How did it come to this? The term “baby boomer” is considered by some, if not many, to be a toxic phrase. Are we really synonymous with greed and selfishness? When did our cohort go from being groundbreakers to saboteurs? Anthropologist Helen Fisher describes the postwar baby boom, or bulge if you will, as “like a pig moving through a python.”
Yikes! That does not sound good, nor does it reflect well on us as a generation. For a long time being a boomer felt like it was a badge of honor. We were part of this unprecedentedly large generation that made its mark on culture, from music and entertainment to literature and language. We were a potent force in changing the way our society looked at war, sex and civil rights. It almost makes you want to hum Let the Sunshine In from the musical Hair.
Then somewhere around the time of the last economic downturn there began to emerge a chorus of naysayers who pointed the finger at boomers. “Look what you’ve done! You really have effed things up royally!” Really? They want to blame an entire generation for the failures of our governments and our leaders. I guess the flipside of taking credit for much of the cultural innovation of our era is that we also get saddled with the blame. It makes you want to go down the road of revisionist history. Were the generations that preceded us really that exemplary or did they have some serious faults as well. Our parents were part of the so called “greatest generation” because they met and beat back the bad guys in World War II. Should they get all the credit for the postwar boom that lit the fuse for an age of American prosperity? They also gave us the cold war, McCarthyism and a horrible record on civil rights.
The bad rap on baby boomers is just as much a generalization as the rap on millennials. They are not all selfie-taking, soft-in-the-middle, whiners still living with their parents. Like generations before them, they are a product of their place in time. In their case, that’s a post-9/11 America that seems to be at war all the time and ignoring climate change.
Let’s hope that the generations can move beyond the stereotyping, because one way or another we are going to be very dependent upon each other and it will benefit us all to give up this senseless blame game.
Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. His mystery novel, Head Above Water, is available on Amazon and Kindle. You can also visit his author page here.