In 1998, Tom Brokaw wrote the book The Greatest Generation, telling the story of those who grew up during The Great Depression, fought through WWII, and helped re-build the country in the process. These were extraordinarily tough people, working first through the greatest financial crisis this country has faced then fought against the greatest threats to our Democracy in the country’s history.
As a child of the ’70s and ’80s, I was often told what differentiated the United States from our Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union. Here in America, after all, we believed in truth, justice, freedom, and the American way. After all, we don’t lock up American political dissidents in gulags, without all the guarantees of the Constitution. Only the most barbarian countries torture, and we certainly do not.
Throughout this time, right up until September 11, 2001, America could always claim the moral high ground. That time is over. Instead of, like the Greatest Generation, hitching up our belts and doing the right thing, this generation continues to find ways to scare itself into submission.
Truthfully, this shouldn’t be a surprise. After all, much of our political leadership, especially those most known for their chest-thumping ways, such as Dick Cheney, George W. Bush, and Rush Limbaugh, all showed complete disdain for serving their country. Their fear permeates society, and people like them aren’t afraid to show the world they have absolutely no strength. Oh, would you like examples?
In 1960, Adolf Eichmann, one of the chief architects of the Holocaust, was captured by famed Nazi-hunter Simon Wiesenthal. Eichmann was brought to Israel to stand trial, publicly, and not in a military tribune. Fast forward to present-day America, and an entire swath of America urinates on itself at the mere thought of criminal trials for terrorists, led by one of the greatest cowards of his generation, Peter King. Eichmann was responsible for the murders of millions of Jews, yet, somehow, we cannot try Osama bin Laden’s limo driver. Quite American, indeed.
Build a mosque near, not on, the former World Trade Center site? Some people say there would be no greater threat to freedom than to allow this to happen. I would say freedom of (from) religion is in the 1st Amendment, and you might want to read the Constitution to find out what’s actually in it.
Finally, there are people cheering the thought that torture helped obtain the information that led to Osama bin Laden’s assassination? I can think of nothing more unAmerican than torture, yet, there are people actively trying to push the benefits of torture. Guess what, torture-philes? It wasn’t the source and, in fact, it led directly to bad information. Life isn’t an episode of “24,” after all, and Jack Bauer didn’t come to the rescue. What led to bin Laden’s demise was what it always is: good, old fashioned detective work.
We are led by the Wimpiest Generation. Our leadership has the intestinal fortitude of a baby squirrel, scared of even its own shadow. Franklin Delano Roosevelt once uttered the fantastic line:
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.
Mention the words “Islam” or “Muslim” to many people, and watch them become paralyzed with fear and hatred. While the Greatest Generation pulled together to fight, the Wimpiest Generation passes laws such as the Patriot Act. Many of us don’t grow “Victory Gardens,” but some are perfectly fine being surveilled 24/7.
We are rapidly losing those characteristics that supposedly separate “us” from “them.” Torture is now looked upon favorably. Bradley Manning has been imprisoned indefinitely without charges and has been deemed guilty by no less than President Obama himself, all without trial. Illegal wars. Disbelief in the Constitution. These are not American ideals, and as we continue to give up actual freedoms to the State, it will be that much more difficult to get them back. As symbolic as the execution of bin Laden is, until we get back to our American ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the victory over “terrorism” is, at best, Pyrrhic.
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. – Benjamin Franklin – 1818