Bashing the baby boomers
November 6, 2005
Ever since Clinton and Gore won the White House in 1992, the baby boomer generation has been in the driver’s seat, with our current president sitting ignominiously behind the wheel. Now the reports are coming in on how we’re driving, and they’re not exactly glowing.”You people make me sick,” Andrew Bisharat of Carbondale raged in a recent letter to the editor. “You are the most self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing generation that has ever lived. Almost everything bad in the world right now can be attributed to you.”As a baby boomer, I think he’s partly right. We are self-indulgent. We are self-aggrandizing. We do live for pleasure and exalt in our own status, wealth and power. The good we’ve done seems overshadowed by a series of lackluster social crusades … the road to Hell, so to speak.At the grocery store a few weeks ago I ran into a baby boomer peer who inquired about my 12-year-old son. This brought up iPods, cell phones, instant messaging and a predictable amount of sage head-shaking. “There’s no end to what they want,” he said ruefully. “It’s just more, more, more.””Yeah, and I wonder who they got that from?” I retorted. We both nodded to our complicity, knowing full well where they got it. It should come as no surprise that the Me Generation is laying the groundwork for more, more, more of the same, giving Bisharat’s complaints firm ground.Another baby boomer, Peggy Noonan, wrote a stunning confession recently that, coming from a former Reagan speechwriter, sends a frightening tremor. Noonan intuits what many Americans do; that the trolley of governance is coming off the tracks.”The presidency is overwhelmed,” Noonan concludes in a brusque appraisal. “The whole government is. And people sense when an institution is overwhelmed. Citizens know.”Noonan observes that Baby Boomers today are treating their kids and themselves to sumptuous lifestyles as a means of providing “good memories” before facing the inevitability of what she calls “tough history.” The elites, she opines, are “getting theirs” before the inevitable decline and collapse.Noonan’s prediction is apocalyptic and frightening because she acknowledges what most of us deny – the finite limits to America’s global hegemony and our easy access to the undervalued natural resources. What Bush senior once called America’s “non-negotiable” lifestyle is likely to be our undoing.According to a recent survey by Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, 66 percent of Americans believe the United States faces a leadership crisis; 73 percent lack confidence in their leaders. “That’s a wake-up call,” an assistant professor at the Kennedy School said. So is Bisharat’s rant: “The incredible debt my generation has been burdened with is from your overspending. Your endless war-mongering is from your old, hippie ‘save the world’ self-important dogma. You pretend to be Democrats, but secretly vote Republican so you don’t have to pay taxes on the incredible amount of income you’ve accrued doing nothing …”… Stop ruining our futures, you monsters. We want progress that isn’t self-serving. We still have dreams and ideals. All you do is complain and whine about your pills; no other generation had pills. Die with some dignity.”Bisharat casts full blame on the baby boomers, but history does not culminate with a single generation. The indictment must spread to the continuum of a past that stretches far beyond the boomers into the murky sediments of time.Maybe it’s the job of every generation to cast aspersions on the generation that directly precedes it, just as we baby boomers did during the Vietnam era. Now it’s our turn to be reviled for the blatant hypocrisies we so blithely gloss over.The Me Generation is feeling the same burning scorn that we leveled sanctimoniously on our parents, a rant that demands for us to acknowledge that what we do today bears on the future. This is perhaps the most forgotten lesson in history, and it prompts Bisharat’s unsympathetic, brutal finale:”When you die, we’re going to pull a blanket over your heads and walk out of the room.”Paul Andersen hopes there are enough blankets to go around. His column appears on Mondays.
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