Everything starts somewhere.
This series of posts starts from a thoughtful post by Sara Robinson over at Campaign for America’s Future that our colleague Russ Wellen alerted us to. This sparked some discussion among the writers for this blog and led to a passing comment by our esteemed Dr. Slammy that made me see red – and write an email that I never sent:
It’s a great piece and fundamentally right on so many points. The odd irony, of course, is that the upstart educated middle class rampaging through the streets in the ’60s turned out to be the most able cohort of would-be aristocrats in US history.
If there’s one meme that pervades A LOT of blogosphere chatter (both here at S&R and elsewhere), it’s one that goes something like this:
Boomers have fucked everything up and now we’re all going to hell in a hand basket and it’s the Boomer generation’s fault over under sideways down…
Okay, that last part is just a gratuitous Yardbirds reference.
Most of this yammering about how evil the Boomers are comes from Gen X – whose “cohort” dominates blogging – and who pride themselves on knowing everything about everything.
Let me speak on behalf of my generation for a moment….
You don’t know us.
Maybe you’ll have some idea about us by the time this series of posts is finished, but I doubt it. It’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock and roll, as the man said….
News flash: No generation knows another generation. We may love/hate them, live with them, interact with them on a daily basis, but we don’t know them.
Maybe if, like Billy Pilgrim, one could become unstuck in time….
So say hello to the Baby Boomers. I’ll be trying, in my own idiosyncratic way, to explain what makes us – us….
First, there’s that Port Huron Statement stuff that fired so much of “Boomer rampaging” in the ’60’s:
We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit. When we were kids the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world: the only one with the atom bomb, the least scarred by modern war, an initiator of the United Nations that we thought would distribute Western influence throughout the world. Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people — these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as men. Many of us began maturing in complacency. As we grew, however, our comfort was penetrated by events too troubling to dismiss…. (bold face mine)
Those “events too troubling to dismiss” were the repression of civil rights for our (then) largest minority, the looming rise of a war in Southeast Asia that would blossom under Lyndon Johnson into the pointless military/industrial complex economic hog trough for corporations we remember as Vietnam , and the rise of an imbecilic consumerist culture that at this point is threatening our environment, our educational systems, and our economic future – hell, it’s killing us.
The first two of these “troubling events” led to my generation engaging in student protests (the Boomer writers for this esteemed blog were part of that cohort), the takeover of universities, the burning of draft cards, bras, and American flags, yadda, yadda, yadda….
And you know what happened as a result of our shenanigans – which Sam alludes to in his snark above even as he then dismisses us as cavalierly if not as viciously as Hunter did?
Let me quote from that unsent email I alluded to earlier: Once we’d forced an end to overt American Imperialism in SE Asia, embraced trying to move the country toward civil rights for all no matter what their race, gender, or sexual orientation, and driven Satan’s minion Nixon from office, we were tired, over 30, and ready for our younger cohorts to take up the banner.
Of course there’s our poet/rock god/generational hero Bob Dylan, pictured above. He lovingly describes us this way:
You’ve been with the professors
And they’ve all liked your looks
With great lawyers you have
Discussed lepers and crooks
You’ve been through all of
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books
You’re very well read
It’s well known
Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?
Of course, we thought who Dylan was talking about was our parents. And if there’s one thing we would never become, it was our parents.
And then we did. Or did we?
That’s for part 2….