How do we forgive our fathers?
-- Dick Lourie
The people will no longer quote this proverb: "The parents have eaten sour grapes, but their children's mouths pucker at the taste."
-- Jeremiah 31:29 (NLT)
I am one of the oldest children of the post-war baby boom. I’m sick of being called a “boomer.”
When you call me a boomer, without remembering the phrase that first described us, you imply that I’ve spent my life “booming,” whatever that means. But I haven’t been booming. I’ve been doing my best to survive the social engineering that caused me and millions of other babies to be born at the same time. So when we started school there weren’t enough school buildings. And when we went to college there weren’t enough places in college. And when some of us tried to find a career in college teaching there weren’t enough jobs in college teaching. And now as we live toward our old age and retirement, the nation says oops, there's not enough money to pay the promises it made, promises on the basis of which we made major life decisions.
And it’s not our fault. We didn't engineer those acts of mass multiplication for which the country was not prepared. We didn’t encourage sixteen million returning servicemen from world war to go to school, buy houses and start making families. It’s not our fault there are so many of us, and that nobody had planned for us all to be there, and that the infrastructure of family life was always catching up. It wasn’t our fault that the country grew prosperous and then decided to spend lots of money on children, and then expected them to be grateful no matter what. It’s not our fault that three presidents who were not baby boomers -- no, they were members of Tom Brokaw’s “greatest generation” -- sent half a million of us at a time to a war that couldn’t be won, a war based on lies and false ideology, a war whose loss the nation blamed on us. We didn't have a glorious adventure to tell, in Sunday evening prime time with stock military footage, and music written by the nation's greatest composers, voiced over by news anchors who had once been war correspondents, and no, that's not our fault. We weren't in charge.
We were busy, though. We were busy cleaning up the messes of our parents. We had to clean up the continuing racial terrorism, the stultifying confinement of women into poses of ornament and alcoholic stupor, the claustrophobic conformity endured in houses of ticky-tacky, the red scares set loose on our artists and our prophets to deprive them of authority and livelihood. No, we weren't booming. We were sucking on the sour taste of our parents’ grapes. Sometimes we got angry about it.
There. I'm glad to get that off my chest. Actually, I love my country. She is, of course, the worst country of all -- except for all the others. There is greatness in that story of our parents: to spend so much blood and treasure defeating on both sides of the world two paranoid, aggressive and racist regimes, then making our former enemies free and prosperous, is perhaps the most noble campaign of grand strategy ever executed in human history. It didn't of course bring an end to history; not even the miraculous and mostly peaceful fall of Bolshevism's incompetent, violent and corrupt experiment has accomplished that. And we have our own contradiction still to own, again and again. Through all this persistence of history we are fallible, and sinful when we can get away with it. I am willing to pledge allegiance to my country "under God," because I want it known that my loyalty to the nation depends on its submission to moral authority. Not my country right or wrong, but my country under God. That was Dr. King's blessing -- he brought us the judgment of God.
Shall there be forgiveness of our parents? Shall we get the sourness of their grapes out of our mouths? Shall we be forgiven by our children? We are as disappointing and peculiar to them as our parents were to us. The parents set the table and provide the cooking vessels: the kids can cook what they want, but the flavor of the past is cured into those pots.