Boom Goes the Patriot
It’s an odd question as it seems to suppose that the generation that protested the war in Vietnam would naturally be the more patriotic while being, supposedly the least patriotic that history had seen to that point. I also found it odd as the question of the patriotism of the Xers was not called in to question.
I am, perhaps in a unique position to posit an opinion on the patriotism of generations post-World War II. In some ways I stand with one foot planted in the territory of the Boomers, somewhere to the East of No Man’s Land, as my parents were of the Greatest Generation, and my siblings are Boomers. However, if one foot is in the East, my other foot stands firmly in the Western land of Gen X as I was born in 1968. I therefore have a Boomer upbringing while all of my cultural touchstones are X.
Just as my brother and sister were brought up with a sense of civic duty I too was brought up with an understanding of my responsibility to be a good citizen: which, at a bare minimum, includes voting, paying taxes, and participating in the judicial system. But the lessons learned from the protests of ’68, the lessons learned by the generation called X, were of mistrust and self reliance. My parents taught me that working within the system would bring greater success to the nation and its citizenry. But my cultural landscape was one shaped by the generation to follow my parents, and that was and is a landscape in which doing what one must to get ahead is virtue enough. It is unimportant if you step on your comrades to do it: the ends will justify the means. No one’s actually going to help you do anything, everyone’s just in it for themselves, and there’s really no such thing as community or your “fellow” man at all, only competitors and pawns.
So what sort of patriotism do the Millennials have to piece together? We live in a country in which national holidays are the days on which one goes to the mall, or, if it is a day like Independence Day, one will go to a fireworks display in which the rockets red glare will spell out MACYS. A Sousa march means nothing, but a satiric song such as America Fuck Yeah holds a certain sort of sentiment that the younger generations ironically get behind.
There is another sort of patriotism that can be found in the youth of America. It may not look like patriotism to my parents, or even to my siblings, but it is, as am I, a hybrid of the Boomers and the Xers. It is a patriotism that takes the best of what my parents (the Greatest Generation) instilled in me, a pride in the work that we can achieve together and the responsibility to that work, but that distrusts pre-packaged or over-zealous patriotism, preferring instead a DIY sensibility born of Generation X that builds small communities within the larger communities: groups of people who are making things and supporting themselves by supporting others; treasuring cultural values as well as individual values. It can be seen all over the country wherever people are building community gardens or creating places of beauty to be shared. It can be found in a small business ethos that, despite a smaller profit margin, encourages local, hand-made and sustainable goods… and insists that part of honoring national holidays means that businesses stay closed.