Dana Milbank’s recent op-ed in the Washington Post titled The Weakest Generation? is a telling, though myopic, view of Generation X. As a good nationalist and proponent of state action, Milbank thinks that sacrifice to a state led cause—war or social justice through unconstitutional expansion of central power—defines the mettle of a people. “When we were prepared to sacrifice for the country after the 9/11 attacks,” he writes, “President George W. Bush told us to go shopping….The effects on our politics has been profound. Without any concept of actual combat or crisis, a new crop of leaders — Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, Sarah Palin — treats governing as a fight to the death, with no possibility of a negotiated peace. Without a transcendent social struggle calling us to seek justice as Americans, they substitute factional causes — Repeal Obamacare! Taxed Enough Already! — or manufactured crises over debt limits and government shutdowns.” It appears that Milbank firmly believes that those who wish to avoid bankruptcy and press liberty (neocons like Ryan excluded) are somehow un-American. Only “combat and crisis” can forge good, honest calls for an expansion of government power. He is right about that. Nationalists on both the Left and Right never miss a chance to expand central authority.
I cannot argue that Generation X is generally “soft.” Decadent would be a better term. But perhaps it is because we followed the most destructive generation in American history that our values became warped. These are broad strokes, but Generation X learned to be selfish, dishonest, immoral, deceitful, and dependent at the knees of their like-minded parents. George Quincy Bush is a Baby Boomer. There are some of us in Gen. X who have sought refuge in tradition and have attempted to distance ourselves from the socio-economic suicide of America. We have decided, correctly, that the founding generation would disagree with Milbank’s assessment that excessive taxation, unconstitutional authority, social and moral decay, and government monopolies are “manufactured crises.” These are the “justice” issues of our time. The thousands of enthusiastic young people and Generation X folks who attend Ron Paul rallies, the Gen. X parents who have decided to homeschool, the grassroots army of “tenthers,” nullifiers, free-staters, and decentralists, have a chance to be one of the most important generations in American history, to draw a line in the sand and arrest the damage of the people Milbank esteems so highly. The crisis Milbank argues has skipped Generation X is the very thing he rallies around: central power. Some of us are meeting it head on. Maybe Milbank is too blind or too timid to do so.