Friday, May 13, 2011
IN MY OPINION (Column)
What’s Good for the “Greatest Generation” Is Good for Latest Generation
By GERT K. HIRSCHBERG
Although not recommended for daily reading, those who peruse the obituaries will find that a majority of those men who die in their late eighties saw valiant service while in our armed forces during World War II in places some of which are known for no other reason than combat areas. Our nation was justly proud and thankful to those who answered the call of our country during its hour of need. The returning servicemen on troop ships when sailing through the Golden Gate saw in large letters on the adjoining hills of Marin County emblazoned the memorable words “Welcome Home Boys, A Job Well Done.” No president or legislator was electable during the post World War II years if he had not been a veteran in the war that was supposed to have ended all wars. Not so now. Soon thereafter, we found ourselves in combat in Korea, then Vietnam, then Iraq and now in Afghanistan.
Our grateful nation acted remarkably following World War II, then moderately so during the Korean conflict and shamefully thereafter. Returning servicemen had been showered with benefits from the G.I. Bill. No veteran paid for college tuition, loans on housing, or even every day living expenses. To some extent, Korean veterans benefitted . Then the music stopped. Government subsidies dramatically came to a sudden halt.
Vietnam veterans were just as honorable, patriotic and devoted as their World War II predecessors. The only difference was that this was not a popular war. Hence, all government help came to an abrupt stop. Equal protection of the laws? Hardly.
The distinction is understandable, but not rational. A Gold Star mother does not understand this distinction. The glamour (if you want to call it that) of Auschwitz, or the Bataan death march had been dispelled by a war which no one could understand. Hence, there was no need to mortgage our economic future. The anger, the villains (Hitler and Tojo) had been eliminated. Hence, there was no need for a G.I. Bill of Rights. The nation was now involved in a cold war. The real enemy was not Hitler, the Third Reich or Tojo. It was the communist union.
The effect was the grossest violation of 14th Amendment Equal Protection ever. Surely, the Vietnam (and Iraq) veterans were as similarly situated as World War II veterans. There was no rational distinction. The discrimination was blatant.
In the1946 to 1950 era, we, as a nation, educated the largest number of young people ever. The effect? We have more lawyers, doctors, dentists and executives ever. They were well- trained. Not all of them, it is true; but over-all, we became a nation of well-trained citizens. So much so that Tom Brokaw dedicated a book to the Greatest Generation. So much so that it has been said that the next generation is the first generation less educated than its parents.
The short-sighted slight of our latest veterans has been a terrible shock to society. Of course, the budgetary expense has been and is a major factor. Be it remembered, however, that this column is not a tribute to John Maynard Keynes or Milton Friedman, or the teachings of Paul Krugman or Robert Reich. This is not a column on economics. That is left to other and more competent columnists in this paper. All we seek to accomplish in this column is a recognition of inequality and the creation of a major problem that needs correction before it is too late.
Copyright 2011, Metropolitan News Company