Worst year ever

The baby boomers didn’t live through the Depression, Pearl Harbor or World War II and the oldest were toddlers during the Korean War, but they have seen the movies and heard plenty about it all from their parents. Boomers had the assassinations of JFK, RFK, MLK, John Lennon, the physical and mental pains of the Vietnam War, and more recently the surreal explosion of 9/11, which led to an unjustified invasion of Iraq and the subsequent grind of war.

But even with those horrific events, the ongoing war, last year’s Abu Ghraib torture photos, the shameless attack on John Kerry’s patriotism, the re-election of George W. Bush followed by the Asian tsunami that wiped out a quarter-of-a-million people, things only seemed to get worse this year.

We’ve seen it and heard it ad-nausem: the government’s painfully slow and inept response to Katrina while people suffered and died with the Bush administration’s arrogance and penchant for cronyism very much to blame; further proof of that cronyism with the short-lived nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court; the continued holding without charges of suspected enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay, news of secret torture cells run by the CIA in Eastern European countries; Vice President Dick Cheney arguing the United States should condone and employ torture; America’s continued refusal to take part in the Kyoto pact on global warming, even though we consume a fourth of the world’s fossil fuels, the chief culprit in climate change.

And let’s not forget Congressmen Tom DeLay and Randy “Duke” Cunningham as well as Sen. Bill Frist, a triumvirate whose legal problems remind us that a politician’s top priority is self-preservation, not his or her constituents or the well-being of the nation. The neo-con’s hijacking of America continues practically unabated while any notion of democracy in this country continues to crumble. The super-rich get richer, the rest of us get poorer as tax breaks for millionaires lead to drastic cuts in programs for middle- and lower-class America.

And the war drags on. Suggestions of withdrawal lead to accusations of cowardice and lack of patriotism directed at no less than a decorated Marine and Vietnam vet turned congressman.

Yes, things have never looked bleaker for the baby boomers, who are beginning to retire as pension funds go broke, a flu pandemic hovers on the horizon, General Motors collapses, the federal deficit is at an all-time-high and America is more feared and resented by more of the world than ever before, if that is possible.

Where in all this gloom and doom do we find hope?

Simple. Next year is a mid-term election year; a chance to throw off our shackles of complacency and discouragement and demand some changes from our leaders. We must not only threaten to throw out the long-term incumbents on both sides of the political spectrum—Republicans for their arrogance and hubris, Democrats for their timidity and lack of new ideas—but actually do so. Let’s give serious consideration to third-party candidates and reward the moderates of both major parties. Good politics is about compromise and reason, doing what is best for the majority while not hurting the minority.

Where is the America the baby boomers learned about in grade school? What happened to the ideals we grew up with as articulated by JFK and MLK? Is the dream gone? Is it destined to remain just a dream? Next year’s elections my well be our last real chance to salvage a decent future for today’s generation of Americans.