coming of age during different times

“… I found myself sitting across the booth from one of the guys who had attended the party, a local architect who is about fifteen years my senior. I don’t even remember what we were discussing, but at one point I said to him, ‘You know, Pat, I’ll bet you and I feel differently about this topic because you and I came of age during different times.

As he and I explored that thought, the other talk around the booth gradually came to a halt, as the other members of the group first listened and then wanted to weigh in on our discussion. When they did, the conversation ignited. What followed were several hours of explosive and riveting discussion, all of it coming from a point of view none of us had ever considered and knew a thing about…” — Chuck Underwood, in The Generational Imperative

Different generations have different perspectives. Each has value. No doubt we can learn from one another, as we consider angles and aspects our own experience fails to provide.

For today’s post, therefore, recognizing the contentious cultural moment, we’ve solicited some wisdom from those who’ve gone before us. I reached out to several, valuing their years of experience, diverse upbringings, and recognizing they have so much to offer and so much keen insight to share…

“Over the course of your lifetime, have you ever sensed a social/political season similar to now,” I asked. Also, “What compares to the current fractured, national, societal state — or specifically, to the fear or division?”

The answers to the above were fascinating and acute. In response to having ever witnessed such a season, “to a tee” they articulated in virtual unison: “No, not really.” “Not remotely close in my life.” “This. today. NOTHING.”

So what compares? This prompted pause. Almost all mentioned a military conflict…

  • “The first thing that came to mind were the feelings I had during the second world war… I was in single digits and had a lot of fears I could not reason out with an adult mind. I remember going to bed at night in the bedroom on the second story on the east side of the house with a hill a field away fearing that the German troops would be coming over that hill during the night. Part of the government action at that time was the order to shut all lights off including street lights so cities were dark on many occasions.” 
  • “I grew up in the Eisenhower years. Everything was black and white and very little grey. I felt safe and secure. Jobs were abundant and outside of the ‘bomb drills’ and hiding under our desks at school, life was good. Then the Cold War started and Khrushchev banging his shoe on the podium of the United Nations screaming ‘We will bury you!’ frightened me to death and gave me nightmares for years.”

So many mentioned Vietnam…

  • “There were serious divisions with sit ins and demonstrations.”
  • “There was social unrest… why are we in SE Asia? Attitudes changed when the ‘college’ kids were being drafted, I believe. Although there were those who signed up, there were protests on college campuses.”
  • “The Vietnam issue was a real splitter for me. I don’t remember it being a Democrat or Republican conflict but a certain demographic in my generation not wanting to be involved in a war which we did not think we should be involved in. The other of us just wanting to do whatever our government expected of us.”

Still more mentioned the racial tension, the harrowing assassinations, and more…

  • “Segregation hit and we took to the streets.”
  • “When news broke that MLK had been assassinated, [the city] erupted — nights of eruptions.  The city went on a curfew so all night classes were cancelled and the National Guard was called in.”
  • “I experienced 3 assassinations — JFK, MLK, Bobby Kennedy — US involvement in Vietnam, having family and friends drafted and some not coming home, political riots (Chicago ‘68), Civil Rights marches, riots, Kent State shooting of 4 students by the Ohio National Guard… Watergate… It was not political divisions as today; it was more ‘us vs. them.’”

Within that sharing, they humbly offered sobering more…

  • “I’ve seen nothing of this depth. I’m sensing people are deeply entrenched in their points of view without a sense of reality or an understanding of what are really the core issues the other side is fighting for.”
  • “I have never seen the situation in our country as we see it now. I do not feel is it only because of the pandemic. For some time there seems to be a growing erosion of values, common decency, unwillingness to listen to differing points of view, unwillingness to recognize that one has a right to his/her opinion but that could be wrong in view of facts. Therefore, much judgment seems imposed on others which then justifies one’s conduct and supports negating the value of others. It is a ‘only-me-matters’ mentality. So sad to see all this divisiveness and unwillingness which is destroying all of us in different ways.” 

What a privilege to learn from those who’ve gone before us… if we are willing… sobered and humble, too…