By Gary Horne
I owe you, Dad. No, not for taking care of me as a child -- I am paying that debt back by taking care of my own two daughters. My debt is much deeper than that.
You see, my generation has made a mess of things. Your generation, steeled by the ice of the Great Depression and the fire of World War II, established the most powerful economy in the world. Life was easier for my generation -- perhaps too easy, as we didn't fully appreciate the principles and hard work that led to our prosperity. You and Mom understood that personal responsibility, productive work, and a keen attention to reality are necessary to put food on the table. Much of my generation did not.
For my generation, food came from the supermarket. Few of us have ever had to butcher a cow to make our hamburgers. We never had to churn butter by hand, as your mother did. We never had to sleep on a cold winter night in a house with no heat. Things we desired were easy to buy, with a swipe of a credit card if the pockets were empty.
My generation was a sucker for every "for the unfortunate" scheme the Statists could come up with. My generation voted for Jimmy "malaise" Carter, George "preacher" McGovern, John "swiftboat" Kerry, and Al "warmist" Gore. As a result, the country, I fear, has made a hard left turn onto the road to tyranny. Yes, Dad, it is that bad!
My generation voted in a Congress which has become the most radical, corrupt, arrogant, and mean-spirited in my long memory -- and, I think, in yours as well. This Congress seems intent on dictating every aspect of our daily lives, as if the Constitution gave them unlimited powers. I choose not to say what I really think of them; the words would not be fit for this letter. I can imagine would you would say could you sit again in your barber chair.
The civility which existed in your time has gone. When you encountered those you disliked, you would be respectful, leaving your diatribes for private moments after they left the shop. Politics in your day was likewise more or less respectful. For those put in power by my generation, no smear is too ugly, no trick too underhanded, no lie too audacious, and no twisted distortion of language too outrageous.
My generation deserted our Vietnamese allies, leaving them to reeducation camps and leaving the Cambodians to Pol Pot. My generation populated the judiciary with anti-constitutional judges and the universities with anti-American radicals. My generation threw fiscal responsibility out the window like a horde of locusts, leaving a government debt so high it won't fit on the calculators.
My generation discarded the value of rational thinking, preferring to live by emotion, as if feelings were wisdom. We repeated catchy slogans we didn't understand. We loved Bob Dylan, but what was he saying, anyway? We preferred a utopian fantasy to the real world, accepting irrational ideas that have never worked in history and have inevitably led to disasters like Auschwitz and "the killing fields." We came to earthshaking revelations like "wow, people get killed in wars." We thought being able to pronounce the word love was a solution. We thought if someone didn't have enough money, heck, just give him someone else's.
We did outlast the Soviet Union, but it took one from your generation, Ronald Reagan, to finish them off, while many in my generation criticized and ridiculed him.
Now, I (and others in my generation) will plead "not guilty" to a lot of this, but to the extent I fell for it, I owe you. For not actively opposing it until now, I owe you.
I was reminded of the achievements of your generation by a great rendition of the song "Over the Rainbow" (by one of my generation). I have often sat with my family to watch shows like Ma and Pa Kettle, the Marx Brothers, Lucy Ricardo, or Jack Benny. I love the music of George Gershwin and Rogers and Hammerstein. There is nothing like a John Ford Western, or Oklahoma, or Showboat. Not that there haven't been artistic contributions from my generation, but we seem to fall short of yours. At least most of the entertainment in your generation was in good taste, a reflection of your values.
What we have here, Dad, is a failure of values. My generation discarded your values, but never asked "why" about ours. Instead we only asked, "Why not?" For us, the answer was always left "Blowin' in the Wind." The values we did know had been accepted without question from politicians, celebrities, religious gurus, or anyone with a jingle-like advertising phrase that connected. My generation threw off your values, and we got Charlie Manson and rock stars dying from drugs.
For many in my generation, elections are for voting themselves other people's money... a failure of values. Today, if I want to keep what I have earned, it is called "greed," but to accept what I haven't earned is righteous...a failure of values. Personal responsibility is replaced by letting the government take care of us...a failure of values. Showing pride in our country or standing up for Her might offend someone...a failure of values. If we are attacked, it's our fault...a failure of values. Those who speak out are likely to be smeared or threatened...a failure of values. Those who stand in the way of the current political agenda are vilified...a failure of values.
When values are unknown, it's hard to answer to the question, "What do I do if...?" For much of my life, I wasn't sure how to answer that question. I muddled through twenty years of my adult life before finally taking a hard and serious effort to define my values. Dad, I can say proudly that now my values are solid and totally mine! Funny thing, Dad, they are very close to yours. I could have avoided a lot of mistakes by listening to you. Dad, I owe you one!
Correcting the mess we are now in requires more than a vote-the-bums-out election. My generation has to understand why we put the bums there in the first place. It is time to stand up and accept our share of the responsibility for what has happened, as many of us have begun to do. The failed-values generation needs a serious look at what we believe and how we threaten "The Shining City on the Hill." It's time to start thinking. Taking personal responsibility and thinking for ourselves are overdue. Without well-thought-out values firmly grounded in reality, and the integrity to stand behind those values, we will stagger farther down the road to tyranny.
The wheel turned for you many years ago. When it turns for me, I hope to be free of debt. I will do my best to repay you, I promise. For not doing this in the living years, Dad, I owe you one!
(Leonard Horne had a barber shop for 45 years. He died in 1994.)
Click to view image: 'Dad, I Owe You One'
Click to view image: 'Dad, I Owe You One'
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