Jim Baer: My generation believes it did the right thing; often, it didn’t

  • Sen. Joseph McCarthy, R-Wisc., works at his desk on March 27, 1950. AP

For the Monitor
Sunday, June 10, 2018

One of the remarkable things about being in your 80s, besides being vertical and above ground, is that you have seen so much of life. Each generation believes that their generation was the best and the next generation is going to hell in a basket. I’ve heard and seen it all.

“If only the younger generation was like us, things would be different” is what I hear at the coffee shop every morning. Some of us grew up in tough times – the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, the Cold War, Vietnam – and we saw a long list of dramatic changes in America.

We did the best we could in those challenging times. As it turned out, our best was not good enough. We have left a long trail of unfulfilled promises. We pretended that we had solutions to difficult issues when we did not. We whistled past the graveyard while we sent the best and brightest of our youth to fight wars in countries that never respected the sacrifices that they made. Still, my generation believes that we did the right thing.

Well, we didn’t. We were fed lies and half-truths and many good men lie in their graves because of the arrogance of some of those in my generation who thought they had all of the answers.

We are now daily exhorted to “Make America Great Again.” Again? Since when was American not great? It began to be great with the Declaration of Independence. It then got greater under our cherished Constitution. We are a great nation. With greatness comes responsibility.

My generation has a lot to be proud of and much to be held accountable for. We won World War II. On the conclusion of that war, we became the most magnanimous nation in the world with our generosity, both to our allies and to our former enemies. In 1951, we were still lynching black people. The armed services were not desegregated until 1947. In the 1950s, the shameful House Un-American Activities Committee, along with Sen. Joe McCarthy, ruined the lives of many decent Americans with innuendos and falsehoods. That was not a shining example of a great America.

We then had two presidents who were impeached or resigned because of scurrilous behavior.

Throughout all of this turmoil, we still held our heads high and for good reason. We were, and still are, the greatest democracy on this planet.

We are now told that we are not great. We are told that America is broken. We are told that we are being overrun by hordes of undocumented immigrants who are here to destroy our country and cherished way of life with their religions and foreign ways and stealing jobs from hard-working Americans.

What is wrong with my generation? Most of us came from immigrant heritage at some point. English, Polish, Irish, Russian, German, Slav, Italian, Scandinavian, Greek, Mexican, Asian, African, Portuguese and many more have all contributed to making America great. Some arrived here in the holds of slave ships, others with just the clothes on their backs.

America is not broken. Don’t listen to the Pied Pipers who want you to hate. America is stronger, better educated, more empathetic, more hopeful, more resilient and more emancipated from decades of bigotry and hate that were generated by those in my generation. Their time has come and gone.

American youth, please do not disappoint us. You are our hope and future. On your shoulders rests the fate of our nation. Listen to the better angels of your nature. Always remember that many good people willingly gave their lives in the hope of a better America. All of us send you our good will and fondest wishes to keep America the land of the free and the home of the brave.

America’s best years are ahead of us. Don’t look back. Be brave and cheerful.

(Jim Baer lives in Concord.)