The Generation Divide

This was another case of starting a post on social media and finding an article instead. There has been quite a bit of push and shove between the younger generations and the Baby Boomer crowd. For some reason lattes and avocado toast have become a symbol of economic illiteracy while multimillion dollar yachts are a symbol of success. We have told these young people they must off to school to get degrees that may or may not help them in the job market but will keep them in debt for a major part of their lives. We have told them they can live on what we made even though the cost of living has gone up 663.69% since 1970. They should have three jobs, no toast or lattes, and lord forgive them if they choose not to get married and have children.

Then, there is the view out the window on 2022. Our young people have inherited a world on fire in multiple ways including a collapsing environment, economy, and political system. We complain they aren’t doing enough when we’ve handed them a burning boat while we had the springboard of a post-war expanding economy. I think we both need to take a step back.

Let’s look at what the maligned Baby Boomer Generation (waves hand enthusiastically) did with their lives. We accomplished some major changes in the culture of our country and our world and sparked the flame for many others. Among the things attributed to my age group (DOB 1946-1964) are:
Seat belt requirements (well, they do improve safety)
The Internet (yeah, even that)
Personal Computers (building on the technological breakthroughs of our parents)
Peace Corp and the explosion of volunteerism
We stood up for LGBTQIA+ rights (Stonewall riots were in June of 1969)
We fought for gender equality
We protested war showing that you can be a patriot and still think your government is insane. (Kent State shootings occurred in 1970)
We kickstarted environmental activism.
Forensic science advances that, among other things, reduced the number of active serial killers in the US by 72%.
We ended the Cold War and brought down that bloody wall.
We reduced the stigma around divorce, and in 1974, women were finally able to establish their own credit. Both accomplishments were the beginning of setting women free to seek their own future.

We were the generation that, standing on the shoulders of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, got Roe v. Wade on the books. (January 22, 1973) Do NOT let these patriarchal sycophants take that away.
We increased life expectancy (although I would grant, we are failing in that arena now).
We pushed to have the age for voting reduced to 18 (we just thought that if folks were going to send us off to war, then we should vote for the people doing the sending).

We were arguably a driving force behind the resignation of a president, and it is a baby boomer that now sits on the Jan 6 Committee risking her career to co-chair an investigation into the deeds of her own party.

We marched for Civil Rights (Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964).

We put a man on the moon and unleashed a pandora’s box of technology that permeates nearly every aspect of today’s world.

In the 1980s MADD started on a kitchen table and changed the law to at least start to make impaired drivers accountable.

I didn’t burn any bras, but I spent many nights with friends returning from Viet Nam wounded in ways that would never heal. I managed a professional life in a state that is still living in the last century. I voted in every election until I had to dodge a stalker and started again as soon as I was able. I read and got informed on issues from social structures to economics to law, and I did my best to support what I believed to be right, and changed my mind when presented with logical evidence. I’ve provided shelter to those that needed it and given whatever I had in time and money. I am a representative of my generation, and we might not have always gotten it right – but at least we tried.

Of course, there were a lot of us (75 million or so) which is a substantial force in a booming, post war economy. The 70s and the 80s (when we were in our 20s and 30s) were headlong dashes into multiple changes in every aspect of American life. Some of those changes were amazing – some were not.

I think the point is that we were an activist generation. A substantial portion of our demographic fought with everything we had to make changes in society, business, and science.  Yes, some portion of our generation became the financial, business, and political moguls of today—people who are raping our planet and draining every bit of energy from those forced to work at less than a living wage. Some of us are not.

In today’s world, higher education is no longer affordable, our cost of living is unsupportable, our respect for fellow humans sometimes seems but one bright flower in a burned field of stubble. But you know what? That long life span we managed to acquire gives us an opportunity to keep pushing back, even against our crib-mates. We know what it means to topple the powerful, and we know what it takes to get people to listen—and then do. We are not all selfish, money-grubbing monsters. But we might be a bit tired. At least I thought so – and then I saw the vote in Kansas.

I’ve listened to young people of today. They are not lazy (I’m sure there are a few), they are not stupid (some of them are quite brilliant), and they are not easily fooled (when they are paying attention). They know the power of social networking and have proven they can use it for good. So, to those of you who continue the battle to attain those well-meaning ideals about all men being created equal and that each and every one of us are endowed by the very nature of being, the right to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—I say you might still learn something from the lives we lived.

You might think we’ve grown soft, but this never-ending battle can wear a person down. We’re still here with our experience and our knowledge and we love to tell stories, to share how we did it. We still can and still do fight for every inch of securing that promise for all the people of our nation. I’m only asking that you learn from us, from our successes and our failures, and build on what has value. We learned to speak to the powerful, and even took down a few—don’t let them take that tool from you. Just remember, we may be a little tired—but I don’t think it is in our DNA to give up.

Here’s hoping that some of us managed to raise dragon slayers.

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