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This review is from: Boom!: Voices of the Sixties Personal Reflections on the '60s and Today (Hardcover)
I am sad to say that I was disappointed By Tom Brokaw's "Boom." It is a long, ponderous, 611 page trip down memory lane to a virtual reunion of men and women who came of age in the '60s, and who offer a mishmash of views regarding their lives and times, then and now.
Some of their stories and recollections ring more credibly than others, but there is too little analysis from these personal accounts, especially by Brokaw, who wonders continually about the meaning of the riddle of the 60's, but provides no personal conclusions despite his ringside seat to the events, and all that has happened since. I was clearly expecting more.
Here's an example of what I mean. For all their magnificent accomplishments, the so called "greatest generation," were also the parents of the baby boomers. How, in fewer than 20 years, did their collective sense of duty, honor and patriotism diminish so greatly into a National epidemic of sex, drugs, rock and roll and lack of personal accountability among the Boomers? Were the WWII heroes great at taking orders and making war but not so good at parenting, or openly communicating with their children? Does this make the "greatest generation" less great? Brokaw's thesis could/should have begun there. What changed in the culture, and when did it happen, or why so suddenly?
I am saying this as a card carrying member of the baby boom generation - born in 1947, graduated from college in 1969, and, like so many other millions of my generation, an eye witness to all that went on then and since.
Just consider for a moment that the 60's began with the inauguration of John Kennedy, not his assassination as Brokaw contends. JFK's famous "Ask not what your country can do for you ..." inaugural exhortation was actually preceded only a few minutes earlier by his bold assurance that , "We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty" - quite a broad, yet popular mandate at the time. What was fomenting within the culture of the Nation that JFK did not see when he delivered that message? Was it his assassination that alone changed the country's (including the greatest generation's) call to duty, or was it much more? Was it that the event and aftermath were televised? To me, the lack of analysis on this point is a flaw.
And, this is important, because when I think of the 60's, I think of Vietnam, the administrations of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, Watergate and the assassinations. I think about the advent of THE PILL (never mentioned) and the rise of the media.
The assassinations are really covered in depth, because Brokaw's list of virtual reunioneers could remember how they felt when they occurred. And yet, everybody who lived during this period can specifically remember their where and when. Vietnam is redundantly, if inartfully, contrasted to Iraq. OK - got it.
But, shouldn't Brokaw have investigated how a country that had been consecutively led by such esteemed leaders - historical giants - such as Roosevelt, Truman, Eisenhower and [potentially] Kennedy could be so disappointingly managed by historical lightweights Johnson, Ford, Nixon and Carter? And, what have been their hangover effects on the baby boomers, particularly Presidents Clinton and Bush? Has their hubris and arrogance and contempt for the people they govern(ed) been born from the roots of causes leading to the fractious Democratic Convention of 1968?
Maybe it is easier to write a history of the 1860's than the 1960's because there are far fewer people around who can recall or dispute the important events of those times. As a baby boomer, I know that many of the the events of the 60's will influence our generation for the next 30 years, or until enough of us die off to allow another generation to hold sway.
But a book such as this demands analysis to go along with the virtual observations of people, famous and random, whose recall and feelings are arguably no better than any of the millions who also endured those turbulent times.
- Did the 60's permanently eliminate the idea of trust in government?
- Did the rise of the media with their "gotcha" mentality lead to distrust of our leaders?
- Did the 60's create the me-first greed ethos that has overtaken corporate management?
- Did they inadverdently re-segregate people into too many small sub-groups of "victims," each equally eager to play their "card" to obtain justice?
- Did they enable society to reduce standards and lower personal accountability - essentially reversing Kennedy's call for patriotism to "Ask your country what it can do for you, ask not what you can do for your country ..."?
- ... and, has all the lowering of standards as a means of appeasing a variety of victims' groups also lowered the Country's ability to compete in a global economy?
- Net net, were the 60's good for the overall long term well being of America?
After seeing Brokaw discussing his book on television, I was expecting to read his analysis and opinions - after all, the book is 611 pages. Perhaps Mr. Brokaw is what he is, and DeToqville he is not. Too bad. "Boom" is history by anecdote, and unfortunately a Bust.
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Initial post: Dec 4, 2007 5:01:05 PM PST
Well done. You bring up critical points and the summary that says Brokaw "is what he is" seems to hit the nail on the head. It was a big help.
Posted on Dec 5, 2007 7:58:35 AM PST
C. McClelland says:
After reading your review, I wish you would write the book you think Tom Brokaw should have written. Clearly, you have analyzed the era and have much to contribute to our understanding of how we got from the "greatest generation" to the "boomers" to wherever we are today. I think Tom Brokaw wrote the book he meant to write, but I wish you would write yours!
Posted on Dec 5, 2007 8:09:58 AM PST
Thanks for your note. Here's the thing, Mr. Brokaw goes on television to promote his book and the discussion leads you to believe that there is a significant analysis of the meaning of the '60s. This is why I bought the book. However, it turns out to be a series of anecdotes. I learned little if anything despite the 611 pages. Frankly, this was similar to a writer cobbling together their best 20 articles and calling it a book. As to my questions, quite frankly at least some of the answers are what I thought I was buying. No disrespect intended.
Posted on Dec 5, 2007 5:29:34 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Dec 5, 2007 5:30:52 PM PST]
Posted on Dec 8, 2007 4:02:49 PM PST
literary critic says:
I agree with Hatherley. I saw the Brokaw on the today show promoting his book and of course I immediately ordered it. I grew up in the 60's and was really excited to see what Brokaw had written. What a diappointment. It was definitely a book that I would put down and by page 500 I seriously considered putting it down for good. Most of what he said was repeated over and over again and I came away more confused than ever. Perhaps he made enough money off of this book and he won't write another one. I know I won't buy one.
Posted on Dec 11, 2007 2:17:48 AM PST
Thanks for the heads-up before I purchased this for all my boomer buddies for Christmas. I'll get it from thelibrary instead. I appreciate the careful analysis.
Posted on Dec 11, 2007 3:01:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 11, 2007 3:15:42 PM PST
> National epidemic of sex, drugs, rock and roll and lack of personal accountability among the Boomers.
What's wrong with sex, drugs and rock and roll? I was there, I had a great time and I've managed to mature into a highly productive member of society with no regrets and no lingering problems. We are no more lacking in personal accountability than is anyone else including the so-called "greatest generation" which, has Studs Terkel has pointed out, is no more great than any other generation. Many people who grew up in the 60s do have a healthy skepticism towards government. Let us hope this skepticism continues as it is one of the essential elements of what Jefferson and the other skeptical founders envisioned for us -- to question our leaders and not to follow them blindly.
As for the rest of your analysis, virtually everything you have written is based on a series of false assumptions. To begin with what we call "the 60s" is really 1962-1975. Secondly, this period was chiefly characterized by a number of important causes nearly all of which continue today -- anti-war, counter-culture, civil rights, women's rights, communes, environmental awareness, new age religions and the switch to organic and locally-grown food. The one thing these causes have in common is that they ARE NOT based on greed. The "me-first greed ethos" is the antithesis of the 60s movements which were largely altruistic, seeking peace, justice, freedom and equality for everyone. It was resulting backlash against the 60s that produced the "greed is good" depravity of the 1980s and the 2000s, not the 1960s themselves.
I've noticed that when someone denigrates a particular demographic group as being composed of "victims," that what he/she really means is "who the hell do those people think they are to ask for parity with white men??" In any case, I don't see any proof that the acknowledgment of say, lesbians, as a social and political group has transformed them into "victims." Nor is there any evidence to suggest that "appeasing" lesbians has resulted in anything but happier lesbians. It certainly not damaged our country in any way -- we are still one people, the vast majority of of us have common goals and nearly all of us love our country, if not always our government.
It would appear from your remarks that "lower[ing] personal accountability" means doing what you want and then refusing to accept the consequences. Is that correct? And why are you so sure those of us who came of age in the 1960s engage in it to excess or that we are any different in this respect from any other demographic group throughout history? We did and still do have a lot more choices than did our parents and grandparents but choosing to live in an unconventional manner is not proof that we are refusing to accept the consequences for our choices.
Our country is perfectly able to compete with any country in the world as long as we have an even playing field and we don't have that any more. There are many reasons for this but recognizing the rights of lesbians to rent apartments without being discriminated against is not among them. You'd do better to look at the election system for answers. Much of the present Congress and all of the executive branch are owned by multi-national corporations whose allegiance is to themselves, not to their country. My husband works for one such company that is in the process of moving what were once good-paying jobs in the printing business (note these were non-union jobs so this is not a case of the union's demands destroying the company) in small American towns to workers in India and China. The only reason the company is doing this is to maximize profit. The only group being appeased here are the people who own large numbers of stock in the company.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2007 5:25:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 11, 2007 5:40:36 PM PST
It seems pretty certain that we will not be on each other's dance card in the near future ... which is perfectly okay. Brokaw wrote a book and people can either accept it (more or less) as gospel, or posit issues with his lack of historical interpretation.
To that end, I certainly reject that my assumptions are false, since they are authentically mine - as presented by a person who graduated in 1969 and has a healthy appreciation for history. I suppose that one could equally say that your leap to denigrate white males (why not?) and rush to the defense of lesbians (for whatever gratuitous reasons) are presumptions that are overreactive at best, and hypersensitive at worst. But, they are your views - fair enough.
I am delighted that you enjoyed your sex, drugs and rock and roll during the 60s. However, the question was how and why did the culture change so quickly from the post world war "greatest generation" to what we experienced during the 60's. How did we go from a culture of widespread patriotism (however [naively] blind) to widespread skepticism regarding government and authority, and so quickly? History tells us that the appropriate balance of both is necessary, but how did it become so quickly unbalanced? This is one of the interpretative questions that I think that Brokaw should have answered.
As to the lowering of standards, all I can say is look at the continuing degradation of American students academic skills and abilities compared with other countries. Lots of complexities to this, but the results have not been positive, and I think there is the potential for a negative consequence to the USA unless standards are increased and education is treated as importantly as National Defense (they are symbiotic).
Hey, there was a lot of good that emerged from the 60's, but history has a long tail and its time to examine the entire scorecard, not just pick and choose the ones we like.
Thanks for taking the time to post your remarks. Very interesting. If you want to read more of my views, I humbly invite you to check out my book entitled, "Daring To Be Different, A Manager's Ascent To Leadership" which you can also find on Amazon.
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 11, 2007 11:52:51 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2007 12:12:30 AM PST
> To that end, I certainly reject that my assumptions are false, since they are authentically mine - as presented by a person who graduated in 1969 and has a healthy appreciation for history.
Just because they are your assumptions doesn't make them true. I can assume the sun won't come up tomorrow but that doesn't make my assumption true. You laid out a narrative based on assumptions you made that don't have much basis in history or that have been debunked in the intervening 35+ years.
> I suppose that one could equally say that your leap to denigrate white males (why not?) and rush to the defense of lesbians (for whatever gratuitous reasons) are presumptions that are overreactive at best, and hypersensitive at worst. But, they are your views - fair enough.
If that's what you think I wrote then you need to read it again.
>I am delighted that you enjoyed your sex, drugs and rock and roll during the 60s. However, the question was how and why did the culture change so quickly from the post world war "greatest generation" to what we experienced during the 60's.
First I reject your notion that the WWII generation is the "greatest generation." That's simply not true. A number of social and cultural writers are now saying that it's the 1960's generation that is the real greatest generation and that's not true either.
> How did we go from a culture of widespread patriotism (however [naively] blind) to widespread skepticism regarding government and authority, and so quickly? History tells us that the appropriate balance of both is necessary, but how did it become so quickly unbalanced?
Why do you equate distrusting and questioning the government with a lack of patriotism? Somebody, I think Benjamin Franklin or maybe Patrick Henry said the most patriotic thing we can do is question our government, it's policies and actions. This is part of being a responsible citizen, to pay attention to what's going on and to voice skepticism and protest when appropriate. This is the most important thing we do as citizens, second only to voting.
And what history are you reading that says we need a balance of citizens who question what their government does and those who don't? We are all supposed to be skeptical, we are all supposed to question what our leaders do and say -- that's the basis for a healthy, vibrant democracy.
However, I am getting the impression that what you really mean is why did our parents' generation trust their government more than we of the 60's generation trusted ours. In my mom's case, she lived through the Great Depression and she watched as FDR created solutions to the desperate problems that were confronting the nation. Then came WWII and there was FDR again creating the military that, with our allies, won the war on both fronts. Then we started on a succession of reasonably good presidents until LBJ so our parent's generation had no real reason to not trust their government.
We, however, had lots of reasons not to trust Johnson and Nixon. This lies in part in the way we were educated in the 1950s and 1960s by the so-called "greatest generation." They brought us up to believe that everyone is equal, that everyone is entitled to a fair share and that we as a country are obligated to act as a beacon of hope and liberty for the rest of the world. And then we grew up and discovered all those inspiring words about freedom and equality and looking out for each other weren't true for most of the people in our country, many of whom were suffering terribly from discrimination, poverty and lack of a decent education. And on top of that there was the Vietnam war and the draft and extensive environmental pollution and that was pretty much all that was needed to create the unrest and distrust of all large institutions, not just the governments run by Johnson and Nixon.
But this has been going on for centuries. The 1960s were the "third turning" followed by the backlash or "fourth turning." Soon we will start the cycle again with the "first turning" where we finish implementing the reforms of the 1960s and that will be followed by the "second turning" which corresponds to the period between 1945-1965 which will in turn give way to another period of great unrest and societal changes but we won't be here to see that, unfortunately. I think it will be every bit as exciting as the 1960s were with the same level of artistic innovation and experimentation.
>As to the lowering of standards, all I can say is look at the continuing degradation of American students academic skills and abilities compared with other countries.
And what does this have to do with the social and political changes of the 1960s?
> Lots of complexities to this, but the results have not been positive, and I think there is the potential for a negative consequence to the USA unless standards are increased and education is treated as importantly as National Defense (they are symbiotic).
It's not a potential situation -- it will happen unless the next president and congress do something to fix the problem.
>Thanks for taking the time to post your remarks. Very interesting. If you want to read more of my views, I humbly invite you to check out my book entitled, "Daring To Be Different, A Manager's Ascent To Leadership" which you can also find on Amazon.
Unfortunately your publisher won't let us see inside your book but from the reviews you sound like a true child of the 1960s with a healthy skepticism of authority to me, and with the desire to improve the lives of those who work for and with you with an eye towards improving productivity. (email@example.com)
In reply to an earlier post on Dec 12, 2007 2:01:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 12, 2007 4:00:47 AM PST
I cannot tell if you actually read "Boom" or are simply rebutting my observations. I suspect the latter, otherwise you would have posted your own review. However, as you can see from their responses, most fellow readers agree with my observations about Brokaw's book (which is rare for a review which is not 5 stars). However, I am certain that people reading this exchange will a) enjoy the dialogue and b) better understand what I meant in noting that Brokaw's book would have been better if he synthesized the various viewpoints of his virtual reunion, and presented a debatable opinion as to their overall meaning within a historical context.
I suppose I could continue to debate philosophy, but I am now already on to my next book, Buchanan's "Day Of Reckoning." Unlike "Boom," Buchanan provocatively expresses an opinion on every page.