Baby Boomers And The Fake Generational War

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Lately I’ve been seeing more articles in the news feed about how Boomers have been wrecking the world, victimizing their own descendants, and making their parents and grandparents look bad for having such rotten kids.  It sure looks like a fake generational war is going on and it’s everyone against the Baby Boomers.

What’s a Baby Boomer?

Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, give or take.  It was a big cohort, born when World War II ended and everyone tried to get back to the new normal.  That consisted of veterans getting married, buying a house in the suburbs, and filling their tract houses with kids, while holding down well-paying jobs so the Missus wouldn’t have to work.

As I was born in 1954, this would be my generation.  To paraphrase Tevye, being a Boomer is nothing to be ashamed of, but it’s no great honor either.

A note on history

In a former life I messed around with history some.  Got a master’s degree, wrote stuff, taught, things like that.  So I don’t think of generations in little chunks of time.

My parents came up in the Great Depression and had me after college and getting established.  So they were around for a long time, like the parents of my peers, and are just now passing on.  But their values and experiences were part of what shaped us.

Boomers had kids and grandkids, too, so they’re involved with younger generations on a personal level.  The young woman I trained to replace me at work was born after I started that job.

We have what previous generations gave us, and we pass down changes to our descendants.  We’re all in this together, in my view,

Baby Boomers and Environmentalism

Let’s talk about being green a minute.  Our early triumphs over bugs that ate crops and bit people came in the form of DDT.  It worked great but in the 1950s a lady named Rachel Carson researched up a book called Silent Spring.  It told of unforeseen side effects of using DDT:  it ruined bird eggshells and was killing off species of birds right and left.

Rachel Carson was no  Baby Boomer.  But she inspired others and some of them became ecologists who then taught college classes to Boomers.  The Boomers went on to demonstrate for Earth Day and call for the Clean Water Act and other legislation that would clean the environment up.

As time went on, acid rain became the problem du jour.  Earnest young people complained on TV that fish were dying so we started getting emission controls on cars to keep sulfur dioxide from loading up the rain clouds with acid.

And so on.  Now we have scientists wondering if we ought to put more pollution in the atmosphere to turn back some of the sun’s rays so we won’t get too hot on Earth.  How that will affect all the solar arrays put up to reduce pollution from fossil fuels hasn’t been explained.

But if Boomers were in charge of any of this, it’s only been in the past 10-20 years or so.  Mostly Boomers haven’t been the ones in power all this time.  We’ve just been the biggest target and easiest to hit.

Baby Boomers and Materialism

Guess what?  We didn’t invent materialism either.  If anything, we were the first generation to be raised with television.  And television wasn’t controlled by Boomers.  No, older hands shaped that to ensnare the general public, including kids.

Kids were actual targets of marketing for the first time.  Before TVs were in every home, businesses sold to adults.  But now, toys came in snack  boxes.  Saving box tops and sending off for decoder rings engaged us Boomers in business before we knew what hit us.  So while we were the first generation to grow up being sold to, we weren’t the last.  And we didn’t start that.  It took adults to do that.

Also please remember that Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and Valentine’s Day were not big occasions requiring expensive gifts.  The kids made greeting cards for parents, who bought the kids a sack of simple valentines to exchange at school.  Later generations decided Mom needed diamonds instead of candy on Valentine’s Day.

Let’s face it.  We were quite materialistic because we were raised that way.  When some of us turned into hippies in opposition to all that materialism, the rest of the world grew hostile.

Baby Boomers and Politics

We were the first kids to grow up doing the duck-and-cover drills in case of atomic attack.  Our school basements were supposed to be fallout shelters stocked for disaster.  Some of us were aware that hiding under a desk wasn’t going to cut it, but what else was there to do?

When you are most afraid of dying away from your family, it does things to your developing political awareness.   I doubt that our generation questioned and protested more than others.  Young people do that all the time, and good for them!  But since there were so many of us on TV, we seemed to be bigger, louder, and more real.

Don’t forget that on the other side of the argument were other Boomers.  They went to war out of duty to their country and got spat on for it.  Not all Boomers were demonstrators with long hair.  We are a big group with room for all sorts.

Having all that publicity, demonstrators began to think they had power.  To an extent, they did, from making noises that scared the older folks.  But the folks pulling the strings of power weren’t Boomers.  To this day, maybe two Presidents were technically Boomers.  One seemed to be responding mostly to elders in power, and the other to his own drum.  The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution wasn’t a Boomer mistake.

The Fake Generational War

Nowadays plenty of people know how to use the media to make their opinions known and play “Let’s you and him fight.”  If anything, the Fake Generational War is just a lot of media noise aimed at dividing this country even more than it is already, to keep or get power.

The minds behind such a thing want the public to fracture some more.  Maybe it’s to get tacit permission to gut Social Security.  Maybe it’s to scare people into investing every spare dime in the Market.   And quite possibly it’s just another split created to distract us from whatever else is going on.  Something we might not support.

I believe we’re better than that.  And that over the years, each generation has done its best with what it knew and what it had to work with.  Of course, each generation screwed up some things in the process for the next batch of bright kids to fix.  And so it goes.

Perhaps it’s best to approach the media with a bag of salt.  Boomers crept out from under desks and, in the shadow of the mushroom cloud, had kids anyway, and grandkids, and now great-grands.  We’re going to be the old farts soon, and most of us haven’t had a lot of power.  But at some point, the Millenials could go ahead and have kids too, despite the student loans we didn’t have and climate change we tried to fight. Boomers will be so happy when they do, and send gifts.  And the world might just go on.  Comments?



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