“Up until the 1950s, American children yearned for adulthood. When their time came to be adults, they stepped into the role proudly, leaving childhood behind and taking up the mantles of responsibility, honor and dignity. They embraced and championed the ideals of those who came before them while valiantly tackling new ideas and problems that their families, communities and nation faced. Those days were long gone.
“Americans now shunned adulthood, preferring to remain in a state of perpetual adolescence. By failing to move forward with grace and dignity, they left a gaping hole in American society. They treated relationships like disposable lighters, tossing marriages away when they ran out of gas. Children were left without families, and even worse, they were left without adults who could be role models of responsible behavior.”
I first read that fascinating appraisal of the baby boom generation in 2009, in Brad Thor’s book, “The Last Patriot,” and it was something that has stayed on my mind — at least on the fringes — ever since. There are so many things that are important in my life and the lives of people my age that would come under the heading of recreation or fun that my father or my grandfather would have called silly or childish. The older I get, the more I find myself agreeing with them.
My grandfather never had a personal computer, and my dad didn’t have one till the latter part of his life, but I can’t imagine either of them ever sitting at their screen for hours playing computer games or conversing with friends on Facebook. Both of them worked hard in the daytime and then read, watched television or listened to music or the radio in the evenings. Unless it was something educational or useful — my dad teaching me to play chess, for example — they didn’t share the same recreational activities as their children.
I don’t ordinarily read books by the right-wing pundits, although I will admit to reading Rush Limbaugh’s two “books” about 20 years ago. I’ve never bought a book by Sean Hannity or Ann Coulter or Michael Savage or Glenn Beck. I did read Mark Steyn’s “America Alone,” which speculated on a world in which a Judeo-Christian America essentially stood alone against Islam, and I recently downloaded his “After America,” a more apocalyptic view of the future.
It’s an interesting book, but I think Steyn only sees one side of the story and misses an important part. He writes about government spending and the unconscionable growth of the federal debt. He writes of the contempt that the ruling class — mostly liberal, in his view — has for average working people, and how much time and money is wasted getting the government out of the way of people who are trying to accomplish things.
There is truth in what he says, but ignoring 10 years of war and the money that has been wasted on it, ignoring the constant pressure to keep lowering the taxes that the wealthiest Americans pay, ignoring those factors and the effect they have on average people is missing a big part of the point.
We live in a culture in which the media and the entertainment industry treat American adults like children, and we respond by acting more and more like children. And the ones who don’t are treated like fanatics or weirdos. Tens of millions of Americans who are not fundamentalists go to church on Sundays, but you’ll never hear anything about them in the media. You have to kill doctors, bash gay people or attend mega-churches that tell you Jesus loves rich people best to get any airtime.
Hard-working people who aren’t fanatics or weirdos might as well not exist in this country for all the attention they get.
But America has clearly gone off track. Businesses cut jobs not to keep from losing money, but to increase their profits and bolster their stock price. Employees aren’t asked to find ways to help their employers save money; they’re not really part of a team or a family anymore.
Will America fall? Will there be an “after America” world?
In some ways, we are already there.
When you have a country where 1 percent of the people control nearly 40 percent of the wealth, that’s slipping dangerously close to the way things are in a lot of Third World countries.
I think the first step needs to be deciding that our government could be doing a lot less than it does to make the rich even richer.
Then we can take it from there.