06/29/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

An American Heartbreak

Tom Brokaw famously called my generation the greatest. I'll accept the title for those of us still around, but only for the years preceding 1945. I'm not so sure we weren't too content with ourselves post-World War II. We began to believe our press as it were -- something to the effect that we were God's gift to the planet, other nations and all its peoples. The gratitude for the civil rights and liberties so hard won gave way and and "More!" became our need and, over time, our obsession.

I don't mean to do a treatise here. I'd just put down the morning papers and can't stop thinking about what's going on with our car companies, and it just about breaks the heart of this member of Brokaw's Greatest Generation. I would have no way of overstating how deep and profound was our love for the American motor car and what a significant part it played in the now tossed around phrase, "The American Dream," then an all but holy right of passage. American families were told in hushed tones by banks and mortgage and insurance companies, that this was "The second most important check you will ever write," the first being for a home, of course. And that is what American families felt as they waxed and polished and hosed down their vehicles on the weekends of their long romance with the American Motor Car.

I spoke of this to President George H.W. Bush in 1989 when I was asked if I had anything to suggest to him as he assumed the presidency. When I say today's news just about breaks the heart of this member of my generation, this video might help the understanding of that: