This edition of Inspection was only a draft until I was reminded of it a few days ago. A caller to a talk show: Thom Hartmann, brought up the topic, like another caller brought up the same topic on The Alex Bennett Show late 2011. According to both callers the baby boomers had all the opportunities in the world and wasted them.
They know nothing of my generation. Yet, guessing from the youthful voice of the caller, we have more in common than either generation would believe.
Do you believe the baby boomers were spoiled rotten, self absorbed, brats from the start? Or is the truth more complicated, and they were more like the Occupy generation?
2012 had just begun, but I was thinking back to a conversation I heard on talk radio last year when I decided to rewrite my draft of this column and submit it for publication. I had heard a young host, and his young callers, complaining how baby boomers had everything “handed to them,” “had it so easy.” It was all about the current economy and yet another generation blaming a previous generation for all their woes.
So now I’m about to blame another generation, right?
In a way, you’re right: I will. And the callers may be right: now …not back then. For, in some ways, we have turned into our parents, not an uncommon happening from generation to generation. Only I think we may have “become our parents” in the worst ways.
Warning: you too may turn into your grandparents, or your parents if they were the boomers… if you’re less than vigil.
Looking across a gap of more than 50 years, when it comes to my baby boom generation, I wonder…
What happened to our real leaders? Our ethical leaders? Our Roosevelts? Our JFKs? As much as I had a hell of a lot of problems with him: starting with how the images shellacked over him were lies… what happened to our image craft-able Ronald Reagans?
As I have watched the current crop of candidates, I wonder: what happened to the leaders from the baby boom who at least seemed sane and rational on the surface?
…who didn’t act as if out crazy-ing each other was some noble goal?
…and how did my generation reach the point where more far too many of us boo and hiss at a debate like an audience at a “pro-” wrestling match, cheer like Romans encouraging lions to eat more Christians?
What in the hell happened to us, and could the Occupy gen find themselves following the same unfortunate path?
Being part of the baby boom gen: the middle part, I paused to ask myself these questions as I typed this, the published version. I think I have a few answers for the Occupy generation to ponder, and for my parents’ generation to consider. I wish there were more of that generation left to read this, for I’d love to hear counter theories, opposite takes and reactions: either way… from anyone.
These days my generation seems to be lacking the kind of leadership other generations have had. In fact we have been devoid of that kind of leadership pretty much since Nam. There are reasons why.
Be careful, Occupy, if you get what you want. It may be only the beginning.
Nam eventually did drag to a hideous end. It took way too long. Soldiers came home. Sooner or later those in prison for refusing to add more corpses to the carnage were released. Some stayed in Canada, some returned. But we were collectively damned by the supposed “greatest generation” for losing Nam.
If any one generation “lost” Nam, an assessment I resist, it was the “greatest generation:” they were in charge. We were the chess pieces they moved around. And they “moved them around” according to the rules of war as they understood them. Rules that didn’t apply in Nam.
So, yes, once boomers did have true leaders, who led charges or resisted the powers that be when it was obvious to them what we were doing was wrong. Like the Occupy movement our parents viewed us as pure chaos. And, ironically, we were treated like members of the Occupy movement have been treated, only far worse.
One hopes what happened to us doesn’t happen to members of Occupy…
Peace wasn’t kind. The economy was actually worse than it is today. We, like the Occupy generation, were viewed as dirty, drug addled, lazy and worse: as traitors. I remember the conversations well at the dinner table among the “greatest generation:” our parents. They ignored our service, ignored bravery and especially ignored the fact that fighting against a war can be noble. Instead we were supposedly: collectively, stoned, mindless, selfish flower children. All we supposedly cared about was ourselves: a sociopath generation according to the meme’.
I honestly believe all this “me generation” stuff made “the greatest generation” resist hiring us for decent positions: resist to the extreme. Endless job interviews convinced me of that. Watching my friends and such attempt to achieve over the years and finally giving up convinced me of that. At the gas station where this Communications/Mass Media/former English Major major worked for about two years after college we had B.A.s, M.A.s and even PhDs saying, “Check under the hood, Ma’am?” Some of us were engineers, even former medical students.
We were the lucky ones. Many had no work at all.
Anything not to give power over to supposed spoiled bratty traitors.
Does all this sound a bit familiar, Occupy gen-ers?
You want to talk about a self absorbed generation? OK, how about after WWII ended. The “greatest generation” were hired when they came back. Government programs helped them get houses. They were eagerly hired by many of the very same corporations that helped with the war effort. The economy boomed: thanks in part to liberal programs started by Roosevelt and Truman.
Many in that gen took all that despite loathing Roosevelt. And when it came to their children, collectively, the “greatest” wanted none of that boost up for us after Nam. We were to stop whining and pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps: even those who wore no boots because their legs were blown off in some rice paddy.
Yes, the Nam part of our generation did get spit on, but not by people: by our society. By leaders of business who were part of “the greatest generation.”
It was the start of “we don’t promote from within” nonsense. Having served one’s country wasn’t even viewed as a great resume booster: the embarrassment over the loss was that bad. It was the beginning of sending jobs overseas via industry and Nixon opening cheap trade with China. The idea was was that if every country was subject to “free” trade it would all even out for the better. Of course no enforcement mechanisms were put in place to assure other countries didn’t have tariffs, use prison labor to replace good jobs, undersell to kill industry and send it to another, more profitable, country to do business in… while claiming every benefit of being an “American” business on paper only.
Their savior, Reagan, taught “greed is good.”
As a part of a much maligned generation who certainly did have a drug problem, I still have to ask… what kind of nasty crack were they smoking?
2012. I’ve seen, on stage, running for office, the few in my gen who held on, hoping to ascend to power. I knew these kids. I grew up with some of them. They were the bullies in the classroom; the kind willing to say and do anything to get ahead… and keep doing that no matter what the costs. These were often the sons and daughters of the well connected who never saw Nam, or spent a moment being teargassed. They were the liars, the phonies, the obscenely cruel. If they “served” at all it would be in the National Guard and even abandon their duties even there. Their well connected parents helped them get many deferments: all while claiming to be pro-war. They went to the protest meetings while reporting on us to the FBI, or even instigating scuffles with the intent of getting protesters arrested.
Does any of that sound familiar, Occupy gen-ers?
Both baby boomers and Occupiers must know traitors like these: those who agree to compromise a movement by spying on it or encouraging that movement at meetings to do acts that would make the movement look bad, or those who escaped duty while eagerly sending others in their place to die… scum unworthy of being considered marginally human.
Every generation has had these kinds of people. Some went by names like Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde. But before my time they often ended up in jail, or were considered, unreliable: useless. Even if they ascended they were chased out of office like Nixon.
But our parents used them against us, just like previous generations used the worst among you against you… like cops sending the homeless and the mentally ill into the Occupy camps.
So now the worst of my generation stand on stage: serial adulterer who went after another who had similar problems while committing adultery himself; behaving far worse. Now acting as if just bringing up the topic is the offense. Or the multimillionaire who made his millions hiding his money off shore after destroying American jobs and gutting American industry: selling off American jobs.
Baby boom audience refuses to hear just how hypocritical and immoral their candidates are: booing and hissing the questions. One expects a “pro-“wrestling chair over the head will come next.
What the hell has happened to my generation? Maybe what might happen to Occupy if they do succeed, or at least keep gumming up the works?
And I hope they do succeed, or at least keep placing a cream pie firmly in the face of the greedy, selfish bastards of my generation.
The torch is being passed to you, Occupy gen-ers. Let’s hope it doesn’t burn you like it did us.
We really do have a lot in common.
For I have watched the worst of my generation forge on as the best faltered: finding out doing the right thing seemed to always be punished: not rewarded. But as the worst among my generation jostle their way through the primaries, I wonder: have we become collectively what our parents claimed we were: “the ‘me’ generation?”
But I just wanted you to know: it wasn’t always that way…
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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