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August: Osage County

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I grew up in the Kansas and Oklahoma of the sixties and seventies, a member of the first generation born after The Depression and The War. In my family, there was only one war--The War, and Korea and Vietnam were always looked upon as secondary conflicts to what my parents' and grandparents' generations knew. As any child growing up in this area, and probably anywhere else in America, and who came of age in the sixties and seventies, the lives and achievements- and mere survival- of The Greatest Generation always hung over us like a shadow, or a sword of Damocles. Growing up in the prosperity of the post-war years, we could never measure up to our parents and grandparents. We couldn't. We didn't survive the worst depression in American history and we didn't defeat the twin evils of European and Japanese Facism. Yeah, the Soviet Empire fell apart, but more from its own entropy and rotten core than from Ronald Reagan's "heroic" demand the Mr Gorbachev tear down that wall. We Boomers could never live up to The Greatest Generation and we were told this every day as we grew up.

August: Osage County addresses this very issue, a generation of Oklahomans who survived the Dust Bowl, the Depression, and The War and can't understand their children and grandchildren. Based on the play by Oklahoma native Tracy Letts, the movie stars Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, representing the two generations in their struggle for emotional superiority-or survival. It's a terrific movie and this article from Salon is a brilliant description of the struggle described in the play and movie. It's a struggle I lived with and experienced on my own as I was constantly told that I would never have survived what my parents and grandparents endured in the 30's and 40's.

At the risk of sounding like The Greatest Generation, Gen-X and the Millenials don't understand the prosperity and struggle we Boomers experienced. There isn't the vast generational chasm between Boomers and Gen-X and the Millenials as there was between the Boomers and The Greatest Generation. It wasn't our fault that we didn't have a depression to survive. Or does that sound whiny? The Meryl Streep character would think so--or my grandmother.


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Guest Dabeagle

I thought his movie was very watchable - billed as a black comedy - but everything FT said rings true. The problem with the perspectives of the characters is that every life - trials, experiences - are subjective. A lot of people will say they had a crappy childhood, according to what they experienced, but when people start to compare 'I hurt more than you' it quickly gets out of control. This was a great characters study and totally worth watching.

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What I'd add to what Free Thinker has so accurately remembered is the codicil that what we did hear every day was the refrain "We did this all for you, you ungrateful wretch. Get out there and make something of yourself, since we're handing the bounty of the world off to you on a silver platter," or words to that effect. Guilt trip much? Resentment? I'd say that hippies weren't created in a vacuum...

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I guess I don't get the morality of the thought I suffered more than you and so my opinions count more than yours and I'm more worthy than you. I also don't think much of the attitude that I survived conditions you never could have, and so I'm made of better stuff than you are and deserve your homage and pity.

They survived those conditions because they had to, those who did survive. Who's to say following generations wouldn't have done the same? I think this is a very subjective opinion, as Dave says, and that it smacks of egotism at its worst. It's presumptuous and self-serving and not based on any sort of fact, just a misplaced sense of assumed nobility.


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I was a peace loving radical in the late 1960's with a social conscience aimed at gay rights and the homeless. College expanded my horizons just about the time Kent State changed the rules. I wore a black armband to class and had a faculty member scream at me that I was a Nazi because only Nazis wore armbands. She was wrong, but she was also Jewish, so I took it off out of respect for her feelings.

I fought a great battle of words with my father over Vietnam. He tried to trump my argument with that Greatest Generation stuff. I told him I respected his duty as a soldier in WW2, but that when all was said and done the soldiers from Vietnam would be forgotten by our government. In our final rant about that war I remember shutting him up by saying his generation gave us the atomic bomb and my generation had to live with it. Interestingly enough his mind changed after Kent State and he saw Vietnam as an evil.

His generation may have been considered the Greatest, but then they wrote that headline for themselves. The poor guys returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have been used and abused by our military leaders. I doubt if the next generation will willingly serve the military and I don't blame them. Enough.

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I recently read an opinion piece by some economist who said the primary reason for the explosive prosperity of the fifties and sixties enjoyed by the United States was due to the fact that ours was the only economy that wasn't destroyed in The War, so it was all just picking the low-hanging fruit. We couldn't have not been number one even if we tried. Once Europe and Japan were rebuilt- with help from the US, they could compete with us. Now, the rest of the world is earning its place and Americans don't understand why we aren't the top dog anymore. Well, its basically because there was no one to compete with in the fifties. We were the only game in town.

I just wish I had thought of this when I was a kid and was regaled over and over with "kids today..."

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There is no question that the European and Asian economies were shattered by World War Two. That does not mean that the United States was the only player left on the table. We cannot dismiss consideration of the economies of other North and South American countries such as Canada, Brazil, and Argentina, and likewise Australia and New Zealand. There were many countries outside the theatre of the war. Those countries with an industrial base, transportation infrastructure, and an educated population were able to recover more quickly and prosper faster. The important variables were readiness and know-how, not luck.

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Good point and I wasn't really America-bashing, but simply saying it was a lot easier for America to dominate the world economy back then. Nor do I wish to take away from the achievements of the previous generation. Yes, they did survive horrendous hardships and they did fight and win a noble war. But, to be constantly regaled with how we didn't measure up to them was quite frustrating and unfair.

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Britain stood alone between Dunkirk and Pearl Harbour. Only her colonial allies and a handful of resistance fighters stood by her.

She had only her gold reserves and when those were gone she lived off credit.

When MacArthur sailed into Tokyo Bay the war ended, but the credit notes came due.

It took until 1997 for Britain to finally finish paying off the last of its WW2 debts.

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Britain has been a good friend of America- along with Canada and Australia- and we can always rely on them. If the American isolationists (mostly Republican) from 1939-41 had not opposed President Roosevelt's support for Britain, the war in Europe could have ended much sooner. It wasn't fair that Britain alone stood before Hitler for so long.

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