I feel very bad for Generation Z because everywhere they turn, they face another existential threat. I was born in 1949 and I had to deal with the threat of nuclear war but that was averted by President Kennedy and then everybody knew that the Mutually Assured Destruction or MAD strategy would keep us from getting vaporized. That was the strategy of making our enemies aware that if they started a nuclear war, we should respond in kind, and we would all be destroyed.
And when we went to school, we felt safe and the worst that might happen is a bully would take your peanut butter and jelly sandwich. As far as drugs, you knew better than to mess with the dangers of marijuana, because you didn’t want to fall into the bottomless pit that was reefer madness. Nobody worried or thought much about heroin or cocaine because we all knew that those were the bad drugs from the cities, not in our manicured, landscaped white suburbs. So, instead, on the weekends or after school, we drove cars to liquor stores in upstate New York to buy Boones Farm Apple Wine and we got wasted while driving around town. But that was OK because it was just booze and drinking was a macho thing to do and besides nobody really became alcoholic. Sexual abuse was something that happened somewhere else by some weirdo in a black trench coat and a few girls got pregnant but that was because they were careless and loose.
The reality was that nuclear weapons proliferated and we teetered on the brink of nuclear conflagration; the Vietnam War was just one in a continuing line of proxy wars; polluters kept polluting but they got smarter and covered their tracks and made campaign contributions to candidates who promised to back off enforcement. And the weather was not just part of the normal weather landscape but rather it was the earlier round of a tsunami of climate change and while the bullies didn’t threaten me, there was plenty of domestic violence to go around where violence against children was kept out of view. Drugs were ubiquitous, from the pills known in suburbia as “mothers little helpers” to the stimulants that baseball players swallowed like candy, known as “greenies.” Homosexuality was as prevalent then as now, only then the young gay men and women had to stay locked away, with their only salvation too often being suicide.