For many of us who were born and/or spent the earliest years of our childhood in the U.S. during World War II, we grew up with a narrative about our country that was distinct and dramatic. The might of our ideals of freedom and democracy, of “liberty and justice for all,” of our political system, our economy and our citizen-military power — made America the “leader of the free world.”
We defeated Hitler and liberated the concentration camps. We made peace with our enemies and supported them in rebuilding their shattered nations into thriving democracies. We supported the founding of the United Nations, and the institutions of an international world order with the aim of insuring a stable, peaceful, prosperous world.
We were the destination for immigrants from around the world seeking a better life.
“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…”
Yet now as elders in our 70s and 80s, we war babies over the course of our lives have experienced an American story much more complex than the one we were born into.
On the one hand it’s a story that includes America’s shadow. The legacy of slavery and bigotry. The rights and opportunities denied to so many. The different stories we’ve each lived depending on our race, gender, sexual orientation, and where we lived. And the rising inequality, alienation, and fragmentation of our society which finally exploded into domestic terrorism, instigated by an American president, at our capitol in January 2021.
On the other hand it’s also a story that includes the opportunity for a better life that America has offered to so many. And the ideals to which America has always aspired, however imperfectly. That we’re all “endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” That we are a nation of “liberty and justice for all.” And we’ve witnessed chapters of this story such as the civil rights movement, and feminism, where America has made real progress toward these ideals.
The aim of War Babies is to collect these diverse American stories from the lives of elders of our generation. And from these stories, to piece together a collage of our chapter in the journey of America’s soul. And perhaps the beginnings of a vision of what possibilities might lie ahead.