Our Congress is chockablock with Boomers. Alas, as one myself, I had anticipated and hoped that my folk would be smarter and more moral, a.k.a. more American, than the WWII crowd that thrust us into stupid, unnecessary wars, and whistled mindless tunes as federal and state governments took away the rights of millions.
Sure hasn’t happened. Boomer bozos like G.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were as bad as their parents’ generation.
A surprising constant has been the ever-shifting them in the us vs. them theater. Frankly, the WWI and WWII folk were more simpleminded and thus kept the enemies clearer. We grew up with the commies under the beds (fantastical and irrational) and vestiges of the Yellow Peril (horde of Asians imagined to be massing for invasion, the racist trope).
What could be simpler than ID’ing Soviets and various Asians as the other, each and all intent on destroying our noble and glorious nation? Surely our lives were superior to those of the other, nefarious groups eager to take our stuff and snuff out our lives.
Somehow Boomers’ parents and grandparents could overlook the likes of:
- Jailing large numbers of Japanese-Americans and small groups of Italian- and German-Americans in concentration (euphemistically internment) camps
- Draconian voting laws and shameful economic and educational policies for African Americans
- Endless and meaningless wars in Asia, Africa and even parts of Europe
Having spent much of my young childhood as a bit player in the Occupation Army in Japan, I had a different view of the alleged Yellow Peril. A few native Japanese chums did have their own baggage, slandering Koreans and Chinese folk, but I came to learn that likely was from long-standing nationalistic and perceived racial vestiges. For some, awareness of military behavior in those countries surely brought deflective criticism.
Boomers did have a now surprisingly binary upbringing. Not only did we inherit the culture of pre-War movies, but we got the new world of TV and of course literature. There were black hats and white hats, villains and heroes, Allies and Axis armies — us vs. them. Many too bought into puerile lit that munged that binary culture with politics, specifically the likes of Ayn Rand’s addlepated novels. She was best at welding oppressive sexuality to economic theory.
Ah, but it was so clean and easy. You could know who the good and the bad guys were…and what behaviors and words showed you were in the former group.
In contrast, nuance is hard. For example, we really can’t plant Thomas Jefferson entirely at one end of the moral spectrum. How comforting it must be to live as a religious fundamentalist or political camp-follower. Check your brain at the door and you can always know you are a good guy.
The few current dictators, like Kim Jong-un and Vladimir Putin at least simplify diplomacy in their realms. If Donald Trump had the powers he imagines, free of judicial oversight and with a totally compliant Congress, he could quickly turn our nation into a villain state as well.
I think I can well do without the racist Yellow-Peril and other simpleminded excuses to fear and hate.