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May 20, 2016

Reflections of an Unapologetic Reagan Generation American

Joe Charlebois

I don’t recognize the country I was raised in. I miss that country. I miss the patriotic, God-fearing, common sense, self-reliant people who filled both sides of the political fence.


I remember our nation’s Bicentennial Celebration. I remember when Saturday morning television taught history, civics and grammar.


Outside of Saturday morning, my parents taught me common sense. My father taught me what it meant to be a gentleman. My mother taught me the difference between right and wrong. They did not force feed their opinions on any of their children. They did not steer any of their children into an ideological box. In fact, they rarely spoke politics at all. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I even knew with which party they had registered.


Prior to the 1972 presidential election, when Richard Nixon defeated George McGovern in his bid for reelection, I was asked by a teacher for whom my father would vote. He simply told me that if anyone asks again, tell them “Gus Hall.”. It was his way of saying mind your own business.


I still don’t know who my mother or father voted for, and I won’t ask. It’s all part of being a gentleman.


My patriotic fervor may be a result of the times. Maybe it was the jubilation of the Bicentennial that I experienced just before my 10th birthday. Maybe it was the rebound from the crash of American pride during the Carter Administration, and the subsequent return of optimism, pride and economic recovery during the early 1980s when Ronald Reagan was elected president that ignited that fire.


I remember beaming with pride as I sat in the basement of our mountain cabin watching the Lake Placid Olympic Games on a 19” black and white Zenith television. I recall yelling up to the rest of the family that the U.S. hockey team just beat the Soviets.


I remember the real threat of nuclear holocaust and how President Reagan was mocked for attempting to bring to life the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). I remember watching the ABC movie The Day After – which was a graphic representation of what the world would be like after a nuclear attack. Unlike the previous two generations which were taught to crawl under their desks, my generation saw what radiation poisoning looked like. We watched as planes dropped from the sky and cars stop running when the electro-magnetic pulse fried every electrical system in its path. We were truly scared.


When President Reagan challenged the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” the country beamed with pride in strength of American leadership.


In the 1980s we became a country that believed in the military again. Just a decade removed from the indignities suffered by returning veterans at the hands of war protestors, the military was once again respected both home and abroad. Since the attacks on 9/11, the respect for military service has only grown stronger each year. In fact, the major sports leagues such as the NFL and MLB have made military appreciation a cornerstone of their marketing efforts over the past decade, but this generation is not the one leading this resurgence. Often during times that require respect, the younger generation will not take the time to respect the playing of our National Anthem or Pledge of Allegiance.


When it comes to self-reliance, I didn’t always have the philosophy I have now, I had an attitude that it will all come to me with little effort. I soon realized that it’s just not going to happen that way. Choosing what bills to pay and eating spaghetti every night will do that to you. It was upon graduating college that I truly learned not to expect anything from anyone. In fact, I would say most of my generation feels that they are not entitled to anything.


It is the self-reliance that was instilled in us by our parents and society that would not let us feel entitled for long. There are many near 50 year olds who don’t expect a dime from Social Security or anything else from our “contributions” to the federal treasury. I, like many others, don’t believe the safety net will be there when we retire. We as a generation are depending on our own savings and investments to carry us through retirement.


According to recent polling, the current college generation as a whole does not hold the same level of patriotism of previous generations. They are less likely to join the military than previous generations. They believe in government more than the individual. They gladly give up liberty in place of more stringent regulations against ideological foes. They believe in government more than God. They prefer the emotional appeal of fairness in place of common sense. Simply put, my world is upside down.


Can the world ever turn right side up?


Time will tell if there is a chance to see a country as every bit patriotic, self-reliant, God-fearing and full of common sense as it was when I became an adult, but it will take some heavy lifting for that to happen.


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