What Today's College Freshmen Have Seen (Ver. 1)

While reading some e-mail from a friend, I got to thinking about the truth of the joke that was at the e-mail's center. The focus of the amusing little message was what the children born in 1980 and who are just entering college have experienced in their lives. I thought about how most of the truly vicious attacks on my beliefs have come from obviously young people just entering the world, a world that they think has always been this vulgar and self-centered. I thought that a longer look at the difference between what my generation has seen and what they have lived through might be a revealing way to try to understand why the horrors of the 80's and the 90's have come to pass.

The important people in the news during their lives were Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, Bill Clinton, Sylvester Stallone, Michael Milken and the like, all people with low, if any, moral focus.

I grew up with Ghandi, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., John and Robert Kennedy, all individuals whose lives were dedicated to the search for fairness and peace.

The only war that they have witnessed was the made for MTV/CNN war in the Gulf. Never was the body of a dead and mutilated American shown nor were the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed by our air attacks ever acknowledged. The act of war was glorified and sanitized as if this act of mass carnage was a nearly religious experience for our troops. The ideal of individual thought was ridiculed by a President who had the audacity to state that anyone who objected to his ill-conceived and premature war was "un-American". The war, itself, was treated by Americans as a video game being played by someone else, acting as if the horrors they were witnessing was just another movie of the week. The end of the war was celebrated with self-congratulatory parades and parties as if we had beaten a nation of our military equals in a war of righteous meaning instead of just another war against a third world country over control of petroleum.

The war of my generation was a nightly extravaganza of bombs and explosions and troops and lots and lots of dead American kids in body bags being tossed into helicopters along with the daily tally of our children killed in action versus their kids killed in action. The murder of a suspected Viet Cong was carried out on the nightly news as was the Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in protest of the war. The youth of America exercised their Constitutional right to publicly express their outrage at the war and were tear gassed, beaten and murdered for their beliefs but continued to confront the evil which they saw. The men and women who went and fought were vilified on their return, not just by their fellow citizens, but even by their own government.

This generation has an absolute belief in Wall Street and the stock market and all facets of Corporate America. They believe that the money that they have invested will only grow and grow, with an occasional minor dip, followed by another nearly miraculous increase. They have been told that the business of America is business and they believed it fully because they are not aware of the truth or meaning of America.

My generation heard of the Great Depression from our parents and learned of the massive depredations it caused. We watched Black Monday in 1987 ruin many Americans, putting millions out of work, once again due to the poor decisions of the executives and government. We were given the opportunity to learn that Wall Street and the stock market were great investments for the corporations whose stock you bought but a poor one for the rest of us.

These kids have always lived in a time of unlimited gasoline. They drive gas guzzling four wheel drive vehicles to work and back in Southern California. They have maintenance done for their vehicles at a rate lowest in fifty years. They use mass transportation at the lowest rate since the late forties, as well.

We lived through a time when the price of gas increased by a factor of five or six. We waited hours in line just to get a few dollars worth of gas, but only on the odd or even days indicated by our license plates. We watched while the government legislated "windfall taxes" for the oil producers who were taking advantage of the crisis to steal even more from the American consumer and then watched as Ronald Reagan immediately eliminated this tax for his biggest contributors.

I suppose it is almost understandable that this generation is so self-centered and greedy when you think about the sordid America that they have grown up in. Not acceptable, just understandable.

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Copyright 12/10/97