I didn't look inside.

I don’t think Tom Brokaw meant to tick off other generations when he dubbed a very tiny segment of Americans “The Greatest Generation,” but he sure got my dander up. Yes, the brave men and women who eagerly participated in WWII deserve recognition for their sacrifices. But elevating them to the Greatest Generation means what? That all the rest of us are mediocre, even if we’ve done eager and brave things? I don’t think that’s fair. Every generation has had its challenges and its triumphs. Is fighting Hitler greater than fighting for civil rights?

I haven’t read Brokaw’s book because:

  1. I’m a woman.
  2. I’m not turned on by war–past, present, or future.
  3. I resent Mr. Brokaw for his omniscience and cock-surety that one generation (that he made up) is the greatest one of all. I mean, he’s a news personality, not Nostradamus.

Social scientists who study generations a bit more objectively than I do, tell us that generations only got named when the Baby-Boomers came along. Take that, Tom! Every other generation is defined by when they arrived: before or after the Baby-Boomers. Keep in mind these social scientists disagree about a lot of things–dates and names being two of those things–so these are approximations:

  1. The Silent Generation (1925-1945)–who mostly had hangovers from the Roaring ’20s and were too poor and depressed from the Great Depression to be chatty, except for Mickey Rooney in the movies.
  2. The Baby-Boomers (1946-1964)–my generation–one massive population explosion that’s been shaping the culture since we popped out of our Silent Mom’s poor and tired wombs. We’re often thought of as the “Me Generation” and responsible for both shaping and ruining the future–but we did it bravely, eagerly and for us.
  3.  Generation X (1965-1980)–a mysterious, but thankfully, smaller bunch who are often seen as the “What About Me? Generation.” They seem pretty lost in the shadow of us Baby-Boomers and wonder if they’ll live to collect Social Security.
  4. Generation Y (1981-1994)–this bunch was brought up on the Internet. They’re live-in-the-moment types–figuring someone/something will solve all their eventual problems. Being their parents, we don’t understand them. We just give them lots of stuff in the hopes that everyone makes it through the day unscathed.
  5. Generation Z (1995-?)–I’m worried about these young-uns. They’re at the end of the alphabet, and that’s not a good sign for future generations being around to taunt this group’s music and fashion when they get older. They’re today’s teens–brought up with terrorism and bioengineered food. What must they think of their world? When I was their age, my worries concerned where I could find the right colored tube top to go with my bell-bottom jeans.

Tom created his “Greatest Generation” from the subset of people who were part of the WWII war effort (the Silent Generation). He cites people like JFK, Walter Cronkite, Joe DiMaggio, Charles Shultz, a whole bunch of war heroes I never heard of, and Ronald Reagan as examples of the greatness that came from that era. I’m assuming he doesn’t mention Dick Cheney, Bernie Madoff, or John Gotti.

What about Barak Obama, Bill Gates, Princess Diana, or John Lennon? They all made their mark on the world. Are/Were they great?

  • Who are some of the great people in your generation?
  • Who gets to decide which generation is the greatest?
  • Is anyone else miffed at Tom Brokaw for this or any other reason?