• Jeffrey Zalles

(Not) The Greatest Generation

I can recall many interactions with small children who displayed the innocence and unbridled honesty that only a child can possess. One of my most memorable experiences came during a warehouse sale my company held to dispose of an excess inventory of children’s apparel. As I sat at a desk near the warehouse entrance, a little girl walked in at her mother’s side. I couldn’t help hearing the mother address her daughter by her name. As she walked in front of me, I caught her eye and waved her over to the table. I asked, “Did you know that you can tell what someone’s name is by the way they look?” She shook her head and then asked with a smile, “What’s my name?” As I contorted my face to give the appearance of being deep in thought, I answered “I’ll bet your name is Emily.” As her jaw dropped in amazement, I asked her what she thought my name was. She cocked her head, stared intently at my face and blurted out “Big Nose”. Truth be told.

As I read the news these days, I think of children like Emily, young and innocent kids who put all their trust in we adults. I read of the strong warnings by world scientists about the ramifications of failing to curb global warming. I see daily evidence of our crumbling infrastructure. I see an education system that is starving for resources. I see families struggle to make ends meet on minimum wages. I see a stratospheric national debt that will someday come due. Closer to home, I think about the possible damage that drilling off our coast will cause.

And I think about the world we are on track to leave these kids. A world of rising temperatures and sea levels. A world with larger and more frequent storms and fires. A world filled with the political strife that will result from a changing environment. A huge national debt and a broken infrastructure with no money to fix it. Generational poverty caused by the absence of a living wage.

But it’s all okay because we got our modest tax cut. And if we vote for the status quo, we’ll probably get another. Emily and her generation will be adults soon and they can look after themselves. We like to refer to our parents as the Greatest Generation. As our children struggle with the mess we leave behind, will they refer to us as the Selfish Generation?