Maybe it is the anniversary of Woodstock, but lately I have been thinking about different age generations, the labels that are placed upon them, and what that actually means. When controversial issues like health care are being discussed, we need to be careful about characterizing people based on their ages or arbitrary generational labels. This tends to divide rather than unite people.
It started with Tom Brokow and his book, The Greatest Generation. Who wouldn’t like that label? True, our WWII soldiers exhibited extraordinary bravery and the world is a very different place today because of it. However, this is also the generation that lived in a segregated world and had African American soldiers fight the war, apart from their fellow soldiers. It was also a world where women had limited opportunities. While it was a great generation, they were not without their problems. Tom Brokaw may have been a great reporter, but his view of history is limited and controversial.
The generational labels of Bridge and Baby Boomers are often described with less flattery and who wants to be considered second rate compared to the so called Greatest Generation anyway?.. Personally, I find these labels distasteful and as a Baby Boomer would like to think our generation might have had a hand in making our country great too. After all, civil and women’s rights came to be recognized during these years.
People of retirement age have enough labels placed on them already. To me, the labels placed on older people just limit us and we have more in common with the other generations than differences. We have forgotten what happens when issues are broadly categorized and we lose respect for other’s opinions.
Health care is an issue that affects everyone in this country and could divide us if we allow generational issues to influence these important decisions. While we might not always agree with one another on this issue, it is a call for civility and remembering what made all generations important in the formation of this great country. As President Obama has said, it is a time to examine the character of our country. And to do that, it will take every generation to show respect for all that have gone before and all that come after.