
     
  15. Superfantastic

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    I tend to agree with Mr. Cowbell's sentiments, although I'd blame the boomers a bit more for the pickle we find ourselves in today.

    Don't think I'd consider any generation greater than another, but the World Wars generation deserves a lot more thanks than any subsequent generation, in my mind, since things would assuredly be a fuck-of-a-lot different were they not successful (anyone else ever try to imagine what it would be like? Trippy, scary stuff).

    With topics like this, though, I find people don't go far enough back. What about the sacfrifices our ancestors made? Many generations, across tens of thousands of years, living MUCH harder lives than the generations we're talking about. Could you imagine raising a family while not even feeling secure enough to have dominance over other animals? Not to mention birth-related deaths (mother and child), and knowing that a tooth ache could very likely result in your death (well, maybe they didn't "know" it, but you know what I mean). I don't have time to find/cite the numbers, but if memory serves, before our species left Africa due to heat/overal suckiness, we were down to 10,000-20,000 people. Total. On all of earth. If I were to call any generation the greatest, it would be them, since if THEY weren't successful, things would not only be different, we wouldn't exist at all.

    As for joining the army today, call me a pussy, but I can only think of two reasons: if my freedom is threatened, which I guess goes without saying, or if there was another Hitler-level psycopath making his way through a part of the world and enslaving people. Don't know of many just wars happening today, but I'm not very knowledgeable on the subject either. To me, one of the most depressing things about our species is that war is still considered such an option/strategy. I'm not naive/hippy enough to think we're gonna do away with it altogether, but it seems like we're not outgrowing it quick enough. I mean, countries still actively trying to get nuclear weapons to kill a huge amount of people because they live within a made up boundary and/or believe something different (and are likely wrong) -- fucking really? You know we could be looking for other planets to live on, right? Apologies if that's too politcal.

    Oh, and my grandpa fought in WWII, but died when I was five, and I don't think he told my mom or even Grandma much about it.
     
  16. Crown Royal

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    Both of my Grandfathers were WW II vets. My dad's father was in the Air Force and survived four planes crashes. My mom's father only talked about the war once ever, but he wasn't candid about it when I finally decided to ask: He went over when he was seventeen and on his second day "Orphaned about twenty Kraut kids with one well-placed barrage of my Thompson". He killed eight men at once. His other sovenier while in Europe was an aircraft bullet in the thigh. Jesus.
     
  17. babyface

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    I agree, each generation has its balancing characteristics, none better or worse than the last. The "Greatest" Generation defended our country, but were mostly sexist and racist. I still can't wrap my head around the idea that these people fought against a nation discriminating against other human beings because of their ethnicity, and then came home and did exactly the same thing. The Baby Boomers worked to achieve equal rights for women and minorities, but destroyed the middle class (while enjoying the benefits of being part of it).

    On a lighter note:
     
    #17 babyface, Dec 7, 2010
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  18. ghettoastronaut

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    The other problem with the Greatest Generation is that they were the ones who raised the Baby Boomers. And we see where that's gotten us.
     
  19. RCGT

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    If I almost got killed in a foreign country, watching a bunch of my friends die, I can't say I wouldn't spoil my kids too.

    That said, the Baby Boomers as a generation just fucking suck. Can we agree on this?
     
  20. Mantis Toboggan M.D.

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    I am NOT at all defending segregation here, but forcing people to sit at the back of a bus or use a different water fountain is not exactly the same as wholesale, industrial-efficiency genocide.