Related Topic(s): Challenges; Change; College; College Admissions; Consequences;Conservatism; Energy; Future; Health; History; Illness; Military; OPPORTUNITY; People;Sex; Terrorism; Terrorism; Transition
This is the fiftieth anniversary of the class that entered college in 1959, graduating in 1963.
We are the transition generation linking the U.S.--culture, politics, technology, communications, religion, social justice--as it was before to what it has become. What a remarkable time in history we have lived! We are a lucky generation, the college generation of 1959-1963. We didn't realize or appreciate it at the time. Without neither the limitations of our forebears nor the coming challenges for our descendants, open horizons, some of our own making, were before us. We are a generation of humanity that was earth bound in our teens and entered outer space and landed on the moon in our twenties!
We graduated out of the fifties into the new era inaugurated by the sixties. We were the early WWII babies, ahead of the baby boomers. Our spirits soared with our generation's music--rock and roll. We went to college in greater numbers than those before us. We were tested by either induction into, enlisting, or resisting a war that helped define our generation. We came of age with the events and experiences of the happy days of the fifties on to the cultural confrontations of the sixties and beyond.
We enjoy the ritual of the morning newspaper and remember when there was also an afternoon one, not five-minute news updates on a miniature device we carry in our pockets. We were the first television generation but not raised on watching it. We had cars of our own instead of being limited to the family car. We've seen main street overtaken by malls and Walmart. We who may have cooked on a wood-burning stove on the farm now "nuke" dinner (and damage it nutritionally). We've devolved from the then expression of "drunken sailors"--tattooing--to marking routinely seen on middle-class torsos. Then suits and neckties were daily attire, now people attend even Mass in shorts and tee shirts. Spoken English, beyond the illiterate use of double negatives, has degenerated to "I was like" in every sentence, "basically," "kinda-sorta." "Literally!" There's been an overall decline in education since 1959. Yet, research that then took days in a library, now arrives in a millisecond on our personal computers.
Traditional all male/all female colleges are largely extinct. The pill arrived in our early twenties to spawn the Sexual Revolution. From sex being a prohibited activity for girls, and teen pregnancy a frowned-upon rarity, we went to the trivialization of sex on prime-time sitcoms and today's unmarried teen mothers. From rudimentary birth control to routine birth control, still proscribed by the Church. From abortion as a forbidden criminalized back-alley business to a common practice adjudicated as a right in the first trimester, but held as criminal by many, and condemned by the Church. From women having babies they didn't want, to aborting fetuses they don't want. On the health front AIDS and herpes complicated things further. There's the radically changed perception of homosexuality from psychosis and criminal punishment to recognition and marriage. Sex, its practice, purposes, and consequences lured and bedeviled our generation.
We inherited and bequeath a great country with enormous accomplishments we participated in through the use of immense resources, our Constitution, the concept of individualism, and the mythology of American Exceptionalism. We are patriotic and proud of U.S. wealth, power, and individual benefits. We're oblivious to the effects of corporate food (feeds a nation yet engenders new illnesses, diabetes, coronary, ADHD, obesity), medical (miraculous advances yet often addressing symptoms not causes), pharmaceutical ("side" effects), insurance (controls health care), litigious, prison (far more people incarcerated than any other country), and a military--nati onal-security--state that consumes 25% of the world's energy while we are less than 5% of the world's population, with a military budget larger than all other countries combined, an estimated 1,000 overt and covert military bases in other countries, over 50 invasions of countries to enforce U.S. goals since WWII, all despite 1950's President General Eisenhower's warning to us about the military-industrial complex. Conservatism, influential before, now with the ascendancy of the far right wing, dominates opinion media and politics.
We lived on a relatively healthy planet to create one with environmental crises threatening human existence. The Cold War was our world environment. The Soviets, destined to fail eventually, surrendered when the game of nuclear chicken overwhelmed them. We've thus far survived the threat of nuclear annihilation created by the prior generation to fear destruction at the hands of terrorism. Those prone to terrorism, of course, have complex motivations, yet terrorism in large part is a reaction to the world capitalist and military hegemony we variously support, ignore, or protest. To the extent we don't face our part in those three or any problem, we don't solve them. In that regard, wisdom came in the 1950's "Pogo" comic strip: "We have met the enemy and he is us."
We were the generation with the most opportunity to make the most of our lives, to be whatever we chose, from career choice to even religious choices. Women are corporation presidents while their forebears were limited to secretarial positions. We were not encumbered with our parents' Depression culture nor our children's growing economic crisis. We lived on credit where our parents paid cash or went without. Now the national debt is historic. Our country's disparity between the very rich and poor rivals any in history. In metrics of well-being in recent years we've fallen to 15th among nations.
We are young enough to have led the computer revolution, and communicate by email, while the generation ahead of us is largely unable to grasp computerized communication, and the generations behind us snicker at "snail mail"--we are among the last pen-on-stationery letter writers. Letters that took five days to arrive now take five seconds. We progressed to email but many or most eschew Facebook and twittering! Some of us who didn't have phones in our school building now have one in our pocket.
Highlighting it all--emerging from segregated towns that confined "Negroes" to specific ghetto streets--we participated in electing a biracial president. The generation preceding us saw still more change and those succeeding will face more consequences while no generation has been more fortunate than us.
The last high-school class of the fifties reaches a horizon, and looks forward. WE CELEBRATE 1959-1963 in 2013!