Previous generations have overcome adversity. Why shouldn’t the next?
As I write this, my daughter is celebrating her 17th birthday.
Her great-grandparents came of age in a golden era of invention and entrepreneurial explosion. America was blossoming into a dominant commercial and industrial power. Great companies grew out of garage workbenches, providing promise and jobs for a swelling population. In post-aboriginal America, it was every man for himself with an opportunity for every man—the making of a generation upon which the sun always seemed to be rising.
Until October 29, 1929.
Her grandparents came of age in the midst of a Great Depression, competing for every scrap of opportunity that came their way and fighting to put food in their bellies. All Baby Boomers have heard stories from their parents of the great struggle to survive, of the wont and hunger that filled their days with desperation and their nights with worry. It was the making of a generation upon which the sun always seemed to be setting.
Until December 7, 1941.
Her parents came of age in the midst of America ascending toward the pinnacle of her power. Graduate from high school, walk down the street and get a factory job or stroll under the ivy arch of education. The Baby Boomer generation could afford to be rebellious—our parents saw to that. Opportunity abounded as we shouldered our way through the pickets of social consciousness and overstepped the outskirts of technology. My generation did much to democratize democracy and give voice to each pixel in the human mosaic. We were a generation upon which the sun seemed always to be shining.
Until September 11, 2001.
On that hateful day, Baby Boomers came of age far too late. We huddled, watching each floor of the twin towers collapse upon the one below, as if crushing year-by-year all that our grandparents and parents had worked to build. From the dust and debris and calamity, ashen spirits still rise to indict us. Seven years onward, temblors shook down the walls of our economic house, their epicenter not far removed from where the towers once stood. Again we huddled, impotent in our failure to guard our children, ourselves, our country. An indulged and indignant generation, there is much for which Baby Boomers must answer. It was our watch.
And so, my 17-year-old daughter is coming of age in a society struggling to overcome its own shortsightedness, greed, and failure. But in her eyes, I see no condemnation and no angst for the future. She lives in a culture in which each generation has overcome the sins of those past. Somehow, she knows without knowing. There is a resilient mettle that is optimistic, borne across oceans and boundaries and bred in our character down the American generations.
I watched her last week perform in the high school’s musical. She had no lines. Then again, she didn’t need any. Her presence on the world’s stage, and in my life, is enough for me.
In her, in our children, is redemption.
Originally published in the Journal of Microliterature