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REQUIEM

Below are the two final essays to be posted on Allegiance and Duty Betrayed. The first one is written by a friend -- screen name 'Euro-American Scum' -- who, over the past four years, has been the most faithful essayist here. He has written about everything from his pilgrimage to Normandy in 2004 to take part in the 60th–year commemoration of the invasion, to his memories of his tour in Vietnam. His dedication to America’s founding principles ... and those who have sacrificed to preserve them over the past 200+ years ... is unequaled. Thank you, E-A-S. It has been a privilege to include your writing here, and it is a privilege to call you my friend.

The second essay is my own farewell. And with it I thank all of the many regular visitors, and those who may have only dropped in occasionally, for coming here. I hope you learned something. I hope a seed or two was planted. But, even if not, I thank you for stopping by ... 25 March, 2010

7/16/2007

Dealing With Death

To Everything There is a Season. 2jpg.jpg

It comes to all of us eventually. We all get the opportunity to mark the line of departure as it rubs uncomfortably close to us. And once that Rubicon is crossed, there is no going back.

I’m not speaking of any particular personal loss, although such a loss can serve as an earmark of the change. And I certainly don’t mean to imply our own personal extinction marks the road sign of the change. Once that happens, well . . . once that happens, such concerns about mortality get reduced to triviality.

What I’m referring to is that indelible moment when death, gently or not, knocks on the door of our lives and introduces himself as a tangible force with definable features, permanently ensconced in our sensibilities, never to depart, only to grow closer.

“Please allow me to introduce myself. I’m a man of wealth and taste.”

Something like that. Just a wakeup call to let us know he’s moving in as something of an unwelcome, albeit permanent houseguest.

If we live long enough, it will undoubtedly come to us. The moment arrives – however fleeting, but with undeniable clarity – when we realize we’re not going to live forever. We mourn the lost years. We lament the wasted time. We wonder how we could have been so facile, so arrogant, and so short-sighted as to believe we had blank check, filled with infinite second chances that would go on forever.

When we read the obituaries, it is more with a personal stake than passing interest. We half expect to find names and faces we know personally. And more often than we would like, we find them.

It often comes during the decade of the incipient health problem – our 50s. Suddenly, our ailments get more severe, more complicated, more involved than maladies that can be fixed with a fifteen minute visit to our friendly, neighborhood internist and a prescription for antibiotics. Then it happens. We lose someone, either someone very close, or casually distant. But the point is made: If it can happen to them, it can happen to us.

“To everything there is a season, a time to every purpose under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

It’s been that kind of year in my small circle of acquaintances. I’ve been to eight funerals this year. And the year is barely half over.

Most of them, I must admit, have been card-carrying members of the greatest generation, completing long lives, well-lived. And while such events are sad, they are not particularly tragic. For those of us who attended the services to bid farewell – particularly people at mid-life – such gatherings had all the trappings of losing a parent.

We remembered them when we were children. They were larger than life – our authority figures, teachers, mentors and protectors. By all indications, the WWII generation is meeting its end with the same grace, dignity and courage with which they defended the country over half a century ago. And while their departure leaves a void, it is part of the natural order of things. For all the tears, there is joy as well, and the celebration of lives of singular meaning, significance and purpose. “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . Enter into the joy of your Lord.”, the Bible tells us. Sad? Yes. Tragic? No.

Then there were the tragedies.

The first was a close personal friend I had known for ten years. He was a poster child for healthy living. He didn’t smoke or drink. He was a walking advertisement for a healthy diet. He was thin as a rail. And every weekend during our endless, year-round California summer, he could be found cycling his way from his home in Lake Forest to Del Mar along Pacific Coast Highway.

He had it all. A loving wife of twenty-two years, two daughters who adored him, aged 11 and 8. He died of complications from Merkel Cell carcinoma in February after fighting it for a year and a half. Now his wife will get to spend the second half of her life without him. And his daughters will get to navigate the minefield of their teen years without their father.

Then there was the 16-year-old high school girl at our church who was killed in a truck rollover in March. Law enforcement did not indicate the presence of alcohol in this accident. By all accounts, the driver just drifted off the shoulder of the road coming home from some late-night function, and drove the truck down an embankment. It rolled over several times. He was belted in. She was not. He survived. She was killed.

And then a few weeks ago, another teen in our church was killed in a head-on collision coming home southbound on U.S. 395. There were eleven people in a van coming home from a church retreat in Northern California. They were hit head-on by a pickup truck. Five people were killed, including this 15-year-old boy.

This one was perhaps the hardest one to take, because the family is so well-known and beloved in the community. The boy’s father is in the Wednesday night Bible study I attend. He is a district superior court judge, a strong Christian, and has the values and sensibilities that every member of the legal profession should have, but often does not.

These families did everything right. They are active members of the community, made the right decisions at the right time, have been richly blessed with strong, loving families, and live lives of significance, meaning and prosperity. And in an instant, their beloved children were gone. Just that quick.
It’s very tempting to lionize those who die young and tragically.

“They were so kind, so good, so full of life. Everybody loved them. What will become of us now that they’re gone?”

It’s such a canned response, it gets to be a cliché. And yet, we always seem to hear it. Regardless of the failings of the young person in question, they are unquestionably elevated to the status of sainthood in death, often by rote. It’s axiomatic.

Only in the case of these two young people, it was true. These two children bore the indelible stamp of good values, marked by solid upbringing. They were, and would have been, points of light in an ever-darkening world had they grown into adulthood. And now they’re gone. In an instant. The funerals may be over and done with, but the void remains.

It’s interesting the effect such losses have had on those left behind. People at church are more somber, less certain, more courteous (go figure!) and definitely more introspective. There’s a collective vulnerability that has covered the congregation like a gentle shroud. Because, if it can happen to families who do everything right, then . . . dare I say it? . . . It can happen to us.

How we deal with death speaks to our character. It reveals what we carry around inside us. It exposes what we value. The survivors of those loved ones so recently lost are now coping according to what they value.

The children of the WWII generation are mourning the loss of their parents and grandparents. The spouses and parents of young people who died tragically are coping – with difficulty I would assume – with losses so catastrophic as to defy description. But they are coping. Most are strong Christians, and that helps. But who can say what goes on when the last well-wisher departs, the doors are closed, the locks are turned and the lights are out?

There is, however, one common denominator I have observed in all recent survivors – the children of the greatest generation, and the parents of the young who died before their time. And that is the shock and horror of dealing with the inherent unfairness and cruelty of losing family members so beloved in such an arbitrary way.

The baby boom generation is currently in the full flower of its leadership phase of the country in the early 21st century. The nation is in the middle of the administration of its second baby boomer president. Boomers hold positions of leadership in every element of American society – government, business, industry, education, science, medicine, you name it.

There are a lot of things the boom generation does well. Coping with the unfairness of life is not one of them. Dealing with death is another.

During these past few months, I have been reminded of Budd Primrose. I think of him often. It doesn’t take a funeral to bring him to mind. But in recent circumstances, I have had occasion to reflect on the remarkable strength of character of one of the finest men I have ever known.

Primroses.jpg

Budd Primrose was a U.S. paratrooper – B Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division. He is pictured here with his wife Mary at the Eagle’s Nest in Berchtesgarten. He fought in the crusade in Europe from 1944-45, and I met him while we were on tour together during the 60th anniversary of the Normandy invasion in 2004.

Budd Primrose is typical of his generation. He is strong, stoic, but possessed of sense of fun and whimsy. He is man defined by his commitments. In 1944, it was to the war effort. Since that time, it has been to his wife and family.

One would have to appreciate the intensity of those days three short years ago to fully comprehend the deep bond that was formed between the combatants of WWII and their sons and daughters who were along for the ride. There was a timeless quality to an experience defined by walking the battlefields where Americans fought with such skill, courage and commitment, mixed with the poignancy of sharing the last long look back of a generation of men who knew their time was short. It was a surreal experience. An experience so sweet, it was painful, so meaningful, it hurt. But it was a good kind of hurt.

People gravitated to Budd and Mary Primrose. He was a page out of history. She was sweet, cordial and engaging. Mary Primrose was a British war bride. Personally, I will always remember walking the streets of Portsmouth, England (Mary’s home town) listening to her descriptions of what it was like to go to school during the Blitz; how streets that were clear one morning were bombed out the next; and how students attended classes to candlelight in bomb shelters. As much as was possible in those extraordinary circumstances, and during that short time span, we all came to love them. Not the least of which was yours truly.

I don’t know about anyone else, but elderly couples who are demonstrably affectionate with each other can either be sublime or strange. I can’t explain why that is, I just know that it is.

Budd and Mary’s love for each other was sublime. It was readily apparent for all to see. I even went so far as to tell Budd that if I could have chosen a father in my pre-incarnate days – if such things were possible – he would have been my choice. He was embarrassed by that declaration, and we never spoke of it again. But the point was made. I believed it had to be.

I often told him that as much as I admired the 2½ years of service to his country, I much more admired him for his 59 years as a husband and father. He just evoked that level of respect. Always did and always will.

Primroses1.jpg

Our final night together as a group was Budd and Mary’s 59th wedding anniversary. It seemed fitting. During our time together, all of us had bonded in a unique and indescribable way. In our own fashion, we had become a band of brothers. If nothing else, we all came to appreciate how the veterans of that war are, in many ways bonded closer to each other than they have ever been to their own families.

Well, all good things must come to an end, and for every summit-of-Everest experience, there is the inevitable descent to base camp. And so it was with us. Some, like me, were going on. But most were going home. I spent another week in Europe – traveling to Krakow Poland to visit the Auschwitz death camp – then on to Israel for another week. I made it home after a month on the road.

Many of us stayed in contact with each other. But, as so often happens, many of us drifted apart. Until the day in December 2004 when Budd Primrose sent out a group email to those of us who exchanged such addresses that his beloved Mary – wife, lover, friend and companion – died in her sleep.

Personally, I was devastated. I felt like I’d lost my own mother, again. I called, and we talked. Budd exhibited the characteristics of his generation under great duress and in the face of great loss – stoic, dignified, burdened, but coping.

In the following months, I called periodically to inquire about his well-being. Oftentimes, couples who are so deeply bonded die within months of each other. But, as the winter wore into spring, I found Budd to be getting on with things nicely. He was planning to go skiing at Lake Tahoe before the spring snow pack disappeared. He had a hunting trip planned with his sons, when the season opened. He was planning to shoot the rapids on the Rogue River that summer (in his mid-80s, imagine!).

In short, he was dealing with death, coping with the loss, and living life. And he was doing it with the strength of character that, by God’s grace was given to the greatest generation. There is much to conclude from the dignity with which Budd bore the burden of his loss. But perhaps the most significant fact to be gleaned is that he had a genuine awareness of the inherent unfairness and arbitrary cruelty of life. He knew that very well.

And that was true of his generation. If the Depression wasn’t sufficient in the hard-knocks education of life, WWII certainly was. The young people of that time became fully aware that whatever joy they might experience in life was capricious and could be swept away at a moment’s notice. It may explain why the prosperity of the years that followed the war was never enough to alleviate a general sense of disconnect that many veterans endured coming home.

Many, if not most households, bore the mark of an aloof, distant husband and father, grimly determined to provide for his family, often sacrificing everything else. Good times were something foreign to them, something in which many of them never rested easily. Unlike their baby boomer children, for whom prosperity and success was taken as a rock-ribbed article of faith, their WWII fathers knew the truth of the basic hardships of life. It paid dividends for them in the wake of catastrophic loss, but it often cost them the closeness of those closest to them.

So what does it say about us when all our options are cut to zero? How does such extreme circumstances affect our relationships with our friends, neighbors, our standing as Americans, our connection to God? How do we carry ourselves when the loss is so final that there is no act we can perform, no check we can write, no bargain we can strike to bring back the loved and lost – all irrevocably, irretrievably, irredeemably gone.

Well, for one thing, it hammers home the point, in no uncertain terms, that our reach definitely exceeds our grasp. And such is one of the unpleasant truths of life. For another, it should give us the acute knowledge that we don’t have a blank check. The clock is ticking and will eventually run out. And it’s time to love our spouses, children, whoever, and make sure they know it, and in general kiss the joy as it flies.

Because there are worse things than being the first one to die. There’s being the last one left, with the grim knowledge that we were shallow enough to make mistakes and old enough to have regrets. And now there is no way to remedy such things.

What does this have to do with the state of the country? Nothing that I haven’t commented on in previous articles.

Past generations of Americans knew who they were. They had a solid grounding in their community. They knew their place in the world as Americans. And above all, they knew that life was unfair, arbitrary and cruel. It gave them a sense of immediacy, urgency, and a conviction to enjoy life as it came, because it could be swept away in an instant.

Future generations lost this sense of purpose, and the understanding of the hardships of life. Their paradigm became faith in the good life, which became a gilt-edged entitlement. And if such things became the priority, everything else, including the sense of identity as citizens of their country, and the obligations that went along with it, was sacrificed on its altar.

What does that leave for the rest of us, in light of the unpleasant truth that what we place our faith in will often be burnt to ashes? Well, for one thing, make the most of the time we’ve got left, however lengthy or brief that span may be. We can make every moment count. We can even be citizens of our country, whatever is left of it, and for however long it lasts. Because. . .

“The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” – Psalms 19:9

And that little bit of truth is not negotiable.

by Euro-American Scum
(contributing team member of Allegiance and Duty Betrayed)

41 comments:

All_good_men said...

"It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather, we should thank God that such men lived." George Patton was referring to soldiers. However, this applies to all good people.

SharonGold said...

What a penetrating and yet lovely espression of so many emotions and thoughts. Thank you so much for sharing this with us!

robmaroni said...

Thank you mostly for the great definition of the difference between the WWII generation and those of us who came after them. That definition is the reason we're in the trouble we're in. The WWII generation wouldn't have let this happen to America.

This is a great essay.

cw-patriot said...

There are a lot of things the boom generation does well. Coping with the unfairness of life is not one of them. Dealing with death is another.

Unfortunately, the things that our generation ‘does well’, for the most part, fall shy of the things that are going to be required to keep our republic safe, sovereign, and free.

In addition to the two failings you mentioned above is the fact that we are not seeing to it that the generation that followed us, and the one that followed them, are instilled with a knowledge of their roots, and an appreciation of what it will take to retain the uniquely American character traits that blossomed from those roots. We have been remiss in monitoring, and holding accountable, our leadership in politics and education. As a result, our children and their children have not been provided the guidance, or granted the opportunity, to develop the kind of character that defined ‘the greatest generation’. We witnessed it in our fathers and mothers, but we have not set the same example, or sought out others who would, for our children. One cannot emulate what one does not see, or mourn the loss of something one has never known.

They were larger than life – our authority figures, teachers, mentors and protectors. By all indications, the WWII generation is meeting its end with the same grace, dignity and courage with which they defended the country over half a century ago.

Beautifully said.

While you have been far more blessed than most of us in that you have been privileged to personally know so many genuine American heroes, at the same time I would imagine that losing them is so much harder for you to bear.

My Dad, a World War II veteran, died in the autumn of 2001. Now, nearly six years later, I still think of him at least a part of every day. He was a wonderful father, and my best friend. But what I miss most is his character, because I do not see it anywhere else. Not to the degree that I saw it in him. Faith, honesty, courage, industry, humility, creativity, integrity, a willingness to ‘make do’ with whatever tools are at one’s disposal … all of these were hallmarks of the greatest generation … and nowadays we see them so rarely, all tied up in one package, in our daily walk. When we simply we one or two of those character traits today we are in awe.

I suspect that Budd Primrose presented you with such a package. And I know that you recognize, and will eternally value, the indelible imprint he has made on your life. You have described his incomparable qualities of character in a way that would no doubt embarrass him, but your description has made the readers of this essay comprehend just what sets him head and shoulders above the rest of us, and just what we as a nation have failed to instill in our children.

Thank you for taking the time to write these incredibly perceptive and beautiful thoughts. You are a man of faith, a gifted writer, and an astute (if sad) observer of the decline of America.

~ joanie

John Cooper said...

Mr. Scum--

Why is it that whenever I read one of your posts, I find tears running down my cheeks? You put into words what us "old guys" are thinking, but are afraid to confront, openly.

As I've told you before, you're a gifted writer and it's my hope that you'll realize you have something special and find a wider (hopefully, paid) audience for your writing.

But that's the way getting old is, isn't it? You've spent a lifetime acquiring knowledge, experience and finesse, but when you reach a point where you have a pretty good understanding of just about everything, you find that there's nobody left to care.

I'm only 60 - not quite to the point of despair just yet - but I'm aware enough that I can see it coming. I have an older (than me) friend who is going through the same tribulations that you are.

Depression? Hell, who wouldn't be depressed seeing everything one has loved slip away? Sometimes it seems that getting older involves giving up, giving in, and letting go. I can see it coming, I hate it, but I still fight it (while I can).

Personally, I'm blessed that I still have a (very) few friends and a loving wife who's memories extend back with mine. But I have (a very few) new friends, too, who share my outlook on life.

I've very picky about whom I call "friend". I always figured that a friend was someone who - if I called and asked - would drive/fly/hitchhike across the country to meet me. That limits my true friends to probably one or two.

One of my (89 y.o.) friends and I spent a number of years building airplanes together. He started his at age 69, and flew it 8 years later, and for ten more years until he finally sold it. I started mine at age 41, and am still working on it. But I digress...

When we were working on our planes together, we became close friends. This man has done more in a lifetime than I could ever do in ten. He worked his way up from a barefoot kid in N. Florida to the VP of a large corporation. He walked from FL to NY to get a job during the depression. He became a vaudeville performer, plays the piano, did sleight-of-hand magic (until arthritis prevented him), can still recite "The Cremation of Dan McGee" by heart, once held a doctor at gunpoint to force him to perform surgery on his wife, has crash landed an airplane in a cemetary and survived, and much, much more...

About ten years ago he, his wife, my wife, and I went on a road trip to N Florida to see the turpentine woods between Ocala and Jacksonville where he grew up. They barely remembered where to find the turnoff to the dirt road leading to the house, but somehow they found it. The road branched a number of times, but eventually he pulled off and said "this is it". We all piled out of his old Cadillac and walked about 1/4 mile down this trail to a little clearing.

My friend pointed to an empty space littered with beer cans and old bedsprings and said, "This is where the house was". There was absolutely nothing there, except a cherry tree and a small depression in the ground. He said, "That depression was our well, and that cherry tree grew up from us kids spitting seeds off the back porch. It was just little when I left."

The house of his youth was totally erased from all memory but his, as is most everything else he has held dear all these.

He's not afraid of dying - he's told me that - but it's my suspicion that he is sad that a life like his is going to slip into oblivion like the house he grew up in. It seems like such a waste, doesn't it?

When I speak to him on the phone these days (as I do a couple times a week), I can tell he is going through the same emotions as you are, Mr. Scum. He gets a little weepy speaking about certain things.

He had a LIFE - you had a LIFE - we've all had our own lives, greater or lesser. It's terribly sad to see lives well lived just fade away without notice, but what can we do other than keep on to the end as a testament to those lives?

May God bless you and give you the strength you need to deal with this.

3timesalady said...

So beautifully said.

Thank you!

smithy said...

It's rare to read something containing so much wisdom. You certainly won't find it in the mainstream meida or on the bestseller's list.

I enjoyed reading this on so many levels. I am probably around the same age as you (I am 57) and I feel pretty much the same but couldn't put my thoughts down in words as well. Thank you.

2ndAmendmentDefender said...

How we deal with death speaks to our character. It reveals what we carry around inside us. It exposes what we value.

How we deal with tragedy of any kind shows all of those things. Americans these days are too busy tying yellow ribbons instead of searching their souls. Great article, Mr. Scum.

Lori_Gmeiner said...

I cried too when I read parts of your story. Your comments are beautiful and they are written in a very touching way. I agree with Joanie and John Cooper. You are a gifted writer and a keen observer of human nature and America.

Lori

trustbutverify said...

I agree with everything you wrote and you wrote it very well. If you don't write for a living you should.

Gary Burgess said...

Two weeks ago, as I was starting my sixth month of duty in Iraq , I was forced to return to the USA for surgery for an injury I sustained prior to my deployment. With luck, I'll return to Iraq to finish my tour.

I left Baghdad , and a war that has every indication that we are winning, to return to a demoralized country much like the one I returned to in 1971 after my tour in Vietnam. Maybe it's because I'll turn 60 years old in just four months, but I'm tired:

I'm tired of spineless politicians, both Democrat and Republican, who lack the courage, fortitude and character to see these difficult tasks through.

I'm tired of the hypocrisy of politicians who want to rewrite history when the going gets tough.

I'm tired of the disingenuous clamor from those that claim they 'Support the Troops' by wanting them to 'Cut and Run' before victory is achieved.

I'm tired of a mainstream media that can only focus on car bombs and casualty reports because they are too afraid to leave the safety of their hotels to report on the courage and success our brave men and women are having on the battlefield.

I'm tired that so many Americans think you can rebuild a dictatorship into a democracy overnight.

I'm tired that so many ignore the bravery of the Iraqi people to go to the voting booth and freely elect a Constitution and soon a permanent Parliament.

I'm tired of the so called 'Elite Left' that prolongs this war by giving aid and comfort to our enemy, just as they did during the Vietnam War.

I'm tired of antiwar protesters showing up at the funerals of our fallen soldiers, a family whose loved ones gave their life in a just and noble cause, only to be cruelly tormented on the funeral day by cowardly protesters is beyond shameful.

I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom — Vietnam generation, who have such a weak backbone that they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.

I'm tired that some are more concerned about the treatment of captives than they are the slaughter and beheading of our citizens and allies.

I'm tired that when we find mass graves it is seldom reported by the press, but mistreat a prisoner and it is front-page news.

Mostly, I'm tired that the people of this great nation didn't learn from history that there is no substitute for victory.

Sincerely, Joe Repya, Lieutenant Colonel, U. S. Army 101st Airborne Division

link: http://gatheringofeagles.org/forum?forum=3&topic=257&page=1

Euro-American Scum said...

Insightful commentary, as always Joanie.

We have been remiss in monitoring, and holding accountable, our leadership in politics and education. As a result, our children and their children have not been provided the guidance, or granted the opportunity, to develop the kind of character that defined ‘the greatest generation’.

Sad, but true. This is what happens when self-absorption trumps a sense of service. It may be the most lasting, if not damning legacy of the baby boom generation.

While you have been far more blessed than most of us in that you have been privileged to personally know so many genuine American heroes, at the same time I would imagine that losing them is so much harder for you to bear.

Funny you should mention this. One of our tour guides -- Chris Anderson of WWII Magazine -- warned me about this. He told me that I had been initiated into the fraternity of historical giants. And when one of them passed, it would no longer be simply a name in a history book, but a personal friend.

Chris should know. He's been experiencing their passing for the past twenty years. And his advice has come true with a bitter lament.

All the same, I would not have missed the experience for anything. So many of the men who served there were seeking their own sense of peace. Those of us who followed them, and lived vicariously through their experience, were seeking to know our fathers, whether they were present or not.

I genuinely believe we both attained what we sought.

Euro-American Scum said...

Oh John. . .

As I've told you before, you're a gifted writer and it's my hope that you'll realize you have something special and find a wider (hopefully, paid) audience for your writing.

I could tell you horror stories about this very point. Needless to say, coming home from a sea change experience like this scrambled my sensibilities like an egg. Life has not been the same since. I do seem to have found my voice in the form of the written word since that time. But with inspirational material like this. . . it would be hard to remain silent.

I have been actively looking to switch gears in the direction you suggest since that time. Suffice it to say, a 55-year-old, recovering techie whose career has gone to India, doesn't make a living via the written word. At least, not unless he's Steven King.

Joanie knows the horror stories of the last three years very well. I always knew that for every mountaintop experience, there is often a valley that follows. But a black hole the likes of the last three years was something I could never imagine.

Euro-American Scum said...

Joe --

I'm tired that my generation, the Baby Boom — Vietnam generation, who have such a weak backbone that they can't stomach seeing the difficult tasks through to victory.

As a card-carrying member of the same fraternity, let me say thank you for your service and welcome home -- from both wars.

I would add to your comments only in this fashion -- It's a crime that we now have a generation of young people, who, except for those who serve in the military, see no value in serving the country in time of peace, and defending it in time of war.

As Joanie pointed out so well in a previous comment, it's just another legacy of a boomer generation that was too self-absorbed to pass along the heritage of its country to its children. And so we live with the consequences.

I heard a commentary not so long ago -- I don't remember where -- that observed we have a military at war and a country at the mall.

Every time I go to the local shopping centers, I think of that observation.

Anonymous said...

This column and the responses under it are some of the best writing I've read in a long time. Thank you for reminding me that there are still other people like me who know the score (and don't like it).

arlene albrecht said...

Sad applause, Euro American Scum. The content is sad, your talent for describing it is amazing.

johnsteever said...

So what does it say about us when all our options are cut to zero? How does such extreme circumstances affect our relationships with our friends, neighbors, our standing as Americans, our connection to God? How do we carry ourselves when the loss is so final that there is no act we can perform, no check we can write, no bargain we can strike to bring back the loved and lost – all irrevocably, irretrievably, irredeemably gone.

That's the most gut wrenching paragraph in a gut wrenching essay.

You wrote very well about things that most of us know but the rest of us haven't put them all together and can't write as well as you do. That's a talent.

marcus aurelius said...

This is a masterpiece of personal and political commentary that should be published in every major newspaper across the country, but won't.

Tom Bergman said...

Want to know what ails us? You nailed it here:

The baby boom generation is currently in the full flower of its leadership phase of the country in the early 21st century. The nation is in the middle of the administration of its second baby boomer president. Boomers hold positions of leadership in every element of American society – government, business, industry, education, science, medicine, you name it.

We're only one generation away from the "greatest generation" but the apple fell too far from the tree.

Anonymous said...

I was sorry to read about your World War II friends who are dying and also sorry to hear about the young people with character who are dying too. We need both very badly right now.

Kathymlynczak said...

Well, for one thing, it hammers home the point, in no uncertain terms, that our reach definitely exceeds our grasp. And such is one of the unpleasant truths of life. For another, it should give us the acute knowledge that we don’t have a blank check. The clock is ticking and will eventually run out. And it’s time to love our spouses, children, whoever, and make sure they know it, and in general kiss the joy as it flies.

We should all recite this every day.

Euro-American Scum said...

Tom --

We're only one generation away from the "greatest generation" but the apple fell too far from the tree.

It is fascinating to me that the two generations -- arriving consecutively on the historical time line, so to speak -- are so different. And I believe the stark contrast in economic conditions in which each were raised only partially serves to explain this disparity.

The bottom line is one group had an innate sense of service, tempered by the harsh times of the Depression and coming to full fruition when the country needed it most during the war.

The other was consumed with itself and its own comfort. And the unprecedented prosperity of the 1950s only partially serves to explain this phenomenon. On some level, the worldview of the baby boomers was basic and fundamental, simply awaiting cultivation.

Empires rise and fall throughout the ages. Call it the oscillation of history for lack of a better term. It's surprising, shocking and lamentable that America's stay on the summit of the world stage was so brief.

Tom Bergman said...

EAS, I agree with everything you said, and I would add that the emergence of the self-proclaimed "expert" class, starting in the mid forties, did alot to change the character of succeeding generations.

Benjamin Spock's first powerful book was published in 46, and many a parent took his permissive advice to heart. He is part of the reason the greatest generation raised a generation of me-firsters, and it's gotten progressively worse since then.

As you say, economics had a lot to do with the decline too. What we need is a good depressionlike era to give us a backbone but I really don't think we'd know how to cope anymore.

john galt said...

Because there are worse things than being the first one to die. There’s being the last one left, with the grim knowledge that we were shallow enough to make mistakes and old enough to have regrets. And now there is no way to remedy such things.

This needs to be repeated over and over again but the trouble is young people don't understand it. It's only with age and experience that we understand, in hindsight.

Excellent column.

Anonymous said...

Your "not negotiable" truth at the end is what 99.99% of humanity has lost sight of.

Anonymous said...

From Brokaw's "The Greatest Generation":

The year of my birth, 1940, was the fulcrum of America in the twentieth century, when the nation was balanced precariously between the darkness of the Great Depression on one side and the storms of war in Europe and the Pacific on the other. It was a critical time in the shaping of this nation and the world, equal to the revolution of 1776 and the perils of the Civil War. Once again the American people understood the magnitude of the challenge, the importance of an unparalleled national commitment, and, most of all, the certainty that only one resolution was acceptable. The nation turned to its young to carry the heaviest burden, to fight in enemy territory and to keep the home front secure and productive. These young men and women were eager for the assignment. They understood what was required of them, and they willingly volunteered for their duty.

guinevere said...

I don't disagree with a word of what you wrote and it makes me cry to say that.

Anonymous said...

Euro, your description of Bud and Mary Primrose and Joanie, your description of your Dad makes me realize that you are so right. We don’t have many of those kinds of people around anymore, and as you said Joanie, when we find even ONE of their excellent character traits in someone we think it is wonderful. But people who lived back in their time had all of those excellent character traits rolled up in one “package.”

fascismisyourwosrtenemy said...

I assume you've seen "Band of Brothers"? I've probably seen it about 10 times, and every time I do I get depressed for days because it reminds me of what we've lost.

Anonymous said...

Band of Brother is one of the best movies ever made, along with Saving Private Ryan.

stonemason said...

Thanks for the great essay.

My wife gave me Ken Burn's "The War" for my birthday but we haven't watched it yet. Ken Burns isn't known for his truthfulness in documentaries.

http://www.amazon.com/War-Ken-Burns-Film/dp/B000R7NBMK/ref=pd_bbs_1/103-5394307-9884644?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1184697954&sr=1-1

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog but some of these articles (like this one) need to be published where they will get more readers. This one's a keeper.

Euro-American Scum said...

Tom --

Benjamin Spock's first powerful book was published in 46, and many a parent took his permissive advice to heart. He is part of the reason the greatest generation raised a generation of me-firsters, and it's gotten progressively worse since then.

I really think you're on to something with this. But I also think Spock's book, and its adoption as an article of faith by so many new parents at that time is just the tip of the iceberg.

It doesn't take a genius to observe that my respect for the WWII generation is off the charts. All the same, I am not blind to their shortcomings. If I didn't come to bury Caesar, but to praise him in this essay, at least my praise needs to be qualified.

The WWII generation was chosen for greatness. Everything they did has enormous impact -- on the nation and the world. Their success was huge. So was their failure.

Oftentimes -- and this was borne out by so many boomer children of their veteran fathers while on tour -- the humble faith exhibited by young fighting men in the face of the life-threatening peril of the war devolved into prideful arrogance in their postwar years.

I can't tell you how much I've thought about this coming home from Europe three years ago. Men who fought with such commitment, often grew tired, brittle, and disinterested as they grew old.

Many of them were absent, or at the very least, distant fathers -- sacrificing their roles as such in favor of the provider who goes to work, comes home, turns his paycheck over to his wife, and otherwise does not want to be bothered. I heard many a variation of this story countless times in Europe.

And the void left by the absence of an active, loving father will get filled by anything that's handy. Benjamin Spock was just one such component who filled that void. And we've been living with the consequences of that void ever since.

There's a book in there somewhere for someone with the energy to pursue this theme. Anyone with the drive, the time and the devotion to it could probably make the non-fiction bestseller list. . .

As it relates to the greatest generation -- and incidentally, I don't much care for that term as it applies to the WWII generation (and have used it far too much in this commentary) -- The Bible tells us "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." That also applies to the WWII generation as well. They weren't perfect. They simply led lives of incredible significance.

John Cooper said...

Well, this is a great thread, but I do kinda' wish everybody would stop bashing the "baby-boomer generation", of which I am a part.

Being born an appropriate time after my Dad got home from the war, I am on the bow wave of the boomer generation, which "experts" have decreed extends from 1944 to 1964. In reality, unless one was born by 1950, one is NOT a boomer by my accounting.

What I am trying to say is "Please don't lump me in with people like Bill Clinton."

And not to diminish what the "greatest generation" did, but they sure let the Country go to hell when they got back. My father-in-law, for example, was an E-7 in the Army, and was almost killed in the Battle of the Bulge. He was left for dead in a field for three days, but somehow survived (he won't talk about it). Whatever happened out there must have done something to him, because neither he nor his wife have voted since the war ended.

Tom Bergman said...

EAS, I completely agree with your analysis. At the same time, those of us who have never been through what the men who saw the worst of that war went through can't possibly imagine the lasting impact it had on their lives.

I'm sure it changed them in internal ways that even those closest to them never realized. The "faults" they showed after returning, and probably for the rest of their lives, were surely the result of what they saw, what they did, and what the war took from them.

I'm sure they were sometimes less than they might have been with their families, in their jobs, etc, and yet we who can't possibly know what it was like to see things through their eyes also can't expect to evaluate their after war lives.

We owe them. We owe them big. And in the things that count not many of us could have filled their shoes.

Anonymous said...

I read this somewhere else on the net today. I think the readers here would agree:

I was born before the Korean War and lived through the disgrace of Vietnam. The first Gulf War seemed to erase the defeat legacy our military suffered in Vietnam, but once more, the Whores & Hounds of Hell are nipping at our heels lead by the Clintons, Pelosi, Ried, Obama, Edwards, Kerry, Ted Kennedy and the other lice ridden vermin that call themselves Democrats.

They are not Americans, they are traitors to the core and one day if we are not careful and vigilant, they will win out, killing the American Dream and the American Nation for all of us. Their victory will be hollow because they will shortly be overrun by the Islamic hoards they say are not our enemy. Their last breath will in all probability be the radioactive dust from the rubble of New York, Boston and the District of Columbia.

John Cooper said...

Mr. Scum--

Regardless of whatever else is going wrong in your life, you are still have a talent for writing, IMHO.

I understand that nobody is paying much for that ability these days, but there is no reason you can't compile what you've already written - add to it - and publish a book. Hell, I'll buy ten copies.

Something like "Profiles in Courage", I'm thinking...

John Cooper said...

Another Morning (from the CD of the same name)

by J.P. Cormier

“So many times and in so many ways, I have seen the elderly left behind; by their families, by the death of their spouses, by life in general. We, the younger generations, should never let them feel alone. They are the ones who rocked us in our cradles, helped us take our first steps, and paved the way with their sacrifices for us to go about in the world trying to make our own small differences. They should always be remembered and respected for what they have done. This song is for them…

“Another morning one more day that I’ve been granted
Too bad the sun can’t come and chase the years away
At eighty-three the seeds of youth have all been planted
I see the harvest in a faded memory

“Another morning how I’d love to see my children
But they have all grown up and away to other lives
Jim is a doctor and Bill’s a pilot, they don’t call often
And we lost Sara in the fire of ’65.

CHORUS

“Now the days are growing longer
And I am much too old for anyone to hold
How I wish that I was stronger
To make the trip back home
Can I make it all alone?

“Another morning feed the cat and watch the TV
It’s days like this when I miss Catherine the most
I lost her last May when the sickness took here from me
But I still talk to her like she never left the house

CHORUS

“Another morning I have watched the children playing
Without a thought or care to how they spend their lives
Someone should warn them that the years come slowly creeping
And one day they will see the world through my eyes.

“And how the years will grow much longer
And they will be too old for anyone to hold
How they’ll wish that they were stronger
To make the trip back home
But like me, they’ll be alone
For I know I must go home
But it’s hard to all alone

robmaroni said...

Very beautiful, Cooper. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

You need to write a book and get it published by some publisher that isn't anti-patriot or anti-conservative.

John Cooper said...

...and Then it's Winter

You know, time has a way of moving quickly and catching you unaware of the passing years. It seems just yesterday that I was young, just married and embarking on my new life with my mate. And yet in a way, it seems like eons ago, and I wonder where all the years went. I know that I lived them all...(not really!)

And I have glimpses of how it was back then and of all my hopes and dreams... But, here it is..the winter of my life and it catches me by surprise... How did I get here so fast? Where did the years go and where did my babies go? And where did my youth go?

I remember well... seeing older people through the years and thinking that those older people were years away from me and that winter was so far off that I could not fathom it or imagine fully what it would be like... But, here it is...wife retired and she's really getting gray...she moves slower and I see an older woman now. She's in better shape than me... but, I see the great change... Not the one I married who was young and vibrant... but, like me, her age is beginning to show and we are now those older folks that we used to see and never thought we'd be. (I wish I could of seen this!)

Each day now, I find that just getting a shower is a real target for the day! And taking a nap is not a treat anymore...it's mandatory! Cause if I don't of my own free will...I just fall asleep where I sit!

And so, now I enter into this new season of my life unprepared for all the aches and pains and the loss of strength and ability to go and do things.

But, at least I know, that though the winter has come, and I'm not sure how long it will last...This I know, that when it's over...its over....Yes , I have regrets .There are things I wish I hadn't done... things I should have done. But indeed, there are many things I'm happy to have done. Its all in a lifetime...(things I didn't get a chance to do!)

So, if you're not in your winter yet...let me remind you, that it will be here faster than you think. So, whatever you would like to accomplish in your life please do it quickly!

Life goes by quickly So, do what you can today, because you can never be sure whether this is your winter or not!

You have no promise that you will see all the seasons of your life...so, live for good today and say all the things that you want your loved ones to remember...

"Life is a gift to you. The way you live your life is your gift to those who came after. Make it a fantastic one."

LIVE IT WELL!!

--author unknown