Recently, I was immersed in heavy thoughts while gazing into my blazing fireplace. Crowding out my usual musing about my family and friends a general appraisal concerning my generation emerged.

How did we measure up in the great drama of human struggle?

My parent’s generation endured and suffered through the Great Depression and World War II passing on to us the most powerful nation in history. The greatest generation’s America became a beacon for freedom, peace and prosperity.

By the 1950s, the United States had reached its high point. A robust economy created many jobs and dramatically lifted the standard of living for millions of Americans. Optimism for the future combined with a deep patriotism defined life in the ’50s and early ’60s.

The culture was vibrant. Movies, music and television, for the most part, remained wholesome and encouraged family values, moral responsibility and a strong work ethic.

It wasn’t Utopia on earth. Segregation was rampant in the South and poverty held a strong grip on scores of Americans. We also lived through the threat of a thermonuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.

So how did my generation deal with this brave new world?

Our parents pampered and spoiled us but who could blame them? They wanted a better life for us. They also embedded in us a deep sense of idealism. The first manifestation of this can be found in our overwhelming embrace of John F. Kennedy. He captured the imagination and idealism of my generation.

His soaring rhetoric and dazzling charisma set our youthful souls ablaze with the conviction that we were going to make America great!

Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 marked the end of our innocence. What followed was that most insidious of all poisons – cynicism!

Lyndon B. Johnson became the first vilified president of my generation. The Vietnam War shattered our idealism and forever shook our faith in our basic institutions.

This opened a Pandora’s Box and gave birth to an anything goes toxic culture. Suddenly, the entertainment industry started cranking out anti-American movies that attacked fundamental American values. In 1965, “The Sound of Music” won the academy award for best picture. Just a few years later, the sick and depraved “Midnight Cowboy” took the same honor.

The descent into the abyss was accelerated by Nixon and Watergate.

Our once great universities now repress free speech and offer save zones for students who have had their feeling hurt by differing opinions. The emergence of the welfare state, the horrible proliferation of drugs, an infatuation with socialism, the breakdown of the family and loss of faith in God and country imperils our great democracy.

The torch was passed to my generation in the early ’60s. We did some wonderful things but we let ourselves get steered down some awful roads. I hope that these deep divides in our society can be overcome by a reawaking to what makes America great. I put my faith in the traditional values of my youth and pray that my children’s generation will heed the warning Peter Townsend, of “The Who,” once screamed: “We won’t get fooled again!”

Contact Blaine Heric at kingsif@comcast.net.

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