We live in an age of journalistic exaggeration. Most of this hyperbole I let slide with a slight eye roll or sigh, but somethings really get my dander up. One recent over amplification that has been causing me to spew my morning coffee over the op-ed page are the spate of columnists referring to current European school children as a “Lost Generation” because of COVID-19 lockdowns and subsequent distance learning.
This peeves me because it insults the memory of the real Lost Generation – the generation born at the end of 19th century like my grandfather who was born in 1891. This generation lived through World War I, the world’s first mechanized conflict that claimed about 40 million lives.
After the war they had a brief respite in the roaring 1920s. Some, like my grandfather, tried to forget the horrors they had seen in Europe and get on with their lives. Others like Ernest Hemmingway, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald engaged in heavy drinking and serious writing in Paris.
In the 1930s they all got plunged into the Great Depression – many, like my other grandfather, lost their homes and farms and end up living in shanty towns. In the United States these were called Hoovervilles after President Herbert Hoover. Eventually, the economy got better, but then it was time for their sons fight in World War II which claimed another 75 million lives.
To sum it up, In 1945 when World War II ended my grandfather was only 54 but he had already lived through two world wars and the Great Depression, not to mention the Spanish Flu and 12 years of Prohibition. This was a generation that truly knew pain, suffering, and lost opportunity. Don’t besmirch their legacy by using the same moniker to refer to school children whose great sacrifice has been attending classes via Zoom for a year. Our ancestors deserve more honor and respect.