by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
GENERATION X REVEALED ITSELF ON SEPT. 11
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- If I gave it any thought at all a few months ago, I would have thought the "X" in Generation X stood for an unknown quantity - I couldn't think of anything particularly noteworthy of the designated group as a whole, leaving aside the spectacular few.
This was a generation born to parents pledging to give their children all the things they never had, to reach goals they themselves were forced by circumstances to abort, and to never suffer the proverbial slings and arrows of life.
Tom Brokaw brought that earlier generation to life, allowing us to give tribute to the self-effacing survivors who never asked for anything but to do their duty, go home, raise their families, and live in a democracy they helped uphold.
"Could I do that?" asked sons of the fathers at "Saving Pr= ivate Ryan" and knowing those heroes were twenty-something and far from the comforts and security of home. No, I don't think so, they said, even of themselves.
This is the generation spending more on one 1958 Superman comic book in mint condition than it would take to feed his father's family for two years. It's a generation that never had anything to worry about, ignore d the sacrifice of those who served in Korea and Vietnam, - "It's not our war, why should we care?" - and enjoyed the fruits of living in the land of the free and the home of the brave.
This is the generation of second opinions, consensus, committees, group participation and public deliberation.
The "X" could stand for excess, never excellent. In the last 15 years, rumblings about character emerged. You either have it or you don't. And, if you don't, where do you get it? In The Book of Virtues, former cabinet secretary and author William Bennett, offered stories affirming and cultivating what is morally sound, ethically right - and he had a runaway best seller.
You wouldn't think it had to be taught, but obviously, it does. Public Broadcasting System created a television program based on the book and each week the young characters face moral or ethical dilemmas. PBS writes: "We're pleased that these memorable, life affecting, 'positively entertaining' stories have found their way to you in you home."
The New York Times Magazine runs "The Ethicist" by Randy Cohen and fills a need for those truly wanting answers for questions that earlier generations wouldn't have asked. Granted, kids in an earlier age were "taught to the tune of a hickory stick," a system deplored by those who learned their lessons of life the hard way, and not through the virtual reality of television examples of what to do in challenging situations. But, they learned.
Not to my surprise, Baby Boomers have a Web site. Many, in fact, and in answer to my question asking what exactly is a baby boomer, I got this reply from one of them regarding their place in our economy:
"We are amused when visitors write to us ask what effect the boomers are having on the economy. Folks, in 2001, the economy is the boomers! We represent the vast majority of the work force. There are 76 million of us; we are the economy. (That is not bragging; that is just a statistical reality.) The huge growth in the economy in the 90's was due in no small part to 76 million of us working up to our peak earning and spending years. What are we spending our money on? Other than Metallica CDs and movies aimed at 15-year-olds, whatever is being sold... we are buying it. What kind of cars are we buying? What kind is Detroit selling? We are the upper end of the automobile market. What explains the explosion in the popularity of SUVs? We do. Where do we go on vacation? Everywhere. How do we get there? Every way possible. Day care centers are thriving because boomers do not want to take care of the kids they produced."
They may not call that bragging, but they certainly aren't complaining. Almost from the beginning of the merging generations Boomer and Generation X, we have seen self indulgent braggadocios raise the divorce rate to 50% and make it look normal, while others still marry high school sweethearts and remain married. They can neither be lumped together nor separated. There was never the common bond of being drafted into military service. They never had the need to shout "all for one and one for all," and for them, E Pluribus Unum is an antiquated etching on a worthlerss coins.
And then, BOOM! And, then a second BOOM! and then the biggest BOOM! of all was heard as Xes and Boomers, acting as one and not in committee. Acting instantly, not waiting for a second opinion, as in: "Are you going in there?"
"No, I'm not going in there." "Let's let Mikey go in there." "He went in there, Mikey went in there. Hey, Mikey." No, none of that, although we would have accepted it as normal ... given our general perception of the group as a whole. But, that third BOOM! was the shot of adrenaline heard surging through the hearts of that generation who knew what they had to do when they had to do it. From across the country, they came instantly and raised America from the ashes while the flames still roared, using nothing but th= e strength of their backs, the sweat of their brows, and their determination to preserve democracy.
They know what Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness means. They've live it and they love it. Out of our false impression rose a legion armed with nothing but themselves to vie with any generation before them as the greatest.
The people of Tom Brokaw's book, "The Greatest Generation," are now confined to the annals of the 20th Century, while Generation X and the Baby Boomers lay claim to the 21st. This will be one hard act to follow.