I've been admiring the plans for the World War II Memorial soon to be constructed on the Mall in Washington, D.C. It's a fit monument to the generation of Americans who endured a global depression that was only partly of their own making, fought to free mankind from totalitarian oppression by fascists and communists (when they'd gotten over being allies with the latter), and rebuilt the postwar world, even if they did rebuild it with seven-and-a-half-foot ceilings and cheap hollow doors. They have been called the "Greatest Generation," and they are, if you're not stuck behind them in the ten-items-or-less lane at the grocery store while they debate with the checkout clerk about the expiration date on a discount coupon for oleomargarine. And from what I can tell by the architectural renderings, the World War II Memorial will only somewhat ruin the Mall.
I am reminded of when, in the 1960s, my own generation did a much more thoroughgoing job of Mallruining during various attempts to end war, expand cosmic consciousness, crush capitalist-pig imperialism, meet girls, and score pot. I can't help wondering when we will get our own monument. Technically, I suppose, the Vietnam Memorial counts. Vietnam veterans were for the most part born in the same years as my friends and I. But those were the kids who when somebody yelled "Get a haircut!" got a haircut—or, anyway, the Army gave them one free. What about my part of my generation? What about the Veterans of Domestic Disorders? I know Vietnam was a tough and terrifying experience. But you should have seen the fights around the dinner table at my house. Dad went ballistic when he discovered that I'd joined a commune that was living in the basement rec room. And when the cops broke out the tear gas at the anti-war demon-strations, my friends and I had to tap reserves of strength and will that we didn't know we possessed, to run away as fast as we did.