It’s been a little teary-eyed around here lately. I’ve noticed that as a part of aging I find myself experiencing periods of sadness more frequently and I’m sure it’s attributable to witnessing the normalcy or familiarity of life fading away. I don’t know who the popular entertainers are, I couldn’t tell you the name of a professional baseball player, I don’t know what a “Karen” is, and I’ll never understand why anyone would give up beer in favor of flavored seltzer water.
Sunday I watched a PBS documentary about Jewish-Americans who fought in the American military during World War II. So many were first-generation immigrants whose families had escaped the horrors of Hitler’s Europe only to find themselves fighting to free the very places their families had fled from.
The vast majority of those who survived were just everyday people who went on to live ordinary lives. A few, however, became the entertainment stars who so influenced the culture of our lives. Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks were just two of them but imagine life without The Jerk, Blazing Saddles, Oh God, The Dick Van Dyke Show, or Young Frankenstein.
I’ve been following Carl Reiner, and his son Rob, on Twitter for a year or so and when I woke up on Monday to the news of his passing I found myself sobbing aloud. It wasn’t just the passing of a man who had fought Nazis, it was the passing of such a large and important piece of my life.
Another thing that contributed to the sobbing is realizing that as the Greatest Generation is rapidly passing it’s my generation who may be the ones who best remember what made them so great. They looked squarely into the face of evil at its worse and beat it into the mud. They defeated Nazism, fascism, Hitler, Tojo, and Mussolini along with the millions who supported them. Or, at least I thought they did.
In reality, they just pushed it all into the dark for a few decades. In today’s world, with the help of politicians like Donald Trump, we see license being given to extremism of all flavors. All the isms that drove us into a second world war are raising their ugly heads and finding new adherents. Adherents who Trump repeatedly declares to not all be bad people.
It makes me sob that so many Carl Reiners and Mel Brooks may have fought in vain.