Not so fast, Mr. Brokaw. They won World War II, but just what did your greatest generation do in the years after they returned home to end racial discrimination, diversify and democratize the campus and the workplace, extend political rights to women and gays, protect the environment, curb military adventurism and hold government accountable for its duplicity and mistakes? Leonard Steinhorn, who teaches communications at American University, has had enough of this giddy adulation of World War II vets and the media's tendency to hold them up as personal and civic role models. Steinhorn argues quite persuasively in The Greater Generation that it is the baby boomers, particularly the ones born just after World War II, whose monumental good works have moved this country closest to its founding ideals, even as they were being mocked and denigrated. The far right routinely depicts boomers as self-indulgent hypocrites, all style and no moral or intellectual substance. Quite the opposite, says Steinhorn. Empowered by their vast numbers and network of like-minded peers, [boomers] became a generation unafraid to examine the precepts on which society and their identity stood. . . . Boomers began to challenge old assumptions, modify outmoded laws, modernize personal and institutional relationships, and change the social values that guide the way we live and act toward one another. Instead of reading doom into recent conservative political victories, Steinhorn sees them as the last gasps of a foiled generation that is dying out. He maintains that the best evidence that boomers have won the cultural war is that even the most conservative politicians have to cloak themselves in boomer rhetoric to survive. Whatever their private views, he says, they dare not be openly racist, sexist, homophobic or environmentally insensitive. (They have talk-show surrogates for that.) While lauding the boomers, Steinhorn says they have more to do before they shuffle off into oblivion continuing the fight for a better environment, promoting greater integration of races and cultures, defending and extending the particular interests of older women, insisting on more transparency from government and not least demanding suitable recognition for their own contributions.

comments powered by Disqus