Principle 08: The Seasons of our Discontent

The Winter of Our Discontent

The citizens of our country are experiencing an increasing unease and discontent about the trajectory of our civilization. Those feelings are at times vague, at other times powerful. We express them individually and collectively in our homes, boardrooms, media centers, pulpits, schools, courtrooms, and in the halls of our legislatures. All opinions point to a past when society was cohesive and worked together. Younger generations are criticized and held up to standards they perceive can’t ever be met. Older generations long for a time that has passed and that they feel will never return. Neither side is right or wrong. Each side is simply experiencing the seasons of their lives against the seasons of our nation. Franklin Delano Roosevelt said,

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.
-1936 Democratic National Convention

Was President Roosevelt correct? If he were correct, why is this the natural order? I believe he was correct. This truth is evidenced in the rhythms of our history. These seasons have been repeating themselves every 80 to 90 years. While they are recognized by historians, these cycles have hardly ever been recognized by the country as a whole, because it takes an entire life to live the cycle. Thus we are unable to see our return role reprised when the cycle repeats. Within this cycle, our country has recently experienced an AWAKENING in the 60’s and 70’s, an UNRAVELING from the early 80’s to the early 00’s, and is currently in a CRISIS.

Actions that work in one of these seasons will not work in the other. So if we need to overcome a “CRISIS”, which is our current position in the cycle, we need the archetypical HERO to meet the challenges. On the other hand, the appearance of a HERO in an UNRAVELING world would be a waste of time and talent, as he would appear out of step with the mood of that era. He might appear silly or quaint like Don Quixote fighting windmills. Or he might appear crazy or even dangerous like Joseph McCarthy.

Similarly, the Archetype of an UNRAVELING time period, the NOMAD, comes from a society in which the demand and availability for order is low. Consequently, this NOMAD would appear indecisive, selfish, anti-social, during a CRISIS when the HERO archetype is needed to save the day. These archetypes and their corresponding seasons will make more sense shortly, but the take away is that there is a season for everything under heaven, and you, or more properly a given generation, can’t play that role until the conditions of society are prepared for the appropriate cycle.

The reason for our discontent is that we have been anxious for a resolution to our predicament, but only when the time is ripe, can it be resolved. If you plant in the autumn and hope for a harvest in the spring, your hopes will inevitably be dashed. This alignment of our generational experiences has finally arrived to resolve the seasons of our discontent.

Our recognition of the season is critical to getting an outcome that is beneficial to our country. A CRISIS can make for a rejuvenation of our political institutions or it can destroy the country. It will be the worst of times for certain. It can become the best of times, if we recognize the season for its essence, and control the outcome for our betterment, for our cherished values, and for a better world. The steel is tempered by fire, not water. The flames are upon us.

Original Title

This core principle was originally entitled The Reason Nothing Works, is Because It is Set up to Fail. I had always considered this Core Principle one of my most problematic principles, but one that still resonated within me. It wasn’t until I began incorporating into my thinking the principles of the book the Fourth Turning, that the description given above became clear.

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My feelings were completely consistent with what the book describes as a time of UNRAVELING followed by a CRISIS! Years before, I had read this book and found it persuasive as a narrative of our times. Like any narrative, it is not perfect, but unlike most historical accounts; it actually boldly made real predictions.

It accurately predicted almost 20 years in advance what the mood of the country would be today. And As reflected below, it reflected the same temperament in my writings. See if you agree. Generally, that mood is that nothing works, no honesty is offered to the electorate by our political class, and everyone seems to be greedily looking out only for their interests, rather than the common good of the country. Following rules is for suckers. Small crimes are punished severely, while large crimes are “systemic problems” for the taxpayers to subsidize. Our government can’t seem to mind its own business in dealing with other countries, while it incessantly seems to mind our personal business.

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My Rant

“More money can be made by the “powers that be” by keeping the system in a perpetual state of mediocrity. We need to be afraid enough so that we will allow our rights to be eroded, but not so much that we won’t get on an airplane and take a trip financed on our credit card.

Wars need to be fought so bankers can loan money to governments, but the wars can’t be fought to win because that might require a draft that might arouse the citizenry from their slumber and because a real victory might actually resolve matters.

Social welfare needs to be large enough to keep the recipients fed and voting for those politicians who support the system, but yet ineffective enough so that people are not motivated to graduate from the social welfare system. Political gridlock needs to be maintained so that ideas that could benefit the country are thwarted.

Our infrastructure needs to be degraded sufficiently so that local or state governments feel their only option is to sell public assets to global corporations for short-term gains for government but long term losses for citizens.

To keep our citizenry compliant, they need to be dumbed down with chemicals in the food chain, drugs they don’t need, and entertainment that’s vapid and uninspiring. Schools continue to use vast sums of resources but can’t produce world-class students because education is about the system rather than what is best for the students. So what you end up with is self-reinforcing mediocrity on the societal level.

On the individual level the impact can be clearly shown. A young black man can’t find a job in a mediocre economy, with a mediocre education, because he has social skills that were honed in the projects that his family has been enslaved in for 3 generations. The race pimping Democrats tell him the Republicans are the cause of his despair. The “racist” Republicans won’t comment, as they don’t want to be labeled.

Both sides agree his best bet is to go join the military where he can get an education. When this young man comes back in a flag draped casket, (which neither party wants you to see), both political parties claim him as a hero in defending freedom. The truth is that he has been fighting for agendas that have nothing to do with anyone’s freedom.

American Soldiers Returning From War

In the meantime, these same politicians are knowingly spending billions to spy on average Americans who seem to have become the enemy. Of course there is an upside. At least he didn’t get wounded and have to suffer poor care due to cuts in veteran programs.”

I freely admit that may be over the top. Humans never get everything right. Governments aren’t efficient. Undoubtedly many things do work in our society. So is it that we simply have more exposure to the flaws? Could it be that we have become more sensitive to the failures? Could there be some other agendas at play? Or could it be all of the above plus more? The smart answer is that everything is over-determined. Most societal forces have more than one cause or influence. But is there an organizing influence?

Bottom-line:

Fourth Turning: American Revolutionary War: Washington Crossing the Delaware

Indeed there is an organizing influence. It is the generational zeitgeist of four different generations as they experience our nation’s history. Our country is currently in the middle of a CRISIS or Fourth Turning as defined by William Strauss and Neil Howe in their book of the same name. I will explain below in more detail for those interested.

But the critical point is that when a country is in a Fourth Turning, the existing order is uprooted, clearly and unalterably. The stakes are felt to be not only high, but of the highest magnitude, with the survival of the nation at risk. Wars are fought totally. Half measures are a thing of the past. Policies thought sacrosanct, are overturned forever. Institutions that were cracking, weak, or ignored, are rebuilt for the new order.

Fourth Turning: American Civil War: Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg

In American History, our Fourth Turnings have been more positive than negative: The Revolutionary War; the Civil War; and the Great Depression/WWII. But happy endings aren’t what characterize fourth turnings, but rather the decisiveness with which the country reacts. Losing a war decisively, splitting a country apart, or losing one’s freedoms are outcomes that are equally possible.

Fourth Turning: World War II: Raising the flag on Iwo Jima

This is WHY this time in our country’s future is so critical! Changes will be made which will resonate for future generations! We don’t want our children living in a country in which our basic freedoms have been given up in favor of an Orwellian nightmare. Nor do we want an economic collapse that undermines the faith of the people in themselves and their children’s future. Nor do we want to fight a war that shouldn’t be fought or lose a war that should be fought.

It won’t matter if the governmental reactions to this CRISIS are of the masculine or feminine variety. Whether Daddy Bush or Momma Obama is in control will not soften the blows to the nation if the CRISIS has a dreadful ending. There are no guarantees in our lives or in the lives of nations. It is in our ability to recognize our collective mood, and how that has played out in the past, that gives us hope to marshal these societal forces for the benefit of humanity.

Half Measures Won’t be Accepted in a Fourth Turning or “CRISIS”

The “Elites” of our country and the world, plan on winning no matter whether the citizens win or not. The elites ultimately don’t care what happens as long as their privileged positions are maintained. They prosper whether markets are up or down, or whether citizens die in wars fought hard, or hardly fought. The system, the processes, and the ruling paradigms, are their refuge, not the results. The citizens, however, have to live with the results. Our awareness is our greatest asset in molding the outcome.

The Fourth Turning Explained

Seasons of Life: Childhood, (Ages 0-20) Norman Rockwell: “Swimming Hole”

Generational Cycles
American society experiences a historical cycle which repeats itself or at least mimics itself every 80 to 90 years. This cycle, also called a saeculum, which is the length of a long life, produces essentially four seasons which shape those born in those 20-year generational periods. The book suggests that each generation’s persona becomes most evident in the young adulthood years of 20 to 40.

Seasons of Life: Young Adulthood, (Ages 21-41) Norman Rockwell: “Teachers Classroom”

Individuals in Generations
For a thousand different reasons, every person in a generation will not experience life exactly as their comrades in the same generation. But a generation does take on certain commonalities because that generation experiences history in this same formative period of young adulthood. For example if three people come of age in an UNRAVELING, that time when society’s institutions are weaker and nothing seems to work the way it used to work, they would experience the same history, but would explain it differently.

One might suggest our institutions are corrupt because no one has integrity due to the corrosive influence of money. Strengthen the institutions so they can overcome this influence and the nation will be restored. Another might suggest that our institutions have become too strong and if we could decentralize power to the states, then order would be restored. Or another might suggest that if we reaffirmed virtuous conduct as a people then the country could hold its head high again.

What is the correct answer, all of the above, none of the above, or some of the above? That depends on who you are, how you were raised, where you came from etc. The very nature of a Third Turning, an UNRAVELING, is that no consensus can be obtained by society because collectively faith in the country’s institutions is low. The only real consensus society agrees upon in a Third Turning is that the country’s best days are behind it. Consequently, the oldest of the generations, lament the loss of communal cohesion and great challenges met, while the younger generations have given up on collective action and have prudently decided to personally make the best of a chaotic society.

Seasons of Life: Midlife, (Ages 42-62) Norman Rockwell: “The Lineman”

Generational Amnesia

So these two facts determine the impact and character of any generation. First, when people come of age in the cycle. Second, how long they live in the cycle. Since they neither have control over when they are born, nor when they die, and since generations have so few members by the time those members age into their 80’s or 90’s, no generation will ever live to see their same archetype repeated. Thus the tales of how life really operated as told by a HERO Archetype will largely be ancient history by the time the next HERO emerges. This gives society and each generation the impression that everything that is experienced is unique to their times.

Effectively, society never develops the lessons of all the seasons because each generation only experiences one full cycle from their birth. While there is truly nothing new under the sun, each generation can’t recognize this truth because the politicians have new names, the clothes are different, the economic challenges seem different, the wars are fought in different places with different levels of intensity etc. Our lived history always seems unique and linear, rather than unique and cyclical.

Seasons of Life: Elderhood, (Ages 63-83) Norman Rockwell: “Freedom From Want”

Theory Predicts Society’s Mood, not the Challenge

The theory doesn’t tell us which particular problems a society will face at a given point in the cycle, such as war or peace, or economic boom or bust. Real world factors such as resources, technology, the actions of other countries, determine the situation on the ground. Some CRISES will be more impactful than others. However, the theory does suggest how our society will react to whatever challenges it faces at that point in the generational cycle.

It is this reaction from each archetype working in conjunction with the other archetypes, as each generation moves from youth to old age, which gives us the recipe for why certain moods are created at certain times. The best way to explain the archetypes is by looking at a period of American History and watching how the generations perceive and react to history and their younger or older generations.

Generational Archetypes = Specific Generations

Note: The archetypes and the specific Generations of our recent historical period will be used interchangeably and probably inconsistently. HERO is the GI Generation, ARTIST is the Silent Generation, PROPHET is the Boomer Generation, and NOMAD is Generation X. Later the HERO Archetype will be used for the newest HEROES, the Millennial Generation.

Winter - The Crisis

Fourth Turning – Winter (The Crisis, Archetype: Hero]
(Current Generation: Millennials Born 1982 to 2008)
America’s Last Generation of Heroes

A Hero Returns Home in Norman Rockwell’s “Thanksgiving 1945”

The last CRISIS experienced by the United States began with the 1929 Stock market crash and ended with the conclusion of World War II when the atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. The generation that came of age during this time frame is referred to as the GI Generation. In Tom Brokaw’s book they are referred to as the Greatest Generation. They came into the workforce as the country entered the depression, bearing the brunt of the economic collapse. A decade later they formed the backbone of the armies that fought the war. Much was asked of this generation, and they successfully gave their all. They were the HERO archetype.

In a CRISIS All Elements of Society are Expected to Contribute
Wars are Fought Unconditionally in a CRISIS

The Heroes Had Help

In any CRISIS, other generations play their roles. The fathers and mothers of these heroes (Archetype: NOMADS) were running the factories and farms, implementing the New Deal programs, commanding the armies, and building the world institutions that followed the war. Similarly, the generation born before the Nomads, (Archetype: PROPHETS) where the spiritual, moral, and political leaders telling the country as FDR did, that all we had to fear was fear itself. These aged men and women provided the soaring rhetoric and actions that defined the age, motivated the country to great deeds, and prepared everyone for great sacrifice.

This Crisis Moved Mountains

D-Day Invasion on Beaches of Normandy

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, and the subsequent declarations of war against Japan, Germany, and Italy, there was no doubt in the minds of the citizenry that the country’s existence was at stake. This would not be a war of half measures. Unconditional surrender was the only result that was acceptable. A country so motivated accomplished amazing feats. It created an army of 12 million soldiers and sailors in short order while arming and feeding its allies.

The Manhattan project produced an atomic bomb that was used to end the war while opening up a new era in human existence. After the war the nation then created a Marshall Plan to save our conquered foes and thwart the new threat, communism. It also created a new monetary system, the Bretton Woods Accord, which established the Dollar as the reserve currency of the world.

All this was done after the country had successfully endured the greatest depression in memory, while maintaining its democratic traditions. No small feat when one considers that the turn to fascism by the Axis powers, (Germany, Japan, and Italy), in the face of the great depression, set up the conditions that lead to World War II.

Atomic Bomb Dropped on Hiroshima to End WWII
Japanese Surrendering on USS Missouri to Allies

Spring - The High

First Turning – Spring {The High, Archetype-Artist}
(Current Generation: The Silent Generation Born 1922-1942

Patriotism was an Expected and Accepted part of life in the 1950’s

Society Works During a HIGH

A country that has conquered a CRISIS, does what successful societies do, they put those successful institutions to work to solve domestic challenges and to enjoy the fruits of victory. This is the type of society that greeted with honor and respect its HEROES, the GI generation, upon their return from the war. A grateful nation passed laws which educated these HEROES and provided housing for the families they started. With confidence born from success, these HEROES absorbed themselves back into society creating an economic boom that would last for decades.

Authority is respected in America in the 1950’s as reflected in Norman Rockwell’s “The Runaway”

Institutions are Strong and Respected in a High

The late forties into the early sixties was a golden age for America. It was a time that had its challenges, but the institutions of the country were respected and they worked. The victors of the CRISIS were all the generations alive during the Crisis. But it was the generation of the HEROES, as they put their stamp on the country, which would resound for the next 60 years until the next CRISIS occurred.

Against Expectations the Economy Expanded Dramatically after WWII

It was this generation that became the touchstone of how America was supposed to work. The country would forever honor the feats of their HEROES in overcoming the depression and fighting and winning a just war. But while their collective and indelible imprint on the psyche of the country could not be ignored, the decisions and leadership of the HEROES would be challenged later in their lives.

The Seriousness of the War Years Gave Way to Enjoying Life and Spending Money

Children of the Heroes Enjoy the Good Times

This age saw big cars, cheap fuel, and plentiful goods and services provided by the retooled factories of the nation. This was the nation personified by the television show Leave It To Beaver. Mr. and Mrs. Cleaver were children during the depression and war years and were thus part of the American Generation referred to as the Silent Generation of the archetype ARTIST. This generation lived under the shadow of the deeds of their HERO parents. The orderly, prosperous, and respected America, built and controlled by their parents, caused this Silent Generation to seek refuge in an inner world of reflection while maintaining an outward conformity.

Our Comic Book Heroes Fought for Truth, Justice, and the American Way

Its not that the Silent generation wanted to challenge the respected order of the day, because they had seen the real impacts of war and depression as children. They respected the order and accepted it. But no generation or person wants to be completely overshadowed by the previous generation. So the internal life would be what typified this Silent Generation, archetype ARTIST.

Changes in Music Signified Changes in Underlying Attitudes as Demonstrated by Elvis

Hollywood Creates the Typical Family for a High

The outward conforming Mr. Cleaver worked at an office, wore a suit, and provided well for his family. His family lived in a very nice home with a well-manicured lawn and large trees. When Mr. Cleaver, came home, he was greeted by a loving wife, who welcomed him with a kiss and a martini. Mom of course stayed home taking care of her two sons, Wally and Beaver. Every day she would cook the family’s evening meal that she served in a dining room with a white tablecloth and full setting of china. While she did wear an apron to cook in, which covered her nice dress, she always looked perfectly put together as if she were going to a formal party.

(Left to Right) The Cleavers: Ward the Father, Theodore “The Beaver”, Wally, and June the Mother

When the family gathered for dinner, always at the same time each day, the family would discuss the day’s events in a calm and orderly fashion without distractions. Voices were rarely raised, punishments for the children were always fair and balanced, and the children always seem to eventually learn the life lesson they were supposed to learn. Wally and Beaver had problems like all children, but real, adult challenges rarely impinged upon their sheltered lives.

Problems are Whitewashed During Highs

This emphasis on conformity is a condition found during a HIGH. It’s not that every family behaved this way, but it was the accepted ideal. American society during a HIGH isn’t necessarily idyllic for everyone. Contentious issues remain unresolved. The institutional discrimination of blacks and poverty, all remained under the radar. McCarthyism reared its paranoid head demonstrating that the HEROES where clearly not without faults. The reason these conditions and attitudes could be paper overed is because the country’s institutions were respected and strong, and because those institutions had earned respect from their prior effectiveness in overcoming the CRISIS and in providing a better life for the vast majority of the citizens of the country.

Big Brother, Wally, and his little brother, Theodore “The Beaver”

On an Individual Level the Confrontation is Inevitable

The compliance we see in Wally and Beaver would be reversed as they left home and moved into young adulthood. They would find a spiritual hollowness, an over emphasis on the material, and an arrogance of purpose within the society built by their HERO grandparents and quietly enjoyed by their ARTIST parents. These Boomers, by the bounty they had grown up in, would not understand or value the material sacrifices caused by the depression or the very real fears their parents and grandparents had of being invaded by a foreign power. The horrors of war were already ancient history to the Boomer Generation.

Generational Differences Appear In Society as Suggested by Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace”

Confrontation on a Generational Level Between the Prophet and Hero is Inevitable
The two dominant archetypes are the HERO and the PROPHET. It is the worldly and practical HERO (GI Generation) who in saving the nation eventually incurs the wrath NOT of his children, the ARTIST, (Silent Generation), but his grandchildren, the PROPHET (Boomer Generation). The HERO is always shown his failings through the voice of the PROPHET. A HERO’s chief attributes, confidence and action, always lead to his downfall. It is the PROPHET who gives the inward spiritual assessment that the HERO has lost his humanity and is overcome by arrogance. Accordingly, the HERO’s strong and accepted institutions must be overthrown. Thus we are brought to the end of the High, the First Turning, and are faced with the beginning of the Second Turning the AWAKENING.

Summer - The Awakening

Second Turning – Summer {The Awakening, Archetype: Prophet}(Current Generation: The Baby Boomers, 1942 to 1960)

Kennedy’s Assassination is Catalyst for Awakening

It is during the AWAKENING that Wally and Beaver begin to challenge the existing order as they experience their early adult years. The next 20 years of this turning would take them from 1961 to 1982. While the attitudinal changes that would eventually characterize Wally and Beaver as, Archetype PROPHETS (Boomer Generation), were sown in earlier years, a catalyst would soon crystalize or maybe more accurately cauterize their group identity and personas. It was the assassination of John F. Kennedy that is considered the start of this Second Turning or AWAKENING.

President Kennedy in Dallas Before Assassination

Kennedy represented a positive and hopeful view of the future that appealed to these young PROPHETS (Boomers). Yet, with his vision came a realistic and adult assessment of the world. As a veteran of WWII and being one of the youngest members of his HERO Generation, he had both youth and experience. His vitality and charm produced sentiments that resonated with the spiritual bent of the Boomers. He wasn’t trying to find communists in everyone’s closet but rather was trying to inspire this next generation to as he said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”

This was a personal call to look within and unselfishly help your country and the world. Establishing the Peace Corps and sending Americans abroad must have seemed to be a queer use of presidential priorities to the older elements of the GI Generation. True HERO psychology would have been worried about important matters of state rather than the feelings of the young. After all, the children of the HEROES, the ARTISTS (Silent Generation), had been good, compliant, and quiet children, certainly not a bunch of troublemakers.

Prophets Resist the Strong Institutions of the Heroes

Thus the pattern was set. The prophets would rail against a generation that had taken their president and given them a long, unwanted war. Vietnam would rage for 10 years taking over 50,000 men. Soldiers would not volunteer but had to be drafted. Many would avoid the military by seeking refuge in colleges or the National Guard. Others would flee to Canada, or as Muhammad Ali did, go to prison.

Of course the GI generation didn’t take these assaults lying down. Even though they were in elderhood, they still had control of the country and had sway with the Silent Generation, their children, who where coming into midlife and who were taking over the reins of the country. But these Silent Generations leaders didn’t have the same views as their parents. Order to them was important, but not at any cost. So as the decade advanced, compromises where made. Civil rights legislation was passed. The Great Society was instituted to help the poor. These and other compromises, at times were resisted, and at other times were reluctantly accepted by the G.I. and Silent Generations as necessary evils to satisfy the restless natives.

But the war in Vietnam could not be lost. This was a challenge to America’s role in the world as the guardian of freedom against the evils of communism. America had never lost a war, and if she did now, then the dominoes would fall in Southeast Asia and eventually other places. The Boomers had to be stopped. While you couldn’t hide the war and its increasing unpopularity, you could change the subject. It is here that the difference between the generations gave the HEROES an opening.

Those PROPHETS are Not Good Americans

The Boomers didn’t act like normal, good Americans. Wally and Beaver had gone hog wild. They listened to rock music. Not the old fashioned kind sang by Elvis, (which the GI Generation opposed when rock started in the 50’s), but that new stuff sang by the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. Wally took drugs, rolled around in the mud at Woodstock, and slept with anyone, anytime he wished. Beaver became an agnostic, quit going to church, and protested America’s proud fighting men by spitting on soldiers in uniform when they returned from Vietnam. Wally and the Beaver had become a bunch of draft dodging, dropout, malcontents, who didn’t work and hated their country. These boys didn’t have good, American values. The description was certainly not inaccurate, and for a time it worked.

In 1968, and again in 1972, Richard Nixon won two presidential elections, the first barely, the second by a landslide. As Nixon said, the silent majority had answered the call. The hippies did not represent America. But the elections didn’t change the facts on the ground.

Losses Mount for the HEROES

The war remained unpopular and started to hammer the countries finances. The high level of societal wealth at the beginning of the AWAKENING began to deteriorate with the escalating cost of the war and the escalating cost of the social programs of the Great Society.

Vietnam War: Victims of My Lai Massacre of March 1968

Also impacting the country was the reality that in the early seventies, America’s complete independence in oil ended. This was an ace in the hole for the country that had helped win WWII for the allies and had supercharged the economy in the U.S. after the war. Now America would have to begin to increasingly rely on foreign imports of oil to support the already shaky economy. The chickens came home to roost during the 1973 Arab Israeli War when Arab nations embargoed oil shipments to the U.S. for its support of Israel.

Gas Lines during Arab Oil Embargo of 1973

The HEROES, GI Generation, were no doubt shaking their heads at the sight of Americans parked in line to get gas. What had happened to the country? The economy was in the tank, compromises were being made with Vietnam to end the war, and now the PROPHETS, Boomers, themselves were increasingly coming into positions of power in society.

President Nixon Resigns in August of 1974

But the losses kept coming for the HEROES. In 1974 Nixon resigned from office for covering up a little burglary at the Watergate Complex. In the old days, a little spying on your opponents would not have brought down a sitting two term President of the United States. FDR wouldn’t have been brought down by such an incident. But times had changed and continued to do so.

The HEROES Lose America’s First War

Panicked Vietnamese Storm American Embassy as Saigon Falls

In 1975, the world watched as South Vietnam fell to North Vietnam. The image of American Embassy personnel escaping, at the last minute by helicopter from the top of the embassy, would forever be seared in the consciousness of Americans. The realization finally hit, that for the first time in American History, a war had been lost.

American Embassy is Evacuated by Helicopter as Saigon Falls

This war had not been fought for unconditional surrender with a united country. The GI Generation would never understand that it was not their inherent abilities that had won World War II, nor their incompetence that had lost Vietnam. Successes and failures are a part of any war. It was the mood of the country that ultimately determined what level of commitment a country would give. Vietnam did not threaten the existence of the country. It was not the Crisis of a Fourth Turning. Vietnam was fought in the summer of an AWAKENING, not the winter of a crisis.

Helicopter Dumped into Ocean to Make Room for More Evacuees

Fairly or unfairly, the GI Generation likely blamed those hippie, malcontents for the deplorable state of the country. But they did get one thing right, they understood that nothing would ever be the same, at least in their lives.

The HEROES Hadn’t Always Acted So Heroic

The Church Committee would issue considerable information on the unlawful activities undertaken by the U.S. government in spying on the citizens of the country. America’s HEROES, the GI Generation and its offspring, had resisted the changes in society by all legal measures and many that were illegal, but they still lost. By the end of the Seventies many of the oldest of the GI Generation had gone on to meet their maker. Those that remained would be around for a good many years, but they would not be the movers and shakers of society.

President John F. Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King Jr.


The victory had come at a tremendous cost to any who might have felt vindicated by the demise of the HEROE’S influence. The champions of the Boomers: John F. Kennedy; Robert Kennedy; and Martin Luther King; had all been assassinated by lone wolf kooks. Or had they? Did anyone really believe the government’s official investigations into these assassinations? The Boomers certainly didn’t. Was it more likely that the power structure thought that these change agents were detrimental to the country that the HEROES had built? This debate went unresolved then, lingers still, and may never be factually understood or accepted by historians or citizens.

Bad Hair and Bad Clothes
Bad Hair and Really Bad Clothes


America Bummed Out

The rest of the decade is just small details. It consisted of a lot of bad hair; bad clothes; ugly, unreliable cars; and a good bit of bad music. The conflict between the PROPHETS and HEROES had taken a toll on the country’s confidence. As President Carter suggested, to great criticism at the time, but probably accurately, the country seemed to be suffering from a great malaise. There was no will to fight any great fights or pursue any noble causes. The air had gone out of the collective spirit of the people.

Carter at Panama Canal Treaty Signing

The big fight of the late 1970’s was whether to let Panama take control of the Panama Canal. This certainly didn’t have the geopolitical gravitas of when to invade Europe or whether to drop the atomic bomb.

Bicentennial Celebration in New York City 1976

The Bicentennial celebration of 1976 was a great diversion, but no one was taking bets that the country would make it another 200 years. The sex, drugs, and rock and roll era, had grown tiresome as well, especially when AIDS reared its ugly head in the early 80’s. The country was beat down, broke, busted, and divided. If the country could have adopted a song that fit its mood, it would have been Tina Turners, “We Don’t Need Another Hero.”

Icing On the HEROES Cake of Failure

The final straw to the Heroes world came in 1979 when 59 hostages were taken prisoner by Iran and kept for 365 days. In 1980, during the crisis, the military attempted to rescue the hostages. Eight helicopters were sent to a staging point in the desert. Only five arrived in operational condition although only four were needed to complete the mission. However, the military had decided before hand to abort the mission if less than 6 choppers were operationally fit to proceed from the staging area to the rescue location of the hostages. The military asked the President for permission to abort the mission which he granted. While leaving the area, one helicopter crashed into a plane killing 8 servicemen.

Destroyed Helicopter from Operation Eagle Claw
Remains of Transport Plane Used in Attempted Hostage Rescue


This debacle in the desert made the once mighty U.S. military look incompetent and overly cautious. It probably cost President Carter the election later that year. The United States in 40 years had gone from commanding 12 million soldiers, fighting on two fronts, supplying much of the supplies used by the allies, and exploding an atomic bomb TO a military that couldn’t safely coordinate a mission of 8 helicopters and a couple of transport planes. The existing order which had been strong and accepted at the start of the Sixties, was neither at the end of the Seventies. The humiliation of that event, and the failed rescue attempt of those hostages by President Jimmy Carter, put an end to the AWAKENING.

Wally and Beaver Get a Real Job

Reagan Wins Nomination at Republican Convention

In 1980, Ronald Reagan, the actor, was elected in a landside. Within a few minutes of Reagan’s Inauguration, the hostages were released and America started on its next phase. Likewise, Wally and the Beaver, our prototypical Boomers, did what most people at some point in their lives have done, they got a job, became respectable, and tried to make enough money to support themselves. Wally and Beaver’s children, Sally and Weaver, who had been patiently watching the HEROES, ARTISTS, and PROPHETS, muck up the Sixties and Seventies, while their parents protested and left them alone at the commune, were now coming into their young adult years. They had attended elementary school in the Sixties and by the end of the Seventies they were beginning to graduate from high school. Thus begins the life of the NOMADS, my generation. Welcome to the UNRAVELING.

Fall - The Unraveling

Third Turning – Fall {The Unraveling, Archetype: Nomad}
(Current Generation: Generation X, Born 1961 to 1982)

The Unravelling Explained

By the time the votes had been counted, and Ronald Reagan had become the 40th President of the United States, an exhausted country caught its breath and hoped that things would get better. Thinking in linear fashion, it might seem that the conflicts of the past two decades would propel the country into even more chaos. But you have to remember that we are dealing with seasons, and thus transitory intensities.

Summer- The Awakening – Photo: Bondarosa Farms

Taltcott Parsons used different terminology to describe America’s plight. But his approach helps illuminate the thrust of the Fourth Turning. He suggested that society has a tension between individualism and collectivism, and this tension is reflected in a society’s supply of and demand for order. The last CRISIS was the transition from society’s low demand and low supply of order during the Roaring Twenties to the higher demand and the increasing supply of order needed to overcome the Great Depression and World War II. The high of the Fifties saw an abundant supply and demand for order and thus the institutions of America were strong and respected. The AWAKENING of the Sixties started with a high supply of order and a lessening demand for that order as the decade progressed. Finally, by the end of the Seventies, the supply and the demand for that order had virtually vanished.

Winter – The CRISIS – Photo: Bondarosa Farms

In the parlance of the Fourth Turning, the CRISIS represents the extremes of a cold winter while the AWAKENING represents the extremes of a hot summer. Conversely, an UNRAVELING represents that interim period of autumn, when the seasons are changing and getting themselves organized for the big changes to come. American society positioned itself into such a holding pattern, by arranging the country so that nothing especially dramatic could happen, at least in the sense of a “CRISIS” of World War II caliber. A standoff of epic proportions took place between the competing forces of the society for the next two decades.

Wally and Beaver Ditched for Alex P. Keaton

The big picture view of the Eighties and Nineties played out according to the script. No generational period will be without challenges. Every generational period will be influenced by all of the generations alive during that period. But it is Generation X that would typify the Eighties and Nineties as this generation came into early adulthood. While it is probably rude to dump Wally and Beaver Cleaver and their offspring, it becomes necessary, because we have a family that captures the mood of the times much better.

Alex P. Keaton the Prototypical Young Republican of the 1980’s

The quintessential Generation X’er was the character Alex P. Keaton played by Michael J. Fox in the sitcom Family Ties. Spanning most of the Eighties, the show contrasted the oldest son, Alex, a Generation X’er, against his Boomer parents, former hippies, Steven and Elyse Keaton. Elyse, an architect, and Steven, a Public Television station manager, constantly extolled the virtues of the counter cultural Sixties. Naturally they had served in the Peace Corps and had attended college at Berkley while protesting the Vietnam War.

The Keaton Family: Mallory, Steven, Jennifer, Elyse, and Alex

Consistent with the times, Alex had but one goal, to get rich. Carrying a brief case and almost always dressed in suit and tie, Alex exalted the laissez-faire attitudes of the conservative Republican agenda. Not surprisingly, Alex’s hero was President Richard Nixon whose picture Alex kept on his nightstand. Alex often talked to Nixon proclaiming his admiration for the ex-President and often his disgust for those not appreciating the Republican agenda.

Alex P. Keaton’s Hero, Richard M. Nixon

This show perfectly captures the tensions of the Eighties. Conservative Republicans on the ascendency overcoming the “malaise” of the Carter years verses the tired views of the Liberal Democrats who had lost Vietnam and would no doubt capitulate to the Soviets in the cold war confrontation. Alex fit the character of his times precisely and smugly knew that the election of Ronald Reagan was a new dawn for the country. Alex jumped for joy when President Reagan fired 11,000 air traffic controllers because they refused to return to work while on strike. America hadn’t had a strong, principled president since Nixon. The country was finally going to get back on track. Alex was sure that President Nixon’s legacy would now be vindicated as the nation’s pride and reputation were reclaimed.

America Endlessly Chases It’s Tail

But Alex would have been precisely wrong. Not because his parents where correct, but because what each of them longed for, Alex the HIGH of the Fifties, and his parents, the AWAKENING of the Sixties, could not be realized in the UNRAVELING in which they were living. The institutions supporting the order of the HIGH had been shattered during the AWAKENING. His parents had won a moral victory by successfully shattering the acceptability of the HEROES’ institutions. His parents then followed that up with a practical victory by eviscerating the power of those same institutions.

These two opposing forces would spend the next two decades contending in a never-ending struggle for ascendancy. While they would have their successes, Alex, the Bush I, II, and Reagan years, his parents, the Clinton years, neither would ultimately achieve what they desired. In the end, political victories were not what they were cracked up to be.

Reagan had run on a theme of restoring America, but that restoration would have involved restoring order and acceptability of the strong institutions of government. What Reagan had supported as Governor of California in the Sixties – strong respected institutions – he now effectively opposed even if he didn’t realize it. The real restoration he achieved was the restoration of pride in being an American. This was an internal, emotional response to what the country felt they needed.

This exactly fit the mood of the country and meshed perfectly with the predictions inherent in an AWAKENING. So this fight, between numerous competing ideas, continued from the early Eighties until the end of George W. Bush’s presidency in 2008. The UNRAVELING became a twilight zone boxing match, where each fighter would deliver a knockout blow to end the bout, only to see the opponent rise again and again. With the balkanization of the political process, issues could not be resolved. Not that it mattered, because society lacked the strong institutions to impose any resolutions. America had no demand for order nor any supply of order. Consequently, American society did what seemed reasonable enough, they did their own thing, individually, and collectively.

Cultural Division Was the Order of the Day

Jerry Falwell Founder of the Moral Majority

Since the cultural clashes of the past hadn’t gone away, a new way of expressing those clashes developed that was less institutional and more individualistic. It didn’t mean that people didn’t organize. Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority sprang onto the scene in 1979 to decry the movement away from sound morals by reaffirming those 1950’s HERO virtues. Such efforts stirred the faithful, but never moved the society. Falwell disbanded the group in 1989. Division was the order of the day, and why not, it seemed to work. The UNRAVELING was not necessarily a bad time to be alive. People could pursue their own agendas and be themselves.

If you wanted to make money, that was good. This time period mirrored the Roaring Twenties, which was the last time the country had experienced an UNRAVELING. With the emphasis on making money, increased financialization became the order of the day. Making things became increasingly passé. Only chumps wanted to work in anything industrial. Besides all the factories were closed, or had moved to Mexico, or were heading to China. Sure we had occasional glitches like the Savings and Loan Crisis, and the stock market crashes of 1987 and 2000, but the markets recovered.

Better to Be Lucky Than Good

Naturally, society wasn’t without some positive developments to overcome the negative. Significant changes did take place in the country to provide breathing space for the mistakes. The oil from the north slopes of Alaska started to pour into the country in the early Eighties slamming the door on OPEC’s pricing stranglehold. The computerization of the country, that took off in the Eighties and continued into the Nineties, added real efficiency to the national bottom line. This was enhanced at the end of the Nineties when the Internet boom did the same. Last but definitely not least, the collapse of our cold war antagonist, the Soviet Union, provided a peace dividend that would last a decade.

Fall of Berlin Wall in Germany 1989

Financial Lessons of the Last CRISIS Are Ancient History

The UNRAVELING years saw deregulation go into high gear from airlines to telephone companies, to everything in between. Consumers undoubtedly benefited from much of this deregulation. Other deregulation efforts proved to be more problematic. The most serious deregulation occurred in the banking industry. While it is difficult to point to any one item of banking deregulation which “Caused” the banking crisis of 2008, one candidate would be the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act.

President Roosevelt Declares Banking Holiday During the Great Depression

This Depression era law regulated what types of activities banks could pursue. Glass-Steagall, as well as subsequent revisions to the banking laws, had made banking a low stakes affair that created little risk of big banking problems or in the bank-speak of our times, “systemic risks”. By the time Glass-Steagall was repealed the banking regulations had already effectively been gutted. This repeal was nothing more or less than an announcement of the fait accompli that prior banking tinkering has already achieved. So Glass-Steagall really became the archetype of emasculated banking regulations.

Consequently, as happens in an UNRAVELING, the lessons of the CRISIS were forgotten. The political class led by confident financiers changed the rules to allow banks to become larger and more involved organizations. The death of Glass-Steagall became a symbolic clean up of the leftover driftwood of the deregulation binge. No one had memory of banks closing. Those kinds of outcomes couldn’t happen in the days of large computers and global finance. Of course, it’s not like anyone really opposed the changes. In the irony of ironies, the Democrats of the Nineties, heirs to FDR’s New Deal, facilitated and at times outright championed these “reforms.” Americans of all political persuasions recognized as President Calvin Coolidge said, “That the business of America is business.”

The chickens came home to roost in 2008 when the government had to rescue the banking system. Can it be proved beyond a reasonable doubt what specifically caused the collapse of these banks? I will leave that for others to decipher. What really can’t be denied is that the system became much more complicated, opaque, and interdependent and ultimately dangerous to the nation. The notion that the banking players knew best and could anticipate Black Swan events was proven to be nonsense. This free wheeling approach to banking, which at times appeared more like a lottery, was not the safe, boring, regulated banks of our grandfathers.

Movies as Metaphors For the Times

Leonardo DiCaprio Plays Character Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street”

The quintessential movie that expresses the excesses of this era is Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Wolf of Wall Street”. Based on a true story, it chronicles the fraud of one small Wall Street securities firm, which reached tremendous heights of success marketing penny stocks before crashing when the FBI began investigating its fraudulent activities. There is nothing new in the realization that crooks sometimes get involved in the financial world. Bernie Maddoff’s real 18 billion dollar scandal highlights that reality. What was compelling about this characterization was the absolute and total debauchery depicted in the film.

Michael Douglass in Movie: Wall Street

As Gordon Geckko, played by Michael Douglass in the film “Wall Street”, proudly sermonized, “Greed is good.” It was this excess that so appropriately characterized the pulse of the times. These films are not strictly factual. What they do represent is a sense of how society viewed the times they were experiencing. It doesn’t mean that everyone was hiring prostitutes for parties on the company yacht. Nor does it mean that society approved of such behavior. What it did illustrate is that people were interested in making money, a legitimate goal, but were willing to overlook activities that in another era would have been deplored and never ignored.

Weekend at Bernie’s

Bernie Madoff

The Madoff scandal is again proof of this same principle in action in the real world. In 2000 Harry Markopolos contacted the SEC and informed them that Bernie Madoff was clearly involved in fraudulent activities. He stated that it took him four hours to prove that the numbers provided by Madoff were impossible. The SEC didn’t act for 9 years. It was the economic crash of 2008 which collapsed Madoff’s ponzi scheme and forced the swindle into the media’s eye. As President Bill Clinton famously acknowledged earlier in this AWAKENING, “The era of big government is over.” Debatable as that may have been, it certainly meant that an effective SEC would never be pushed to zealously guard the integrity of our financial system.

These movies and actual events provide a parable, if you will, that suggests to us that no one was looking out for the common good of the country during this era. A faith in the power and intelligence of markets, the lack of faith in the ability of government to act, and the blindness of society in accepting both propositions, was the true sign of the times. Disgraceful behavior pays off handsomely at least for a while. The bad players live like kings on other people’s money, do some minor time in prison, and then make money selling the movie rights to tell their story. The consequences don’t seem to fit the crime. Sure some small players might go to prison. But the really big players just pay a fine and keep on keeping on. Shocking conduct, but perfectly consistent with the excesses of an “UNRAVELING.”

No Unconditional Surrender Required

The nature of an UNRAVELING can be shown across almost any category of activity in a society, including how a society chooses which wars to fight and how those wars are fought. The pattern once again proves itself to be reliable. The wars fought in the 1980’s show a country pre-occupied with itself. It is not like the opportunities for conflict were not available. The Soviet Union was as close to an existential threat as one could imagine. It’s size, location, resources, intent, and large arsenal of nuclear weapons provided a real opponent. But wisely or luckily, the wars of the 1980’s were small time affairs. An invasion of Grenada to free some medical students and the invasion of Panama to capture the local dictator were indicative of the limited nature of our military actions.

American Invasion of Grenada, Certainly Not the German S.S. Our Grandfather’s Fought

In the early Eighties a better cause for provocation was the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets. President Carter responded by boldly declaring that our vital interests in this region would be protected and drew a line in the sand to protect the oil of that region. True to form for an UNRAVELING, he then hit the Soviets where it really hurt, by cancelling American participation in the Summer Olympic games of 1980.

Equally true to form, we didn’t mobilize our forces but chose to use proxies to engage the Soviets. The U.S. armed the Taliban and other groups opposing the Soviet supported Afghani government. The movie Charlie Wilson’s War tells the story of how incrementally the pressure was applied to the Soviets. First we gave the opposition more money. Then we gave them advanced weaponry while carefully making it appear that the U.S. wasn’t involved. Eventually the Soviets lost this war, pulled out of Afghanistan, and within a few years collapsed.

Soviets Withdraw from Afghanistan in 1989 after 10 Year War

Colin Powell, Your No George Marshall!
Norman Schwarzkopf Jr. Your No George S. Patton!

American tanks in Operation Desert Storm

Naturally and correctly, one is much more circumspect about confronting an opponent, the Soviet Union, who is capable of completely destroying your country with nuclear weapons. But the pattern did not change with lesser rivals. During the Gulf War in 1991, fought under President George Bush Sr., a large coalition was assembled to push Iraq out of Kuwait. Clearly the nations interests would have been impacted if Saddam Hussein had extended his invasion of Kuwait into Saudi Arabia. As President Bush said, “This aggression will not stand.” The conflict saw one of the largest mobilizations since Vietnam. It also saw the clash of armored divisions not seen since WWII. American Generals, Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. and Colin Powell, had learned the lessons of Vietnam quite well. Wars need to be fought with all the power at your disposal and it was.

Operation Desert Storm Air Campaign

After a five-week bombardment of Iraqi forces in the deserts of Kuwait and selected command and control targets within Iraq, the ground phase of the war called Operation Desert Storm, started. But the country was not asked to participate in any personal way. Give your support to the cause, cheer on the troops, and enjoy life. Americans watched the videos of whiz-bang bombs falling onto targets with scalpel like precision. This was no war. This was a video game. It lasted about as long as it takes to master a video game, 100 hours. To be fair, the speed of the victory was not predicted, and a much more determined and smarter opponent, could have made the costs greater.
But the country was not going be drawn into a long brutal conflict which would require shared sacrifice of any meaningful degree.

It smells like victory, NOT!

Lt. Colonel Kilgore:
“You smell that? do you smell that?… napalm, son. nothing else in the world smells like that. i love the smell of napalm in the morning…..you know that gasoline smell, smells like… victory.” – movie “Apocalypse Now”

The country’s gift to President Bush Sr., after his successful and in many ways masterful conduct of the war, was not victory. It was probably closer to napalm in the form of the exhaust fumes from his presidential limousine as it left the white house. The nation had delivered the one gift he most feared, a one term Presidency. His soaring approval rating of 89%, one of the highest ever recorded, plummeted during the remaining months of his Presidency. Having alienated many conservatives for abandoning his no new taxes pledge, Bush frustrated the country enough that H. Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate. Even with Perot’s at times flakey performance, Perot still garnered 19% of the vote and Bill Clinton won the election.

George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle at Republican Convention

So how can we score such a loss? Bush had been President, a two term Vice President, a Congressman, an Ambassador to the UN, an Envoy to China, and the Director of the CIA. He was not just an archetypical HERO, but also a real hero during WWII, having been shot down in his plane by the Japanese. He was lucky enough to be President when the Berlin Wall fell, the Soviet Union collapsed, and the cold war ended. Yet, he could only get 38% of the popular vote.

H. Ross Perot, Billionaire Who Ran as an Independent for President in 1992
Dana Carvey Spoofing Ross Perot on Saturday Night Live


Bush certainly had his policy problems and had some odd duck ways. But Bush suffered from the UNRAVELING mentality of the electorate. Ross Perot represented an attempt to solve problems the parties could not solve. But, typical of UNRAVELINGS, no single force is able to claim legitimacy and reinvent acceptable, respectable public institutions since division is built into the equation. The Gulf War proved not to be the ticket Bush needed to get reelected. But if that war was not sufficient to overcome an UNRAVELING mindset, what could? Maybe an attack on the homeland could change the nation’s UNRAVELING mood?

911, You Are No Pearl Harbor!

Attack on World Trade Centers in 2001

Once again the pattern proved to be the same. The story of the attack on the World Trade centers and the following Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, are of such recent history that going over the details isn’t really necessary. What might have happened and didn’t, was that our country could have fully mobilized and started a military campaign to destroy any and all of our perceived enemies. The conflict that started in Afghanistan, and then proceeded to Iraq, could have moved into Pakistan, Iran, and Syria. The cause of removing terrorists and eliminating potential and actual weapons of mass destruction would have been the justification. This justification would have actually applied better to Pakistan, Syria, and Iran than it did to Iraq. If we had been victorious, we could have reinvented the Sheikdoms of the Emirates and Saudi Arabia by eliminating the fanatical, fundamentalist Wahhabism of these countries and replacing their autocratic governments with democratic institutions. Multiple goals and or targets were available to us after 911 and as justifiable as those targets we chose. But it didn’t happen.

Magic Kingdom Disney World, Orlando Florida

Would you Rather Fight or Shop

George W. Bush has famously been attributed shortly after the attacks of 911 with telling the nation to go shopping. He may not have exactly said those words, but what he did say seems consistent with that theme.

You be the judge.

George Bush,

“It’s to tell the traveling public: Get on board. Do your business around the country. Fly and enjoy America’s great destination spots. Get down to Disney World in Florida. Take your families and enjoy life, the way we want it to be enjoyed.”

And

“I’ve been told that some fear to leave; some don’t want to go shopping for their families; some don’t want to go about their ordinary daily routines because, by wearing cover, they’re afraid they’ll be intimidated,”

And

“This great nation will never be intimidated. People are going about their daily lives, working and shopping and playing, worshiping at churches and synagogues and mosques, going to movies and to baseball games, ”

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

President Bush’s words could be fairly interpreted both ways. He wasn’t equating 911 with the importance of shopping, but neither was he calling for a full mobilization in Churchillian terms. FDR said “All we have to fear is fear itself.” George Bush said to go about your normal lives. It is hard to imagine FDR talking about movies, baseball games, or Disney World. Not because they didn’t go to a baseball game during the war. But rather that he either wouldn’t have mentioned them in his public speeches – because he had more important things to say – or if he did, the public and media would have perceived them differently. In an UNRAVELING, you would interpret those comments as frivolous precisely because you are in an era that doesn’t call for blood, sweat, and tears.

A Carefree, Happy Shopper

If the President, the public, and the press had felt that the country were in a real CRISIS of existential dimensions, they would not have been critical. They would have understood the underlying theme to go about your normal lives, keeping a stiff upper lift, and not panicking. It would not have occurred to them, as they remembered the burning hulk of the USS Arizona at Pearl Harbor, that their President was comparing the normalcy of going to a baseball game with the challenges of world war.

Destruction on Battleship Row at Pearl Harbor

Lipstick on a Pig: She Can’t Help What She Is!

Bush’s problem wasn’t one he could overcome because of the mood of the country during an UNRAVELING. You can’t have it both ways, encouraging normalcy while talking sacrifice. If people don’t respect the institutions of their political system, in this case the Presidency, his call seems contradictory to the times. Nor did he have the political institutions to actually bulldoze over the wishes of the people if he had wanted the nation to fully mobilize. If President Bush had asked for the draft to be reinstated for troops to fight in Iraq, would he have succeeded? I am convinced he would not have, because as the narrative of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq developed, it became obvious that the nation was not at risk.

Terrorists didn’t pop up around every corner of the country. The rational for Iraq, weapons of mass destruction, was dubious then and isn’t accepted by most Americans today.

Afghanistan was justifiable in most people’s opinions, but the nation building portion of the effort, could just as easily been avoided by claiming victory when the Taliban was removed and moving on. If the country had asked its drafted sons and daughters to go and die in these countries, instead of going to college, the verdict would have been swift and certain. The war was accepted because we believed our leaders at least enough to send the volunteer sons and daughters of someone else to war. Because after all, it was their job, and they hired on to do it.


Spring Break Frivolity During an Unraveling

Contrast this view with the actions of our HERO GI Generation standing in line to volunteer after Pearl Harbor. But again it is not because of the inherent bravery, patriotism, competence or character, of any of the generations that generates this sharp distinction. Rather it is the season that determines how that bravery, patriotism, competence, or character is judged, rewarded, or honored. Our gratitude for those who bear the scars of war for the nation should not rest on the justness of the war, or their individual or our collective success in those wars. It should rest on honorable service, nothing more, and nothing less. Unfortunately, the seasons often cloud our ability to see clearly and act justly.

A Sober and Serious Minded Group of Pearl Harbor Volunteers

What Does a Real CRISIS Look Like?

In the final years of our UNRAVELING, even with a provocation as clear and motivating as 911, we still didn’t react like the GI Generation did in the Depression and in WWII. So what would it take for the nation to step from a period of UNRAVELING into a period of CRISIS?

How About an Ongoing Financial Black Hole?

War in the middle east?

Benjamin Netanyahu Speaks at the U.N. About Iran’s Nuclear Aspirations

How About Civil Insurrection?

Occupy Wall Street Protest in New York City

The answer according to the authors of the Fourth Turning was the economic collapse of 2008. This incident has set in motion our CRISIS, or at the very least, marks the clear start. While it is clear the economy will play a central role in this period, no one really knows what will occur in the twists and turns of our lives, the life of our nation, and the world.

What we do know is that our attitudes are changing. We are coming to the recognition, admittedly at different speeds and from different directions, that something is very wrong, and something must be done. More importantly, it is becoming clear that the very survival of our country is at stake. This change in attitude is what defines a CRISIS.

What threatens us, and how we react, will be determined in the decade before us. We can’t avoid it. But we can prepare for it. It is our task to determine how these forces of attitudinal change will be channeled. Will it be a worthy cause that reinvigorates the nation or a cause that saps us of our strength? Autumn has passed and the limbs are bare. Spring will come. But we really can’t accept that reality, sitting in the middle of this cold, cold, winter.

Winter of our Discontent

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