My father was born twenty-five years after Teddy Roosevelt stormed San Juan Hill in the Spanish American war; four years after the end of World War I; eighteen years before Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. In those years a generation was born and participated in some of the greatest atrocities man has ever inflicted on man. War continued to precede the spawning of children for the entire century, and into the next. “…for I, the LORD your God, … punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation…”
The children of World War I had the added dimension of being raised during the Great Depression. If that as not enough to distort their emotional well being – they had the added burden of World War II. My father was eighteen when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He participated in the Normandy Invasion, earned six battle ribbons, four Bronze Stars for Valor, and a Purple Heart. He came home – unaware of any emotional baggage.
His seven children were raised by the generation molded by more than a Depression and World War II – they were also the generation raised by the emotional disturbances of World War I. We watched the children of World War II grow up. They became the rebellious teens of the nineteen sixties. Is there any wonder? The Greatest Generation attempted to put on a face of normalcy, a face of steady work, suburbia, automobiles, and an interstate highway system. The reality was not lost on their children – their children suffered the dread of undiagnosed PTSD.
Five of my father’s seven children turned eighteen during the Vietnam Conflict. Four served in the military. Two of my children were born during the Vietnam Conflict, the third child two years after America waived the white flag. My children grew up in the post Vietnam Era. Before my children were old enough to vote Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Another war.
A frustrated war veteran comes home from work – he does not know he suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – he only knows that life is not good. He wants to be a good father. He works and brings home a paycheck. The deep and bitter emotional wounds of the trauma of war bubble to the surface like hot magma in Mount Saint Helen’s. The rampage simmers and occasionally explodes. Wives and children are knocked down, furniture broken. Jobs are lost. Police intervene. The family system breaks down. The children grow – becoming adults with their own nightmares of trauma – the cycle has begun.
Every generation of the Twentieth Century was born of returning war veterans. We are assured that the first three decades of the Twenty-First Century will follow the tradition.
So what? Today we see a nation gripped by unresolved anger. People – good people – search for the sanity of order in extreme causes where black and white are the only definitions of a complex social/economic world order.
The sins punished for generations are War, Poverty, Hunger, Ignorance, Physical Illness, and a general disregard of others by society. These sins compound daily – the accruing interest to be paid by succeeding generations.