In case you weren’t aware, I’m a baby boomer. This is by no means an elite club. It simply means I’m one of the more than 74 million people who were born between 1946 and 1964. That’s a hell of a lot of people born over a relatively long span of time. The oldest of us is now 74; the youngest, 56. I’m not sure the oldest and youngest boomers have all that much in common.
Except for one thing: We’re to blame for everything that’s wrong with our country and our planet, at least according to what I’m reading on social media from the millennials.
The millennials span the birth years 1981 to 1996, putting them in the 24- to 39-year-old age bracket. There are close to 80 million of them. And they are mad as hell at us boomers.
The boomers begat Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980), followed by the millennials (aka Gen Y), and now being succeeded by Gen Z, those born from 1997 onward.
According to the millennials, we boomers ate all the candy and left them with nothing but the plastic wrappers. Check out this definition of boomers from the Urban Dictionary: “The most self-righteous, self-important, incredibly arrogant generation of all time. The progeny of the Greatest and Silent Generations, who grew up with the hardship of the Great Depression and won World War 2, the baby boomers had everything handed to them on a silver platter from day 1.”
Ouch. It gets worse. “Growing increasingly irrelevant, the baby boomer is trying to insist that his generation was God’s gift to the world when in reality it was a selfish, petty, hedonistic generation that turned its back on everything it once stood for.”
Obviously I cannot defend the actions of every single boomer, but I can say a positive word or two about the folks I grew up with and remain close to. We missed the line where the silver platters were being handed out, and we have not turned our backs on everything we once stood for. Boomers didn’t invent the concept of mass protest, but we certainly brought it back into the mainstream of American culture. We marched to end a pointless war in Southeast Asia, in favor of civil rights, women’s rights, gay rights. We threw our support behind the Equal Rights Amendment (still not passed). We protested the building of nuclear power plants because they would create toxic waste that would last for hundreds of thousands of years.
We rejected the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that seemed to mark our parents’ generation and tried to keep our materialistic impulses in check. We shopped at thrift stores. We started Earth Day. We recycled. We still do.
For the record, no one ever asked me if I wanted everything I purchased — food, clothing, vehicles, housing — to be made from plastic. (No, and still don’t.) No one inquired whether I thought it was more important to benefit big business at the expense of workers and our environment. (Isn’t and never will be.)
Many of us made career choices that were based on how we could make the most positive lasting impact, not on how much we could earn and whether we’d get six-figure Christmas bonuses. We became schoolteachers, social workers, artists, community activists, tradespeople and journalists. Yeah, we were chasing the big bucks.
I don’t mean to sound heartless. I’m sure the Great Recession of 2008 left many millennials in the lurch, both in terms of their own prospects and their parents’ dwindling ability to help. The challenges to our nation, our planet, are greater than ever. Climate change is shaking the foundations of our very existence. Extremist views are tearing at the fabric of our country — the fabric we boomers helped to weave, which we thought would be a coat of many colors.
What gives me hope? People like climate activist and Nobel Peace Prize nominee 17-year-old Greta Thunberg of Sweden. Students and alumni of Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., who just WON’T SHUT UP about gun control in the wake of a mass shooting there in 2018. I am rooting for them and the millions like them who are trying to bring hope to an era lacking in hope.
My marching days are pretty much over. I won’t be attending the Women’s March on Jan. 18 because I no longer have the stamina to take a 20-hour, round-trip bus ride and walk for hours at a stretch. Some of my more robust generational cohorts will be there (the last march featured a lot of women in their 60s and 70s sporting pink pussy hats). I will, however, be donating to groups that are lining up the buses and helping to pay for port-a-potties along the route so that those who are able to go can, well, go.
Please, don’t blame us for everything. We boomers managed to do a lot. Unfortunately, we vastly overestimated the positive impact our generation would have on the future. We thought our progressivism was for keeps. Now it’s up to you millennials and Gen Zers. But a lot of boomers have your backs.