The Boomers' Wars

Back during the Clinton War on Bosnia, when our American pilots were bombing yet another Twentieth Century city into the Thirteenth Century, I wrote an angry little piece addressed to the American Baby Boomer generation. I seemed to recall that it was this generation that stood up to our Imperial War Machine during the Sixties and brought that war to a halt. In this war, however, I felt that they were strangely silent. I wondered if they had changed their minds about our Imperial wars in general? Or were they were hoping against hope that this monster they had put in office was not really the psychopath he appeared to be? I never could answer that question.

Today Clinton's War and Bush-the-First's War keep dragging on and on, as does the War on Drugs and the War on Dissenters, without much comment from the Boomers, yet this bulging block of population has reached its pinnacle of wealth and power and I suspect that it could put a stop to these wars too, if it wanted to. Because it doesn't, I conclude that it doesn't want to. Why?

The most obvious explanations that come to mind are that first the Boomers became preoccupied with their jobs and paying their mortgage and raising their kids and then suddenly realized that they are facing sixty and retirement, so they never took the time to think about what their government was doing. "Like, hey, man, we were, like, busy, you know." I don't think this answers the question.

The Boomers were born after the Hot War that we supposedly won and into the Cold War that threatened to annihilate mankind. As children they heard the local air-raid sirens blare and they peered skyward fearfully from beneath household furniture and schoolroom desks, waiting for the planes and the mushroom clouds. This was a common, everyday reality that I remember well.

While this particular practice came to an end, the threat of nuclear holocaust did not, which may have made these children wonder about the wisdom of their adults, and which children ought to still be wondering about today. Meanwhile, television came on the scene and filled every household with the inane antics of vaudeville and the new inanities of situation comedies juxtaposed with our glorious victories in old wars, the noble battles of new wars, cowboys and Indians, and the omnipresent threat of nuclear annihilation. Could this contradictory daily fare be called confusing?

With mature twenty-twenty hindsight today, many of us would agree that the American people were tricked into fighting every political war we have engaged in since 1776. The people don't want war, the politicians and the political bureaucrats and the war-material manufacturers want war. The people were either conned or forced into war by lies or bayonets. Vietnam was no different. I vividly recall a 1966 article in the National Geographic Magazine that depicted our compassionate Green Berets ministering to the peasants in Vietnam with nary a weapon in sight. See the good we do! Not quite the same picture we got from Lieutenant Calley a few years later. I don't know what kind of lies they were telling on television in those days, I refused to own one.

But the generation that President Johnson was sending to their deaths in Southeast Asia was much larger than he or his buddies could imagine and this generation was uniquely tired of all the lies inherent in the contradictions they had been fed. Money also played an enormous role in bringing the anti-war protest into every American home, for this generation had it. The government that could effectively shut up a Pete Seager's solo protest against the atomic bomb could not shut up the hundreds of minstrels who emerged to protest our war in Vietnam, minstrels who found a well-healed and ready market for their songs.

Even the mainstream media got the message after a while. The flower-children were not the misplaced waifs of their beloved Depression after all, they were the children of the affluent post-war middle-class and they did not want to die for nothing.

Of course, I will not forget to mention the cultural confusion also introduced by our space program, by the lamentable murders of the Kennedy brothers, both of whom should have lived to pay for their crimes, by the murder of Martin Luther King, and by The Pill. Each of these events would have had momentous cultural consequences if spread over decades; instead, they all happened in a compressed space of time. Then came the double-digit inflation to pay for our government's wars. It was too much to integrate. Gurus popped up everywhere to tell this generation what to think.

I honestly believe that if it had not been for the naïve dedication and hard work of a handful of college dropouts during the seventies, and the courage of their investors, our economy and world economies would have failed then and there, and precipitated the very Armageddon that everybody was expecting, the fiery victory of world socialism.

Children today cannot recapture this sense of a world without hope, although for inscrutable reasons of their own some are trying very hard, but their parents and their grandparents can. I wonder if this is why the old folks are silent while their government murders innocents in foreign lands and militarized police murder innocents at home? Were these totalitarian Imperial values secretly buried in their hearts all along? Is this the world they wanted thirty-years ago?

I don't think so, but I am no longer sure. No, I am not calling for the old Hippies to rise up and publicly burn their AARP cards. No, I am not calling for the three-monkey RepubliCrats to make cloying speeches and then forge new chains for us behind closed doors. I am asking the Baby Boomers to wake up and look at the world they have created. Is this what you wanted? If it isn't, then speak out, and put a stop to these wars once and for all.

August 18, 2001