The American men and women who lived through the middle of the last century are often referred to as “The Greatest Generation”.
No disrespect, but I have to call bullshit.
Of course there were millions of brave individuals who exhibited incredible grace and grit in the face of the devastating economic, political and social upheaval brought on by the Great Depression and unprecedented horrors of World War II. But our country was also filled with millions of segregationists, rampant anti-Semitism, and legions of xenophobes. Misogyny, racism and anti-gay bias were more than commonplace; they were woven into the very fabric of everyday life. There were untold heroes and heroines who worked hard and made enormous sacrifices. There were also lynchings, Japanese internment camps, and lots of places where Jews and women were not welcome.
Throughout human history, there are good people and bad people. Some people who care, and others who don’t. There will always be people who pray for others, and those who prey upon them. No one era has a lock on decency. I don’t think one generation is inherently better than another. It’s true we, the people, participate in shaping our own lives and the world around us. But the reason so many lionize “The Greatest Generation” is less about who they were but what they did.
When confronted by hard times, when facing fascism, people did something. When their fellow human beings were being oppressed and slaughtered, they responded. They fought back. As Tom Brokaw expressed in his book, 1998’s “The Greatest Generation”, they fought because it was the “right thing to do.”
Today, we are faced with a similar test that will determine who we are. The words and actions of some in power, of some of our fellow citizens, undermine the values we profess to espouse. Lies, bigotry, fear, misinformation and ignorance are wielded to prop a few up, keep multitudes down, manipulate masses into making choices that not only don’t serve them but that threaten the entire populace…the entire planet. The willfully incompetent, corrupt, and the flat-out unhinged play upon weaknesses, reactionary impulses and ignorance. Now it is our generation’s opportunity — our duty — to show who we are by speaking out, standing up and not giving in because it is, once again, the right thing to do.
Millions will tell you they are not racist, prejudiced, misogynists or anti-gay. But their actions speak louder than their words. Their choices tell us that race-baiting, fear-mongering, pussy-grabbing, brazen indecency, demagoguery and deceit are not deal-breakers, not big deals. This tells us who they are.
Like thousands of others, I now have the responsibility — and, frankly, the privilege — to tell the world who I am. To tell myself who I am. I was born too late to fight the Nazis, to fight McCarthyism, to fight for Women’s Suffrage, or face the fire hoses with Civil Rights protesters. But this time is my time. This time, when they came for the <Muslims, Mexicans, Jews, immigrants, gays, poor, pussies…> I said NOT THIS TIME. Not on my watch.
This will not stand. This will not stand because I WILL stand. I WILL march. And I will keep on marching. Because that’s who I am. And, like the fabled “Greatest Generation”, I know it’s the right thing to do.
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