What's the Matter With Kids Today?

Gang, we've been here before. In spades. At least we can all agree on one thing - the music was so much better back then.

What's the Matter With Kids Today?
Yeah, right. Flower power.

With apologies to "Bye, Bye Birdie," as I sit down to write on this Cinco de Mayo, I am more in need of a stiff margarita than ever. Firstly, Godwin's Law has become practically an everyday occurrence in our national dialogue. Few observations have proven more durable than Godwin's Law. Created in 1990 by attorney Mike Godwin, it is quite simple: The more heated a political argument becomes, the higher the likelihood that one side will mention Adolf Hitler.

Whoever mentions Hitler first, loses the argument.

No photo description available.

The latest is Donald Trump at a Republican "retreat" in Florida. He told the gathered faithful, including some big money donors, with a little swearing, that President Biden was running a "Gestapo Government," whatever that is.

Of course, Trump himself has been called an embryonic Adolf, along with both liberals and conservatives in Congress. The US government has gone full-Nazi, according to protesters, in its support of Israel, which of course is Nazi as well, along with the leaders of Ukraine. Just to be clear, liberals call Israel Nazi, and conservatives say that about Ukraine, just so there's no confusion.

Now nowhere near all liberals and conservatives say these things, but enough to get their mugs on the nightly news, because we in the fifth estate have lost all sense of proportion or willpower when it comes to whom we give precious airtime. In what sensible world would we be paying any attention to the outrageous braying of a Marjorie Taylor Green or Rashida Tlaib? I can think of only one comparison...

Ladies and gentlemen, our political dialogue...BROTHERR!

Speaking of MTG, congratulations to Mystik Dan on his Derby victory which, but for a pulled tendon, might have gone to Marg.

But, back to the college protests going on. I was a freshman in college in the fall of 1967. Yeah, full-fledged old fart. The Viet Nam war was going hot and heavy and all of us knew the punishment for flunking out or quitting school was not just a make-up course but a free ticket to lovely Southeast Asia. I had buddies over there, and a couple of them are now names on the wall in Washington. Though my Dad and I disagreed on the war, we did agree that whatever the future held, going to Canada was not part of mine. I was going to study and let the chips fall where they may.

His opinion on the war changed, by the way, when one of those names on the wall was a young man he had a particular affection for when he and my mom headed our church's youth group.

Clint Ward. Panel 22W, line 39 on the wall.

But I at the University of Houston and my best friend Jimmy at the University of Texas both held similar anger toward what our contemporaries like Clint were sent to do, and we wanted to do something about it. But here's where I differed with many of my cohort and the kids today.

I watched our generation protest on campuses across the country, blow up buildings, and get shot at Kent State. We tend to forget the protests were much more widespread and frankly, violent than today. And my friend Jim and I didn't think that pissing off the rest of the country and yelling at cops was a particularly productive method of bringing the war to an end. And remember, there was no talk radio or Fox News to help those folks stay permanently pissed.

So we volunteered for the Eugene McCarthy (D-MN) Presidential Campaign.

Eugene McCarthy - IMDb

The Wikipedia entry on McCarthy sums it up...

As the 1960s progressed, McCarthy emerged as a prominent opponent of Johnson's handling of the Vietnam War. After Robert F. Kennedy declined the request of a group of antiwar Democrats to challenge Johnson in the 1968 Democratic primaries, McCarthy entered the race on an antiwar platform. Though he was initially given little chance of winning, the Tet Offensive galvanized opposition to the war, and McCarthy finished in a strong second place in the New Hampshire primary. After that, Kennedy entered the race, and Johnson announced that he would not seek reelection. McCarthy and Kennedy each won several primaries before Kennedy was assassinated in June 1968. The 1968 Democratic National Convention nominated Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Johnson's preferred candidate.

Jimmy and I were at the home of a fellow campaigner, along with the rest of the crew, the night of the California primary in June, and after being told to "Keep Clean for Gene" all year, there was much beer and other lubricants being consumed. One enterprising campaign worker had gone to the George Wallace headquarters and acquired a bunch of Wallace for President buttons for us to wear so that if the police showed up, we hoped the headline would read, "Wallace campaigners arrested at marijuana party."

Vintage Wallace for President Campaign Button | Zazzle
"Your Honor, I don't know who these kids are."

Of course the evening ended about as terribly as one could imagine. A year that included the murders of MLK and RFK, the Chicago convention riots and the election of Nixon, qualifies as pretty much the worst year I've seen.

But that was our contribution to the anti-war effort and it seemed to us, far more productive than hollering at a college professor, or a National Guardsman. But also remember, amidst all the overheated commentary around this, that when you are 20 years old, you know everything and nothing at the same time. I work in radio with a bright and talented young man who is finishing college and has an opinion on everything, an opinion he is dead certain is correct. I have tried to add a little age perspective and context to his opinions, but to little avail.

That's why the Constitution wisely won't let you run for President until you are 35.

So keep some of this in proportion, if the crowd of faux-outrage mongers who sit on the sidelines like the woman knitting at the foot of the guillotine in Paris, can be ignored. They want you angry strictly for the sake of politics, not because they give a damn about anti-semitism. As I mentioned a few articles ago, criticism of Israel or Bibi isn't anti-semitic and criticism of Hamas isn't anti-Arab, unless in either case, you make it so. The one true irony in all this is that Arabs are Semitic as well.

File: National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir at the Knesset in Jerusalem, April 15, 2024. (Chaim Goldberg/Flash90)

For example, Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, a former follower of the rabidly racist Meir Kahane, asked at a government meeting why the army couldn't just shoot more surrendering Gazans instead of arresting them to relieve prison overcrowding. The professional soldiers leading the IDF were aghast and told him in no uncertain terms that kind of thing is against international law and will never be policy. I think I can say without fear of contradiction or of any racist accusation, that this guy is an unmitigated A-hole. But I welcome debate on that.

Look, if you criticize Prime Minister Trudeau, you don't hate all white, handsome Canadians. You just think he's a jerk. Although I heard one radio clown call him Hitler as well, so there you go.

Justin Trudeau - Prime Minister of Canada - Justin Trudeau
"Why, thank you."

So, as usual for me, I ask that you try to keep some perspective here. The Vietnam War ended, however imperfectly. To be honest, I don't think my college colleagues ended it, but we had our say, the world kept turning, and we are now running it, or retiring from it. My friend Jim is retired in New Mexico after a varied career, and I crank out this drivel, along with radio news.

By the way though, during our political sojourn in 1968, Jim and I worked construction that summer and he had the chutzpah, among a lot of conservative construction guys, to slap a McCarthy sticker on his hard hat. A braver man than me.

PS: A point of personal privilege. I want to wish one of our loyal readers, Helen Mann, a speedy recovery. She was the British Vice-Consul in Houston for 30 years, and when she retired, stayed in the Bayou City. She has been a personal friend for all that time and a fountain of encouragement. I pray for her return to health and more inciteful comments on our weekly nonsense on this site.

About the Show | Manor of Speaking

Roger Gray has toiled at the journalism trade since 1970 and his first radio news job at KTRH in Houston. Over those woefully misspent years, he has worked in radio, TV and written for magazines. He was twice elected President of the Texas Automobile Writers Association and was elected to the Texas Radio Hall of Fame. He covered the first Persian Gulf War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the reunification of Germany, Oslo Accords in Israel and peace talks in Ireland. He interviewed writers, actors, politicians and every President from Ford to George W, and none of them remember him.Now, he is part of the Texas Outlaw Writers, and if this doesn't pan out, the outlaw part will still work as he will indeed resort to robbing banks.