Op-Ed by PETER MAURER
A generational war has broken out, one that can hopefully be contained before it has dire consequences for all of us, and a war that a small part of me thinks is intentional. But more on that later. It seems that demographers and social scientists love to label people.
Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, although you can find references that vary slightly. Suffice it to say, Boomers reshaped America, and continue to, by virtue of numbers alone. 76,400,000 Americans were born in the post-WW II era, a veritable tidal wave of Americans that impacted everything from schools to suburbia to money. Baby Boomers grew up during the tumultuous 1960s, a decade that makes this one pale by comparison. We had the Vietnam war, protests, the Space Race, hippies and free love, not to mention the assassinations of JFK, MLK, RFK, and Malcom X. I look back with amazement that we were able to survive those ten years, something that gives me hope we will survive the current political debacle.
After the Boomers, Generations X and Y came along, followed by the Millennials, the group born between 1981 and 1996. Much maligned and harpooned, the Millennials have had to endure more than just the most recent Depression. Millennials have been characterized as ‘lazy’, ‘indulged’, ‘entitled’, and ‘unmotivated’, the generation that would rather spend $5 a day at Starbucks than save that $100 a month in a retirement account. They’ve been portrayed as poor employees, choosing to question their bosses all the time rather than just do their job. They’re often imagined sitting in their parents’ basements, playing video games, with Cheeto dust on their tee-shirts.
And yet, despite the fact that some of these characterizations are undoubtedly true in some cases, I have found the Millennials to be hard-working and pragmatic, more concerned with the environment and the future than preceding generations, and far more networked, technologically savvy, and socially-aware than previous generations. The Millennials grew up during a Depression, which played out differently than the Great Depression of the 1930s, but left scars on the survivors nonetheless. Many had no chance for a job, so were relegated to their parents’ basement or garage until things improved and they could strike out on their own. And they are doing just that.
Although I am technically a Baby Boomer, I don’t feel like one. I was born toward the end of the Boom, am still working, and will not join AARP even though they hound me with requests and free offers of a cheap travel bag at least once a week. I am aghast at the war of words between some Boomers and Millennials, each portraying the other as evil incarnate and the sole reason for the economy, social unrest, and anything else they can think to blame one another.
The truth, as always, lies somewhere in the middle. Boomers did screw up a lot of things, but had they known at the time, I am sure they would have made different choices. And there are a number of Millennials who were told they were special so many times by their parents, they actually think they are. You’re not, until you prove yourself special.
And while these two demographic groups snipe at each other, the conservative element in this country is smiling. Why? Because conservative politicians will benefit by the Millennial generation thinking poorly of the Boomers. How, you ask? When the time comes for the GOP to vigorously attack Social Security and Medicare that the Baby Boomers have paid into for a lifetime, and to pay for the tax cuts for the wealthy and Big Business, they will be able to count on the support of the Millennials, many of whom actually believe it will not be there for them (it will).
Divide and conquer, people, divide and conquer.
The views expressed in the Op-Ed Perspectives column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Gazette. We encourage readers to submit a Letter to the Editor to Andrew@Gazettemediagroup.com.