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Generation X(XX)
February 20, 2003
By Stephen Sacco

It always starts with these three words: "In the Sixties."

Chances are if you're a member of a generation dubbed Gen X, which I suppose means you're in your late twenties or thirtysomething, at least one person told you that young people in the Sixties were less apathetic than your no-good generation.

The sixties were cool. You are not. They protested. You didn't. They cared about social injustice. You don't.

Some looked to the right (the children of the Reagan Revolution) for comfort only to find that your generation was full of slackers who had succumb to moral relativism and "the liberal values" of the sixties.

Clearly we had the worst of both worlds. We were hedonist, only interested in sex and drinking with no social conscious or moral compass. Evidently, other generations of college students had little or no interest in sex and drinking. Who knew?

Why, when we start categorizing generations and ascribing to them various characteristics, are we invariably blathering on about "college students"? One reason is that those who blather are themselves card carrying members of the Starbucks-latte-drinking, degree-having crowd and they like blathering about themselves, if even critically, because, of course, present company is excepted.

Those who go on to military service or a job aren't as prone to being turned into ping pong balls to volley across the table in hopes of scoring points in a supposed culture war. (Nobody's keeping score in this conflict anyway, the point is to have sides to choose, that would be impossible if someone were to win.)

When it comes to actual, as opposed to cultural war, we almost never put the Grande-decafe-latte-with-skim-mild herd on the front lines. I mean, you could get hurt. Woody Guthrie said that some men rob you with a gun and some men rob you with a fountain pen. Apparently some men go to war with a gun and others get tax cuts.

Who am I to talk? The only time I served in uniform was when I worked at a fast food restaurant in high school.

My experience of the Gulf War was watching a green screen on CNN. It lit up in certain areas at times and that meant we were winning. Then I'd go to class.

It had all the visceral impact of the first generation of video-game tennis. "I remember," I caught myself saying to my friend's 16-year-old sister, "when you tried to move the little stick up or down so you could send the dot across the screen." She looked at me like I was old.

Who's going to the front lines in Iraq? Traditionally there are two groups that lopsidedly get sent to the front lines: minorities and poor rural whites. A war in Iraq is going to have a front line, unlike Bosnia and Kosovo and much of the Gulf War, which were fought from the air.

I think about that and any envy I had for the Sixties is gone. I'm skeptical about defining people as members of a certain generation, but there are events that hit people in their guts and shape them and their contemporaries - the Kennedy assassination, the events of 9/11.

Art also hits us in our guts, or at least should.

Reality TV, which is anything but real, serves to reassure us that we are smarter than those dumped or duped on "Joe Millionaire." Art makes us realize the universal nature of our suffering and folly.

The United Nations has put a blue curtain up around Picasso's Guernica, a painting that depicts the fascist bombing in the Spanish town of Guernica. It was deemed an inappropriate backdrop for a discussion of using force in Iraq. So, like pornography it must be covered up.

Laura Bush was to host a poetry reading at the White House but it was cancelled, because the poets might be against the war or worse, read poetry depicting war's horrors.

Poets and painters are being asked to depart with their X-rated trash that belongs nowhere near our consideration of war, lest our leaders blush.

Whether you support a war in Iraq or not, I doubt the way to support our troops is to disassociate ourselves from the sacrifice we ask of them. Patriotism does not consist of how enthusiastically one puts others in harm's way.

If conflict is not averted, let's hope that our sons and daughters, brothers and husbands come home. When they come home, with scars and stories and pain, let's hope we don't have to cover them up, lest our leaders blush.

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