One of the trends that distinguishes Baby Boomers, especially the later born Boomers, from other cohorts is the unique role senseless violence, in general, and terrorism, in particular, played in the development of our psyches. People born in the late 50s and early 60s grew up with an intimate, personal relationship with violence that was blessedly unavailable to former generations. National televised news expanded to 30 minutes from 15 minutes when we were very young. It then brought a host of real crime and horror, in living color, directly into our homes and our still forming worldviews. These experiences have colored the lenses through which we interpret the world. But they have not made us callus or accepting of such violence. Instead it readies us to respond with a just determination that indeed the whole of the United States of America, and perhaps most of the free world, now shares.
Most Americans when asked about terrorism before the September 11, 2001 bombings, would have mentioned Pan Am Flight 103, Atlanta’s Olympic Park bombing, the Uni-Bomber and of course the Federal building in Oklahoma City. But these are only the recent wounds… We cannot forget the specific events etched on our impressionable minds: 1972 Munich Olympic games terrorist attack and abduction lead to the death of 11 Israeli athletes before our eyes, Carlos the Jackal, Entebbe, Black September and Abu Nidal ring clearly in our minds.
The oldest of the later born Boomers came of age – in US culture that meant getting a driver’s license – during gasoline rationing and the oil crisis. Middle Eastern conflict didn’t seem remote to us when it impacted our contemporary rites of passage. Skyjacking entered our minds as a possibility before we ever flew. Our cohort went on our first dates with knowledge of the likes of the Zodiac Killer, we saw war on the TV every night as we grew up. Those of us fortunate enough to grow up in circumstances that allowed European backpacking trips left our country to visit countries where terrorist acts were common. Is it any wonder our generation was noted to have remarkably high rates of depressive disorders by the late 1970s?
At Late-Boomers.com we hope all the generalized angst we have sheltered inside ourselves, for most of our lives, can emerge from the vague shadows, dust, and debris of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States of America and take concrete form against which we can fight.
We’ve lived with such vague enemies throughout our lives. While some of our country has had some difficulty with the concept of not have a geographic enemy to fight, we Boomers have never seen a concrete sustained enemy. Not that we haven’t paid attention to and even lost members of our cohort in specific battles fought around the globe during our lifetimes. But there has been no coherent enemy for most of our lives, the enemies change with frequency, only a generalized dread of nuclear war, communism or capitalism (take your pick), environmental degradation, and political corruption have remained constant. Even the death of JFK remains clouded in suspicion that the Warren Commission covered up something, but what? While most of us do not delve into the world of paranoid conspiracy theories, there is a part of most of us that processes far beyond our control rules our lives. In fact we may be the first generation for quite some time to understand that we cannot control the world. Processes of life and earth far beyond our scale of understanding are at work, it doesn’t require conspiracy or dalliance with schizophrenic ideology to accept that we have tried to control a system of which we are a mere part.
This vague understanding has probably readied us to respond to an amorphous enemy. I believe we will rise to the challenge and will in fact emerge strengthened and revitalized when we realize that our generational perception that the world was harboring unseen enemies of an unknown form was real. We no longer have to try to blame the CIA or the KGB. It was both and none, in fact human culture was simply growing new cancers, in response to the unchecked, not extremely well thought out, interaction of all the mixed signals that was the political context of our childhood and youth — the same context that allows former CIA operatives to attack the financial heart and hiding in the country during which the KGB spent much of its resources during its war with Afghanistan and sees those enemies banding together against it — hopefully we now understand that just like cancer cells that could ultimately destroy the entire world will be formed when there are errors in replication, when deceit clogs informational channels.
The world that created the terrorist cells that changed our world forever this past Tuesday is the same world in which we grew up. Many of us have wondered many times along the way to the present what the 21st Century would be like. Wondered what the world would be as we became its leaders. We now know. It is a world where the machinations of the KGB and CIA of our youth have come back to bite us. Where we will see the two former opponents and their intelligence communities working together sharing information, and the people of most of the world will support that union. This may be very good if honesty and integrity can be restored to the governments of the world.
Perhaps this will finally allow the people of the world to see that with the increased pace of information flow and the much faster rate at which the entire world system interacts that we cannot live with the delusion that the world is a predictable place and that any one group can beat the system and manipulate outcomes. Impacts and effects of political, financial, social tinkering once took generations to play out. We can no longer pretend we are outside the equation. We are a variable in the equation. We now see those responses and consequences within a lifetime. The nature of the world is not changing but response time that allows us to view cause and effect has sped up dramatically.
The opportunity to act and react without attempts to control or expectations that we will know the consequences is here. Of course we will react to remove the cancer that attacks us. We also now know enough to know that we cannot predict whether the excision will allow us continued life. Certainly life for us all will change.
SOME SELECTED REFERENCES RELATED TO TERRORISM AND HISTORY
NOTE: Many of these sites, in fact most sites with the word terrorism associated with them, will log your IP address and such when you visit. If you have privacy concerns about this procedure, then don’t go to these.
For information on basic systems concepts, click here to go to an article I wrote on the subject.
Probably the best place to start a net search on terrorism: http://www.terrorism.com/index.shtml
An extensive site with excellent information on various types of potential emergency, crisis, and terrorist situations, current situational analyses, and accounts of recent events. http://www.emergency.com/cntrterr.ht
Interested in what the US government has funded per counter terrorist programs and initiatives in the last few years? Check out this site for an accounting. http://www.cns.miis.edu/research/cbw/terfund.htm
Abstracted information of the nightly news broadcast stories starting in the late 60s. Looking for a date for a particular hijacking or incident. Check here. Great for understanding the context of an event through other news stories of the day. http://tvnews.vanderbilt.edu/search.html
Federation of American Scientists site containing papers on government intelligence. No oxymoron jokes, please. One paper that really caught my attention was the analysis of the terrorist attack on the Munich Olympics. http://www.fas.org/irp/eprint/index.html