The killer, the destroyer, that makes us again one
It once seemed that every generation was somehow fated to have its lives, hopes, and dreams turned upside-down with a world catastrophe. Diseases, wars, financial collapses.
Just within reach of my own memory were the Great Depression and WWII, which shaped not only my parents' lives, but their entire outlook on life.
My peaceful plans for life were turned totally upside down by Washington politicians who saw fit, based on their own experience and judgment, to immerse the United States in Indochina's political gyrations.
Yes, I am here talking about the Vietnam War — which for my generation turned everything upside-down, created still existing divisions, and completely reshaped the lives of the more fortunate — while cutting short the lives of many others.
The peace and prosperity of America during several recent generations has been less than complete — choices have sometimes been limited, and personal opportunities have for some seemed fewer — but total, life-changing upsets have been relatively few. Until now.
Enter the coronavirus. Enter societal and government controls and mandated limitations.
Those of earlier generations may be taken aback by the inability, or plain unwillingness, of some of the younger generation to get with the program. "Your fathers were sent off to war" is one common Facebook meme — "all you are being asked to do is sit on your couch."
But each and every generation is molded by the world in which it grew up and the philosophies both political and cultural in which it was immersed. Seen that way, the reaction of today's youths is not hard to understand. The world, they were told, was their oyster. "No" was a word, purportedly, they seldom if ever heard. Prizes went to all, not just the winners. Tough coaches rarely shaped how they played their games. The curricula of their schools were molded to their whims. And then came this! "Go to your rooms and stay there."
And so, the Spring Breakers frolicked. And so, the young "journalist" feels slighted when a president cuts off his rather childish question. And so, those who catered to this generation's every need struggle to learn that parenting and leading sometimes call for something very different.
Now, in the midst of these societal changes, we ourselves may feel perplexed by those who simply don't seem to "get it." "What is wrong with these people?" we may well wonder. "Don't they understand?"
And the answer is, "No, they don't." But they are learning to, for today's crisis will, whether they like it or not, shape their minds and attitudes and thinking.
There is nothing intrinsically "wrong" with this generation. Nothing that these people's own life experiences won't correct. So even with them, there is not only room, but a need for understanding.
Yes, we are all in this together. The young, the old, the strong and the weak. And our shared experience will, if we just allow it — give it the needed time — make us one.
The coronavirus may be hell. Its worst may not even yet be upon us. But it is something we are all experiencing together. And oddly, it — the killer, the destroyer — may be the very thing that again makes us one.