After 30 years in classrooms, I am retired. Now, the Golden Years.
At this point, I wish to thank an earlier generation, what journalist Tom Brokaw named “The Greatest Generation.” These people sacrificed for us and their contributions are threatened, even by those who claim they wish to restore America’s greatness.
My parents, Harry and Mary, (yep, the rhyming couple), were part of this generation. They endured the Great Depression, my father the eldest of 12, sometimes plucking dandelions from the earth to eat for supper; my mother ate cornbread and milk for dinner. FDR’s New Deal included federal support for the struggling –including Social Security and Medicare.
Dad had brothers who fought, one who died, in World War II. They could recognize and condemn Nazism and fascism; they were anti-fascists, now maligned, abbreviated as “antifa.” My father’s faith precluded fighting, but he volunteered as a medic or cook. He believed in the cause. He knew those who fought and died, were heroes, not losers. Men like those depicted in Saving Private Ryan, fighting without the promise of seeing victory.
My father married my mother who had a vision for their five children, with Dad’s support. She had a post-World War II dream: that all of us would earn a college degree. She took my sister to an English tutor each week in high school. Given that my mother loved music, four of us studied Bach, Mozart, Chopin. She read the Wall Street Journal faithfully for many years. My father’s side-hustle of selling World Book Encyclopedias fed my love of knowledge; when I asked him questions, he would normally say, “Look it up.” And, eventually, after gritted teeth, I would.
They were not alone. Millions of Americans fought for a better America – loving it, even with its flaws and fighting to make it better. They “loved it too much to leave it the way it was,” like parents do with their children.
They watched the Civil Rights Movement grow, with blood shed by those wishing all to vote or to have a seat in a restaurant, with President Eisenhower sending troops to protect little six-year-old Ruby Bridges to integrate a white school, while the so-called “Cheerleaders” waved their Bibles, as they cursed her.
The same Eisenhower who also supported a 90% tax on the rich.
Now, we are fed the evils of socialism. But we can remember the words of Harry S. Truman, back in 1952:
"Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years. Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called Social Security. Socialism is what they called farm price supports. Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance. Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations. Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people."
Let us help all the people. Let the contributions of the Greatest Generation live in us, so, as David Bowie said in “Golden Years”:
“Gonna drive back down where you once belonged
In the back of a dream car twenty foot long.”
Let’s take that dream ride together.