The End of the Boom(ers)

My generation is the biggest, badest and most narcissistic generation in American history. I am a baby boomer. Those of us born between 1945 and 1960 have set the standard since we were born. When we were kids, America was all about kids. When we were young adults, it was all about youthful rebellion. We when had enough of that, all anyone heard about were our careers, houses and mutual funds. Now that our long moment in the sun is almost over, our final “gift” to our county will be to bust the Social Security system when all of us start pulling it down (sorry - withdrawing our contributions).

Man - have we hung on. Turn on any radio, and you can still hear the music from our misspent youth. Go to the rock concert and you can still see the geriatrically gyrating bodies and hear our songs of youthful rebellion from grandpa. All the music is more than thirty years old (for perspective - how many young people in the 1960s rocked to the tunes or Rudy Vallee or did the Charleston). We used to say that you couldn't trust anyone over thirty. Now anyone under forty is suspect.

We obliterated the generation of the 1930s. We call them the silent generation for good reason. The presidency jumped right past them. We went from the GI - Generation GHW Bush to boomer Clinton without ever stopping to let the silent generation board the train. We disparage the generations that followed us calling them brand X or just slacker. Many boomers don't remember what it was like to be young - no really they can't remember. The generation coming of age now has the numbers and the confidence to displace us.

Our consciousness was forged in the 1960s. We have been fighting culture wars ever since and so has the whole country. The fault lines in today's politics opened then. (One reason many in my generation want to say Iraq is like Vietnam is because they want to relive their youth - sing again the songs of peace, maybe even bring down a president. They know it is their last hurrah, the Indian summer of the boomers.) My generation was responsible for the hippie revolution, but we redeemed ourselves a decade later by spearheading the Reagan revolution, so we have a mixed legacy.

We were the first mass educated generation. Back home from college, we lorded our erudition over our parents and created a generation gap by rejecting many of their prosaic values. Only now are we beginning to understand that they may not have been as dumb as we thought.

The relaxation of mores relating to sexuality, marriage, work and social control benefited the well off and well educated people who reveled in the new freedom, but it fairly well and good destroyed the families of the less well off and uneducated. That is how we lost the war on poverty despite the large outlays of money.

The greater diversity of lifestyles permitted freedom and innovation not dreamed about in 1963, but a general coarsening of society accompanied it. Again a mixed record.

We are not dead yet. In fact boomers are now at the peak of their powers, but everything declines from its peak. We may not go quietly into that good night (boomers think Bob Dylan said that), but we're going just the same. It is too bad that we get so fast old and so slow smart.

Maybe our kids will build on what we accomplished and clean up some of the messes. We hear a lot about their problems, but the kids are all right. When this so-called millennial generation now in college and pushes us into our rocking chairs, we can complain, but nobody will listen.

They should remember "History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce." Old Karl wasn't much good at anything practical, but he sure could turn a phrase.

Posted by Jack at August 29, 2005 1:01 PM