I am blessed. No matter what hardships or obstacles lay before me I’ve always known, acknowledged and felt extremely grateful that I grew up at the time and in the place that I did.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s air raid drills, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cold War were an integral part of the classroom experience. As my generation transitioned to high school and beyond, the horrors of the Vietnam War played out in our living rooms and consciousness daily. The ever increasing threat of war, and the draft with its lottery system served as a veiled interloper for all within earshot of this first publicly televised conflict. There was no escape.
When the lottery for the draft was first enacted in 1969 for men born from 1944 to 1950, many of the boys of my generation silently prayed that their “number” would not be called and girls thanked our Maker that we could not be drafted. No one really understood exactly how those lottery numbers were picked but the talk of the day was that Canada was looking more and more attractive. Peace marches, anti-Vietnam protests and yes, drafts resisters and dodgers shared the television screen with the unspeakable images of war. The country was divided by patriotic Americans who stalwartly defended the country in thought and/or deed and those who considered themselves just as patriotic but were vehemently opposed to this illegal war. Both sides passionately defended their right to believe. March 12, 1975 was the date of the last Selective Service lottery. The draft was officially suspended in January 1976 but revived in 1980 for all males born 1980 and later.
During the 1960’s civil unrest and dissention created tidal waves of oppression in the South as well as pockets across the bordering states. Separate but equal laws enabled southern states to govern with impunity. African American men were called into service to defend their country but at home were relegated to the back of the bus and denied the basic freedoms they were fighting to protect. Those southern soldiers were subjected to “Jim Crow” laws at the local and state levels which created a “white only” segregated system that prevented people of color from attending the same schools, bathrooms, and theatres. People of color were barred from voting or participating on juries. Although the separate but equal doctrine was abolished by the Supreme Court in 1954, it took more than 15 years, the death of Martin Luther King Jr. and thousands of hours of nonviolent protesters in concert to affect a modicum of change which is still a work in progress.
The rise in anti-Semitism is front page news. The rise? Has it ever gone away? The seeds of anti-Semitism are as intrinsic and embedded as the roots of racism are in the African American and Muslim communities. Fear, mistrust, jealousy, narcissism, rage, misguided loyalties, alienation, disenfranchment are all catalysts for attacks such as the assassination of 12 people at Charlie Hebdo, the Paris satirical newspaper and 4 more at the Hypercacher Kosher superette . How many countless people who are “different” are subjected to indignities and atrocities fueled by the same catalysts?
Civil unrest is rampant across the globe. The threat of nuclear attack by those deemed unpredictable is real and constant. The sex slave trade targeting the most vulnerable of the vulnerable, our children, still flies under the radar. The war on drugs is losing ground as states look for alternative revenue streams that the legalization of marijuana will provide yet still jail low level offenders for marijuana possession in states where marijuana is illegal. Don’t get me started on that one.
Illegal immigration has soared to new heights. Children are the new pawns in the immigration game. These children are being ferried across the border to towns with high numbers of Hispanic populations and often with historically underperforming schools. How this is deemed fair and equitable is unfathomable.
In spite of it all I still feel blessed. Women of my generation, unlike many of the generations before me, have had the opportunity to choose. Baby Boomers were the first generation to attend integrated schools due to Brown vs. the Board of Education in 1954. The FDA approved the ‘Pill” for sale in 1960 which fueled the sexual revolution for this generation as well as the hippie counterculture. In 1968, the Women’s Liberation and the feminist movement began which opened the doors for many women to attend college and enter traditionally male dominated professions. In 1973 Roe vs. Wade made abortion legal in the U.S. giving women autonomy over their bodies. Twenty-nine percent of baby boomers are college graduates.
Seventy-four percent of boomers are still working and they hold $13 trillion in assets, which is 50% of the United States asset base. In 1983, the retirement age was raised from 65 to 67 effective 2000. Bill Clinton, who was born in 1946, was the first Baby Boomer to be sworn in as President. Almost sixty-eight percent of Baby Boomers own their own homes and 25% rent.
On the whole Baby Boomers are a resilient, hardworking, balanced group of men and women. We worry that our adult children and grandchildren were born into a world more chaotic and uncertain than we did. We were able to embrace and live the American dream one brick at a time. Was it because we delayed gratification and did not expect our wants to materialize the instant they streamed into our consciousness? Was it because we knew that we had to pay our dues and owed loyalty to our company and/or management in order to reap the rewards of a pension and gold pen?
The world has changed. Companies have changed. Pensions and loyalty, which used to be a two way phenomenon, are things of the past and our children are caught in the crossfire. Our children are resilient. They come from great stock. Although the naysayers have pronounced that the American Dream is dead, I disagree. The American dream has changed and morphed into something different but it is still attainable and worth fighting for.
When I think about my life, my journey, and where I am today, I am extremely grateful and blessed that I grew up at the time and in the place that I did. Growing up I never realized how far I would come in life. For me, the American Dream is the embodiment of the adage “If you can dream it you can achieve it.” For me the American Dream is alive and well.