The Greatest Generation

By tomorrow morning the people of the United States will have chosen their new president. They will be left more divided than they have been since the Civil War. I hope they can patch up their differences.

It is clear that many American citizens are resentful that what they were brought up to regard as their birthright has been denied to them, through no fault of their own. That is, by following their parents and grandparents in doing the 'right thing,' they could expect to participate in the American Dream which implied a better life in turn for themselves and their children. They feel cheated, left behind and are making their feelings known in a protest vote every bit as big as the one that greeted Churchill in 1945.

Who though, were that older generation who set such a magnificent example and set the pace for all that followed? Typically, they were children of the twenties who came of age in the Great Depression, fought and won the Second World War and then built modern America. Their common values of honour, duty and courage with unthinking service to family and country were the bedrock of all that followed. Poverty and despair during the economic decline in the thirties was followed by a glimmer of hope which was quickly doused at Pearl Harbour. They spent their young adulthood fighting in some of the most brutal engagements imaginable yet at the end of the war they returned to their homes and set to work, determined to rebuild. And they did. They created the biggest economy in history, catapulted science and medicine forward, put a man on the moon and changed the face of the creative arts and media. They stood as a beacon to the free world and broke Soviet totalitarianism. They built a not perfect but fairer society and legislated to make it so.

Certainly, they made mistakes but as that generation marches off into history I am finding reading about them a gentle antidote to the lunatic fringe which appears to be on the brink of walking into the White House. I refer to either candidate incidentally. Both are unsuitable and a long way from what we know is the best of men and women that the US produces.

I can then, if I may, heartily recommend Tom Brokow's book, 'The Greatest Generation.' It is, a thundering good read.