Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.
My mom and dad lived through World War II.
Mom lost her dad when she was just a kid, and graduated in 3 and a half years from high school so she could work and help pay the bills for her and her mom.
Dad almost had both legs blown off in an explosion in the war and spent 11 agonizing months in an Australian hospital. He survived to tell awful stories, including ones about the Red Cross that wasn’t nearly as sympathetic or accommodating to soldiers back then as they are today.
My parents were members of what is reverently and appropriately referred to today as “The Greatest Generation.” No other group comes close.
If they could be here today, mom and dad would take issue with one Froma Harrop, a liberal (naturally) columnist. Harrop never spent a day alongside the Greatest Generation. And yet she foolishly passes judgment.
In an effort to blast the Tea Party in a column last month, Harrop felt the desire to drag the Greatest Generation into her argument.
The tea party mantra, "I want my country back," resonates with many. The racial undertones can be ugly (as well as pointless).
So, Tea Party members are racist, useless, and make no sense according to Harrop. The warm and fuzzy left rears its hypocritical head again.
Older and mostly white members of the far right tend to see themselves as model Americans who worked hard, saved up and played by the rules.
Is Harrop suggesting the Greatest Generation has too high an opinion of itself? I think so. And sorry, Froma, they were true model Americans.
They may have done all the above, but many also have no idea of how easy they had it.
Easy they had it? Here’s where the blood starts to boil. Easy? Easy is sitting in front of a keyboard and writing such garbage. Is she nuts? The folks of the Greatest Generation would never have accepted subsidized cheese from the back of a truck. They, and I’m sorry to steal a frequent phrase but it's true, would have crawled on their knees in a blizzard to the grocery store before taking a government handout.
Easy? My guess is if millennials had to face what the folks did during World War II they would have crapped in their pants while raising white flags.
After World War II, Americans with no college could walk into a factory and obtain a job paying middle-class wages. Global competition was a future threat. Today's retirees are among the last Americans to enjoy the most golden of benefits, including a defined pension check, guaranteed for the rest of their lives.
So what? They’re fortunate recipients of golden parachutes they didn’t work for?
More troubling than the tunnel vision, though, is the right's program for restoring the country it purports to miss. The ideological obsession with slashing taxes, shrinking government and keeping labor as cheap as possible is downright destructive.
And some folks actually claim Froma Harrop is libertarian.
Knowing my mom, when informed of Harrop’s nonsense, she would have simply rolled her eyes and quietly criticized how incredibly stupid Harrop was. Dad would have been more blunt (Good for you, Dad).
Harrop has no credible assessment of the Greatest Generation as she struggles and fails to connect it to the Tea Party. I prefer the thoughts of Tom Brokaw.
The WWII generation shares so many common values: duty, honor, country, personal responsibility and the marriage vow.
It is, I believe, the greatest generation any society has ever produced.
At the end of the twentieth century the contributions of this generation would be in bold print in any review of this turbulent and earth-altering time. It may be historically premature to judge the greatness of a whole generation, but indisputably, there are common traits that cannot be denied. It is a generation that, by and large, made no demands of homage from those who followed and prospered economically, politically, and culturally because of its sacrifices. It is a generation of towering achievement and modest demeanor, a legacy of their formative years when they were participants in and witness to sacrifices of the highest order. They know how many of the best of their generation didn't make it to their early twenties, how many brilliant scientists, teachers, spiritual and business leaders, politicians and artists were lost in the ravages of the greatest war the world has seen.
From the Legacy Project:
The Legacy Project has systematically collected practical advice from over 1500 older Americans who have lived through extraordinary experiences and historical events. They offer tips on surviving and thriving despite the challenges we all encounter.
Why is this generation so special? Part of it is what they’ve been through that most of my peers (the Boomers) haven’t. To a much greater degree than most Americans alive today, they had experiences that pushed them to their ultimate limits: a world at war, an economic downturn that makes ours look mild by comparison, immigration, upheaval, poverty, and deprivation. They also remember a time when communities were stable and closer, when air and water were cleaner, and when people didn’t lock their doors.
America’s elders grew up working. And working hard. And if there weren’t any good jobs available, they took whatever was available and worked hard at it.
Manny, 78, talks about how he got through school:
My first job? Delivery boy. Seventeen bucks a week, that was big money back then. Then I became a tool and die maker’s apprentice in a machine shop on Saturdays. Then I had a friend, her father was a shop steward in a commercial bakery, so I got a big increase. I joined the bakery as a truck driver. That was a dollar fifty an hour. I did that on the weekends, on Saturdays and summers. I had to. I had no money. I used to walk home because I couldn’t afford the subway.
Lifetimes of hard work have given the oldest Americans a unique sense of what makes employment happy or miserable. They are experts on how to be persistent when it seems like rewarding work can’t be found, and they know how to take a bad job and make the most of it.
Growing up in the Great Depression taught our elders the intense enjoyment that lies in small pleasures. Our needs and desires have become bloated to an extent that it takes an enormous amount to please contemporary Americans. But many of the oldest Americans grew up learning the lesson: Savor the small stuff.
God bless them. They were the greatest. No naïve writer of today could ever argue convincingly otherwise.