2009-02-06 / Columnists

The Progressive

Baby Boomers
Commentary By John Paul Culotta

As my friends and I reach social security age, it becomes more apparent that our youth was marked by some of the most dramatic and unresolved issues of American history. We see our youth with joy and, if we are honest, with pain. All of us regret some of our actions. This is what makes us human and interesting. Our nation's history had an effect on us all our lives - despite our egoistical belief that we are always in control. We are a generation that watched a president's assassin murdered on television, we watched water hoses used on American citizens asking for equal rights, we watched young men who could have been our classmates die in southeast Asia, we watched protesting college students gunned down, a Democratic convention marked by violence, a preacher killed as he spoke out for economic justice, a presidential candidate killed, and a president forced to resign because of his arrogance. Recessions, booms, and a president who fired striking air traffic controllers - an act that has soured the social contract of the New Deal - marred our work life. Deregulation and the mantra that government is the problem changed political discourse. Women wanted their contributions recognized and rewarded. We were the first generation to freely express sexual behavior without the fear of an unwanted pregnancy and shame.

All these events brought out the divisions and fault lines of our national life. The issues that we faced when we were young are unresolved. Some may never be resolved. Many of us have seen dysfunctional economic and political discourse scar our lives with unemployment, financial breakdowns, and a drop in real wages for American workers. The questions that we need to resolve as a people from the history of the conflict in Vietnam, the struggle for civil rights, and presidential misconduct, must be faced. Can a president be above the law? Should a president violate laws without penalty or censure? Does this nation always need to use military force to resolve disputes with a foreign nation? How can American workers be assured a decent remuneration for their toil? Can our sexual freedom be absolute when society is harmed; for example, dysfunctional families, and disease? When do property rights trump civil rights? The list is endless.

We need to realize that many Americans still are not privy to civil and economic opportunities because of prejudice and discrimination, despite the election of an African American as president.

There are still Americans dying in an unnecessary occupation of a foreign country. There need to be answers as to the actions of the previous administration regarding civil liberties, the use of torture, and financial chicanery. Yes, we can change if we study and recognize our common history. Although I cannot have the persuasion of Oprah, I recommend a book written by Thomas J. Sugrue entitled, "Sweet Land of Liberty: The Forgotten Struggle for Civil Rights in the North."

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