Despite a LOT of talking heads on the tube Tuesday night, who all spoke (sometimes simultaneously) after President Obama's remarks from the Oval Office on the end of combat operations in Iraq, and the hours of video that followed featuring various high ranking American officials bestriding the unending sands as if that remake of Lawrence of Arabia were uncapping cameras at any moment, since I never caught the beginning, I'm not sure what to make of 'the end' of combat operations in Iraq. I fear I'm not alone.
Fighting a synchronous war against forces who wage asynchronous warfare is confusing for old dogs like me who see the undulating sands of al-Anbar Province but sense the rice paddies of a different adventure when I was more of a young pup and the world was supposed to be enjoying Pax Americana. Fifty-eight thousand (plus) US military casualties and hundreds of thousands of damaged and destroyed lives later, we in the Land of the Round Doorknobs had our precious Peace with Honor. And those of us who were Baby Boomers, both the old enough to serve in the killing fields and those young enough to only watch it on TV, returned to our lives, already in progress.
We the privileged who remained safe as houses on these shores blamed our parents' generation and more ominously, those who bore arms in that conflict, for "the war" (the definite article, even then, made me wince). I was shocked--ashamed more than shocked--to eavesdrop on a conversation among service men and women the age of our two children (late to early twenties) earlier this week on Facebook in which they who have done an inordinate amount of the fighting and dying for almost the last decade in places the rest of us cannot find, turned their gaze on MY generation.
Not very pretty, but, I fear, pretty accurate. I and my cohorts were described as the 'most self-centered people to ever walk the planet' with an indictment citing 'their exaggerated sense of self-importance and entitlement is beyond offensive and is why the world they are leaving for us is such a ...(large numbers of Bozo No-No words in combinations I'm not used to reading and now I worry if our children know them, too, already knowing the answer). I couldn't argue a single point any of the five or six posters made-and after I'd offer 'but our intentions were good!' I'd have had nothing to say.
We gave the world sex without love or commitment-elevating it to a recreational (if not circus-like) activity that can and often does, when performed unprotected, kill people of every race, creed and color. We traded blue skies and air you can breathe for BMW's, sub-standard schools and sub-prime mortgages and closed our eyes (and held our noses) as we started our descent into the abyss of political and moral bankruptcy. We reinvented the financial universe so that no one and everyone has money, and is also bankrupt, all at the same time. Not only did we make sure the toothpaste cannot ever be put back in the tubes, we flushed most of what we inherited from our parents down those very same tubes.
The children of the Boomers have already started to clean up after their elders, as gargantuan an undertaking as that will prove to be. A chapter of a book on a faraway shelf has come to a close, but the story goes on, because, as a nation, so, too, must we. I took solace, or tried to, from the President's closing thought and hope it helps us become whom we need to be next.
"Every American who serves joins an unbroken line of heroes that stretches from Lexington to Gettysburg; from Iwo Jima to Inchon; from Khe Sanh to Kandahar-Americans who have fought to see that the lives of our children are better than our own...and though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead."