Sunday, January 23, 2011

January 23

I haven't checked out This Day in History in a while. The most significant dates on there for today don't do much for me . . . but tucked way down on the list is that today is the anniversary of the truce that ended America's military involvement in Vietnam. I wonder to what extent the folks who lived through thought of that announcement as the end of a "National Nightmare" or whether many knew that the next "National Nightmare" (Watergate) was on the horizon.

Incidentally, there was a really neat commentary in today's Washington Post by Ted Koppel touching on the Iran Hostage Crisis.

We seem to be living through pessimistic times right now, but one can't help but wonder of the mood of the country in the decade surrounding when I was born. Watergate and Vietnam preceded me. The Hostage Crisis is something I simply was too young to remember, as I am too young to remember the hyperinflation and "malaise" of the late 1970s. Though crises such as the Great Depression, the early years of World War II (my dad often insists that there was great apprehension and mystery there in early 1942), and the Civil War were more traumatic. But the long 1970s strikes me as a particularly grueling time.

By contrast, my generation came to understand events at the time of the Berlin Wall's fall and the Persian Gulf War, about as neat and efficient of a war as has been fought by our nation. We grew up with the positive images of the optimistic Reagan as president, campy images of the A-Team and wholesome images of the Keatons and Huxtables on TV. We were surrounded by all the signs of growing wealth and prosperity.

In the next decade or so, our nation will be sorting out a host of interconnected messes regarding the economy, finance, and global relations. Our parents' experiences and our experiences contrast with one another. Frankly, they've had more experience with stormy waters than have we. I'm glad I had the chance to come of age in a time of fascinating triumphs, but I'm more glad Mom and Dad brought me into the world despite the stormy currents of the mid 1970s.

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