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The GI Generation
#1
Just because they are no longer part of the political or cultural scene because they have passed 90 if they are still alive does not mean that they have no role in creating the world that we are now in. They grew up in a world that now looks hardscrabble except for elites.

Many of us have known them as teachers, bosses, or entrepreneurs. As I post this we need remember that two former GI Presidents are still alive (Jimmy Carter, George H W Bush). So is the Republican nominee for President in the 1996 election (Bob Dole). So is the founder of much of our contemporary foreign policy (Henry Kissinger).

We can of course compare and contrast the rising-adult Millennial Generation (which now looks much like a Civic/Hero generation and is likely on the brink of a significant move into academia and political life). We can also discuss their interactions with younger generations.

They did much well. They had a heavy role in what may be the apex of cultural creation in America, to wit the Golden Age of Cinema of the 1930s and early 1940s as screen actors, scriptwriters, and even directors. Think of Casablanca (my favorite), which I once reviewed as having the sort of screenplay that Shakespeare would have written, with allusions to the Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri. (The USA is Paradise, Casablanca is a Purgatory that people are trying to leave, and Nazi-dominated Europe is Hell). Then there is Citizen Kane, an inimitable achievement by Orson Welles, who starred as one of the most complex anti-heroes ever found in cinema. One has quite possibly the greatest American director in Billy Wilder, and such screen stars as Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Barbara Stanwick, and Lauren Bacall. They practically founded television with Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Milton Berle. Do you miss such GI screen journalists as Walter Cronkhite, Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Mike Wallace, and Howard K. Smith? I most certainly do.

GI scientists and engineers were really, really good. You may have mixed feelings about fast food (Roy Kroc for McDonald's) and box stores (Sam Walton, Wal-Mart)... but admit it. You are one of the 'billions of customers served at the Golden Arches (I admit to buying snacks for my pet dog, so some of those 'billions of customers served' aren't even human) and it is unlikely that you have stayed clear of Wally World. GI women may have been among the most dedicated and competent teachers that you ever knew if you were a Boomer. Black GIs took the first steps to tearing down Jim Crow -- and white GIs largely acceded.

On the whole GI politics were far more civilized than what we now have.

Above all, they fought with extreme competence and dedication in the one war (really a double war) that America absolutely had to win, and they well behaved themselves as occupiers and kept the peace.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


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#2
(05-09-2016, 07:35 PM)pbrower2a Wrote: Just because they are no longer part of the political or cultural scene because they have passed 90 if they are still alive does not mean that they have no role in creating the world that we are now in. They grew up in a world that now looks hardscrabble except for elites.

Many of us have known them as teachers, bosses, or entrepreneurs. As I post this we need remember that two former GI Presidents are still alive (Jimmy Carter, George H W Bush). So is the Republican nominee for President in the 1996 election (Bob Dole). So is the founder of much of our contemporary foreign policy (Henry Kissinger).

We can of course compare and contrast the rising-adult Millennial Generation (which now looks much like a Civic/Hero generation and is likely on the brink of a significant move into academia and political life). We can also discuss their interactions with younger generations.

They did much well. They had a heavy role in what may be the apex of cultural creation in America, to wit the Golden Age of Cinema of the 1930s and early 1940s as screen actors, scriptwriters, and even directors. Think of Casablanca (my favorite), which I once reviewed as having the sort of screenplay that Shakespeare would have written, with allusions to the Divine Comedy of Dante Aligheri. (The USA is Paradise, Casablanca is a Purgatory that people are trying to leave, and Nazi-dominated Europe is Hell). Then there is Citizen Kane, an inimitable achievement by Orson Welles, who starred as one of the most complex anti-heroes ever found in cinema. One has quite possibly the greatest American director in Billy Wilder, and such screen stars as Jimmy Stewart, Bette Davis, Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, John Wayne, Gregory Peck, Kirk Douglas, Barbara Stanwick, and Lauren Bacall. They practically founded television with Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, and Milton Berle. Do you miss such GI screen journalists as Walter Cronkhite, Edward R. Murrow, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Mike Wallace, and Howard K. Smith? I most certainly do.

GI scientists and engineers were really, really good. You may have mixed feelings about fast food (Roy Kroc for McDonald's) and box stores (Sam Walton, Wal-Mart)... but admit it. You are one of the 'billions of customers served at the Golden Arches (I admit to buying snacks for my pet dog, so some of those 'billions of customers served' aren't even human) and it is unlikely that you have stayed clear of Wally World. GI women may have been among the most dedicated and competent teachers that you ever knew if you were a Boomer. Black GIs took the first steps to tearing down Jim Crow -- and white GIs largely acceded.

On the whole GI politics were far more civilized than what we now have.

Above all, they fought with extreme competence and dedication in the one war (really a double war) that America absolutely had to win, and they well behaved themselves as occupiers and kept the peace.
In general the 'Greatest Generation' earned that accolade. One of my uncles  died recently and he was the last of that generation in my family. Hopefully, the millennials will come through also.
 … whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil 4:8 (ESV)
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#3
I don't see the GIs as the Greatest generation.  To me what makes for generational greatest is the history they create.  This happens when to occupy the leadership position.  According to my political model the GIs were collectively in the leadership role over approximately 1964-1981.  The other gens were/are: Lost 1948-1963, Silent 1982-2000, Boom 2001-2021.

Lets categorize each turnings (defined by the leadership dates above) by their presidents.  These assignments use my political model which gives somewhat different dates than S&H, and has a Civil war civic generation so Obama is three years into GenX, Johnson (b 1908) is a last year Lost, and Truman is a Missionary:

1T Truman (Missionary), Eisenhower, Kennedy (GI)
2T Johnson (Lost), Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan
3T Reagan (GI), Bush I (GI), Clinton (Boom)
4T Bush II, Obama (GenX)

In my opinion, JFK, the only GI, is clearly the worst of the three in the 1T. 

Of the four in the 2T,  Ford was a placeholder and Reagan and Carter basically sucked.  1980 was the only election in which I voted third party seeing my choices as both awful. Nixon and Johnson did the most good with their policies, but both made great errors in judgement, which led to their downfall.  I give Johnson the edge, because Nixon's political strategy helped create the modern Republican party who went on to create Vietnam-type errors and not even acknowledge them as errors.   I note the best of the bunch is the only non-GI.

For the 3T, I see Clinton as the best of a mediocre bunch.  Again the only non-GI.

For the 4T, I see Obama as better than Bush II, here the Nomad outdoes the Prophet.
 
GIs are the greatest generation based on what they did in rising adulthood, but they may have been the worst when in power.
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#4
No generation is better or worse than another one--only different.  I'm happy that S&H won the naming battle for Millennials, but I really wish they were able to have defeated Tom Brokaw for the GIs.
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