One of my favorite lines in the Bible is “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off” (1 Kings 20:11). The king of Israel hurls this at the king of Syria in the midst of an escalating pre-battle war of nerves. Ahab is right, of course: A brag is empty if you haven’t won the battle yet. Let’s see what you can do on the field, not your tall talk. Let’s see what you are made of.
My generation did a lot of boasting when we were young and only putting on our armor. (In fact, many refused, in a literal way, to don war armor.) But the test of a generation is what they will amount to in the end. We disdained our parents’ materialism, our parents’ morals, our parents’ close-mindedness—and we were right in many ways. But what are the last word and final evaluation of those in-your-face-Woodstock, free-loving, dope-smoking, Vietnam-protesting boasters who took no advice and thought they had it figured out?
The answer came today in the form of a radio commercial for “Ring Away.” An older voice touted the miraculous benefits of a product that will take away the ringing in your ears from the rock concerts you went to back in the day. Another commercial (on a station evidently targeting my age group) is for “crash-proof retirement” strategies.
It is not a little embarrassing that this is what remains of the Beatles groupies who have sure enough come to own the song “When I’m 64.” We are all feeling a little sheepish now with the tinnitus, the STDs on the rise in nursing homes, and the formerly fearlessly hippies now lunging for monetary “crash” helmets while saddling the generation over their shoulders with trillions in debt.
Just a memo to the next generation and the one after that: “Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.” For my own generation is “taking it off” now, and much of the fight was ignominious.