Victor Davis Hanson

What more can anyone say about the 1960s and all its legacies?

Those who protested some 40 years ago often still congratulate themselves that their loud zeal alone brought needed "change" to America in civil rights, the environment, women's liberation and world peace. Maybe. But critics counter that the larger culture that followed was the most self-absorbed in memory.

Everyone can at least agree that the spirit of the "Me Generation" is not going quietly into the night -- especially since that generation ushered in a certain coarseness and self-righteousness that still plagues our politics.

Take grandiose sermonizing about changing the world while offering few practical details how to do it.

Al Gore recently prophesized that America within 10 years could generate all its electrical needs from "renewable resources and carbon-constrained fuels" -- mainly wind, solar and geothermal power (which currently together account for less than 10 percent of our aggregate production).

In truth, that daydream has about as much chance of being realized by 2018 as Al Gore this year swearing off the use of polluting SUVs and gas-guzzling private jets as he whizzes to his next environmental pulpit.

Barack Obama, a child during the '60s, is imbued nonetheless with that decade's "hope and change" messianic sermonizing. Now he wants a new mammoth government-funded "civilian national security force," one "that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded" as the Pentagon.

Sounds utopian, but at a time of record aggregate national debt, are we really going to borrow another half-trillion dollars a year to fund a kinder, gentler version of the military?

Gore and Obama may mean well. And we may someday rely mostly on wind and solar electrical power, and even benefit by having more aid workers abroad. But they discredit their proposals with '60s-style exaggeration and feel-good fantasies that cannot be realized as promised.

Another permanent '60s legacy is the assumption that the ends justify crude means. The so-called netroots bloggers often celebrate online with glee the illnesses or deaths of supposedly reactionary political opponents.

The crass anti-war group Moveon.org was not just content to object to Gen. David Petraeus testifying before Congress last autumn. In the fashion of 1960s agitprop, it had to go the next step in demonizing at a time of war our top-ranking Iraq ground commander as a traitor -- a "General Betray Us" as the group's ad in The New York Times blared.


Victor Davis Hanson

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and a recipient of the 2007 National Humanities Medal.