The Non-Generation Gap
DURING THE MONTH Of May, following upon the invasion of Cambodia and the killings at Kent State, it appeared that the United States might be faced with a sudden revolt approaching the magnitude of that in France two years earlier. Not surprisingly, there was a corresponding increase in the volume of talk about the young and about the famous gap which presumably separates them from their elders in the universities, in the government, and in the country as a whole. Yet from the willingness of faculties to cancel examinations and to allow students to gain course credit while engaging in political activity, it should have become apparent to everyone to whom it had not already been apparent that on the American campus, at least, no great gap exists between the generations. But what of the society at large? There too, in our opinion, the idea of a generation gap is misleading, for the basic divisions in American society show up less clearly in any examination of the differences between the young and their elders than they do when one examines the differences within the younger generation itself. Thus, for example, in 1968 there were hundreds of thousands of young people who rejected both Nixon and Humphrey because they were too “conservative”; and there were hundreds of thousands of young people who rejected both Humphrey and Nixon because they were too “liberal.” Another kind of example has been noted in the two top money-making films of 1968, The Graduate and The Green Berets, films which posed sharply antagonistic values and attracted different multitudes of young people.
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