Yesterday I interviewed a woman for the Navy Reserve who was born in 1986. And I thought, what a different world to have come of age in, than the one I remembered. The Nineties had already seen the beginnings of capitalism occuring in Russia, the second decade of a U.S. economic boom – jobs, cars, and homes, and since Desert Storm, a large and ongoing military presence in the Middle East. After Vietnam, the government was such a mess it couldn’t or wouldn’t take care of veterans with PTSD, or Agent Orange exposure, and in the Nineties it continued to deny that Desert Storm vets were exposed to chemical agents when they went into Iraq and the smoke of burning oil wells in Kuwait. We hadn’t heard before 2001 of Al Quaeda, but that the Soviets had lost in Afghanistan. My generation knew all about radicals, but lumped together the Jim Jones cult nuts, a few old 60’s Patty Hearst -type groups, paramilitary groups in Idaho and a few drug traffickers. Before advertising warned us of HIV and STDs, and condoms for junior high students, we still were educated in grainy black and white film about sex organs and where a baby comes from. GM and Ford were going downhill – and Dodge already had been bailed out.
We hated Iranians who had seized our embassy, lobbed missiles at Saddam Hussein when he kept plotting to kill our Presidents, and were frustrated why Israel and the PLO could never have peace, but American politicians always thought they were able to “fix it”. When I cast my first Presidential voting ballot, I cast for a former Navy man and peanut farmer from Georgia.
It was easier then to be liberal – young, inexperienced, and idealistic. After seeing the mess that a Democrat President and Congress made on the world stage, the crazy inflation, gas lines, and even with college, very little opportunity, it was easier to be cynical, conservative, and Republican. Those men and women who came of age in the Nineties – the Gen -X – are now trying to settle into family life, careers, and looking what the future holds for their children. Today, after the smashed idealism of voting for and now seeing the effect of an Obama Presidency and Democrat Congress, these folks as well as an old Conservative, hope to somehow claw our way back from utter national bankruptcy. So you see, not much has changed in the generations, except our currency value has crept closer to Monopoly money with each multi-billion payout. I think fondly of the Coca-Cola ad where everyone had joined hands across the world and sang for harmony, but today I am more akin to Toby Keith whose current song about the world in crisis- it’s all going to hell, but the world keeps turnin’ regardless.