Saturday, January 13, 2007


Talkin 'bout My G-g-g-generation

At the left is a picture of yours truly, monchie b. monchum, at age 13. Roughly seven months before that photo was taken, President John F. Kennedy was murdered and America was never the same again.

Nor was I.

Before JFK was assassinated, I believed in America and in "liberty and justice for all." I still do, in fact. But I was learning, and would continue to learn during the succeeding decades, that many powerful folks in our government and political system don't really believe in the core values that the United States of America is supposed to represent.

The assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy -- as well as the dishonesty and incompetence that led to Vietnam, and the subsequent rise of the authoritarian right wing with its utter contempt for America's freedoms -- made many of my generation skeptical of government and politicians. Those pols and pundits who tried to conceal their anti-freedom leanings by wrapping themselves in the flag and portraying themselves as more-patriotic-than-thou were especially deserving of disrespect. How could they be patriotic when they urinate and defecate on the core values that America is supposed to be all about?

The two greatest political lessons many early (born roughly 1946-1954) baby boomers learned from our experiences were a) "liberty and justice for all" is a worthy and noble goal for America; and b) it is not just a right but a duty for Americans to question authority.

Which brings us to Rod Dreher, a conservative pundit for National Review who's just recently learned the value of questioning authority. He's 40 years old, which means he's a post-boomer -- Generation X -- and unlike early boomers, Mr. Dreher came of age around the time of the Iran hostage crisis and the subsequent dishonest propaganda barrage of the Reagan era. Facts and logic became irrelevant; feelings became triumphant. It was Morning in America. It didn't matter that the president's facts were all wrong, because he made us feel good about ourselves. Only those evil liberals cared about facts. The Age of Truthiness had begun, two decades before Stephen Colbert coined the term.

After watching Dear Leader's speech the other night, Mr. Dreher had an epiphany, a Road to Damascus Moment. In a commentary on NPR, he explained:

As I sat in my office last night watching President Bush deliver his big speech, I seethed over the waste, the folly, the stupidity of this war.

I had a heretical thought for a conservative - that I have got to teach my kids that they must never, ever take Presidents and Generals at their word - that their government will send them to kill and die for noble-sounding rot - that they have to question authority.

On the walk to the parking garage, it hit me. Hadn't the hippies tried to tell my generation that? Why had we scorned them so blithely?

Why indeed? I do believe our experiences during childhood and adolescence help to mold our political values. I came of age when some of our most respected leaders were murdered, while other leaders betrayed core American values. Mr. Dreher came of age in an era of a Pravda-like Fantasyland, when young minds were pumped full of fact-impaired BS, and questioning right-wing authorities was considered evil.

Rod Dreher gives me hope for America. We will probably never agree on most issues, but at least we can both accept the proposition that questioning authority -- whether that authority is conservative or liberal or whatever -- is an important tool for preserving America's freedoms. As history has demonstrated on numerous occasions, blindly following dishonest authoritarian leaders is the road to a society's destruction.

Inspired by Glenn Greenwald and mahablog.

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