It is common to find different eras set apart and glamorized when looking back at the history of the U.S. Individuals who lived in certain time periods are praised for their character and work ethic, while other generations are the subject of ridicule. Furthermore, the present times are often berated with negative opinions and criticized ruthlessly. Many people claim a past generation or their own as the greatest in American history. This raises the question, is there truly a greatest generation? While each generation has its own strengths, they also have weaknesses which are just as apparent. All things considered, there is no greatest generation.
Many claim the U.S. has declined morally since its founding. The Founding Fathers of this nation are often set up as pillars of virtue and integrity, but it does not take much searching to learn the truth is often contrary to these beliefs. Author Stephen E. Ambrose for Smithsonian Magazine writes on the controversial lives of the prominent figures of the early U.S. He calls out the hypocrisy of men who claimed all men are created equal while owning other humans as slaves. The wide acceptance of slavery is only one example of the many taboo behaviors considered just during this generation. The Founding Fathers and citizens of the early U.S. contributed great things to the nation, but they also made grave mistakes which cannot go without mention.
Oftentimes, the generations considered the greatest are those who have conquered significant adversity. The people who lived through misfortunate times have an unmatched level of strength and perseverance, but these positive traits do not erase their negative attributes. Ann Brenoff explains some of the less favorable parts of 1950s life, including sexual orientation related discriminatory policies, lack of women's rights and extreme racial hate in her article for the Huffington Post. This period is often glamorized and considered a peaceful time amidst other decades filled with war and turmoil, but in actuality, it was filled with discrimination, sexism and racism which was endorsed during this time. A society cannot improve by fixating on the positive aspects of a generation alone. This generation is rightfully praised for its characteristics, but it is also tainted by the ways it failed.
The present generation has its flaws and bright minds like those of the past; only now previous generations refuse to acknowledge the good of the present, favoring to highlight only the shortcoming. The present day has apparent issues, but this does not make it worse than those existing previously. In her article for the Wall Street Journal, Alison Gopnik explains how the idealization of one's generation leads to a distaste for those who do not fit into this category. It is easy to criticize present day issues and ignore those of the past. However, this does not erase the mistakes that led up to the problems of the present. Today's generation has trials like any other time period, but this does not invalidate its positive contributions.
Different generations are often pitted against one another in a battle with no victor. Even the generations who are said to be the greatest have their own significant flaws. Oftentimes we find the strengths of the present time are found in the places where past generations were the weakest. Today's generation has a multitude of issues, but it has made leaps and bounds in the fight against the discriminatory ideals plaguing the past. Negative attributes do not invalidate positive achievements, but these should not be used to paint over the ugly side of history. Ultimately, all generations have both failures and victories worth celebrating. No generation is the best. Each is distinctly flawed, yet equally great.