BBHQ Boomer Essays:
|Our Boomer-In-Charge here at BBHQ, Hershel Chicowitz, writes frequently about current events... from a boomer perspective. He is sometimes funny, sometimes provocative, sometimes a little of each. We hope you get a kick out of our Boomer Essays.|
I guess it has to do with our propensity these days to name every phenomenon in our society, significant or otherwise. After Watergate in the seventies, there was Iran-gate, and then Contra-gate. And in the Clinton administration we had Travel-gate, Trooper-Gate, File-gate, and Zipper-Gate and Forni-gate. Kinda' silly, isn't it?
I'm not denying the X'ers the right to a name. Personally, I don't care. But do they really need or warrant one? Do they have enough in common with each other and yet unique about their circumstances (as the baby boomers do) to warrant a defining name? Why not just leave them alone? Why do we have to categorize them? Oh well, I'm probably spitting into the wind here, aren't I? I am just suggesting that it may not be fair to categorize and compare any other generation to the boomers, that's all.
In 1998 "Education Week" defined Generation X'ers as those between the ages of 19 and 30, inclusive. That would mean that they were born between 1968 and 1979. Using that definition, there are about 41 million of them in the U.S.
But there's even a question about that. In the novel "Generation X," Douglas Coupland defined Generation X as "a group of people born between 1961 and 1972 typified by a college education, dissatisfaction with career opportunities, and pessimism." (So I guess you can be a baby boomer and a Gen-Xer at the same time. Whew!) American Online had a forum for Gen X-er's, and even they can't make up their mind.
Recently an X'er took me to task for not defining them... heck, I thought that's what I just did. So I'll use "Education Week's" definition as those born between 1968 and 1979. Happy now?
As to what they believe in, or what makes them unique... you'd probably do better to ask them.
The Social Environment; or, "Time Won't Let Me"
But I remember that my parents encouraged me to do things to keep myself busy after school. Gees, I had something going on all the time. School ended at 3:15, but I was in the band, or running track, or playing touch football, or working in the theater department nearly every day till dinnertime. Many kids my age had afternoon paper routes. And if I got home early, my parents always had things for me to do.
Most afternoon papers were gone by the 80s. I know that lots of kids have after school jobs... but lots don't. Beginning in the 80s I saw the shopping malls begin to fill up on weekdays in mid-afternoon... with kids. Too many kids with too much time on their hands.
Today they say that most adolescent crime occurs between 3 and 7 p.m. Gee, I wonder why? We never had enough time to get in much trouble. Today, kids are out of school by 1 or 2 in the afternoon; there's nobody home, and they claim they have nothing to do. Why not? The kids are the ones who get in trouble. But really, who is responsible for this situation?
The Boomers' Passion
We were passionate about a war we did not understand, that we apparently could not win, and in which we were being ordered to die. We were passionately intolerant of an immoral government that lied to and misled us. Admittedly we have lost much of that zeal. Today, many of us are more passionate about getting the biggest SUV we can get our hands on, and looked the other way when our first boomer president lied to us. That is one of our severe shortcomings.
As I recall, it started in the mid-seventies with rocker Alice Cooper allegedly biting the head of a chicken off during his concerts. Or wait; is he the one who smashes his guitar on stage? No matter. These antics are part of the legacy absorbed by the X'ers. From there, it has "advanced" to what it is today - warning labels on the CDs of music aimed at our youth.
Gen-Xer Marcos writes, "Yes our generation is teen violence, Marilyn Manson, Columbine, but we are the ones left alone at home while our two BabyBoomer parents have forgotten their 60s idealism and only want more wealth, power and prestige." How would you reply to that, friends?
Time in a Bottle
But in the seventies and eighties, when the Gen-Xers were growing up, hardly anything stayed the same. Yeah, I guess Rod Stewart and Billy Joel have been around for a while. But how many artists from the eighties do you think the Gen-Xers will be listening to 20 years from now? Anybody seen "Best of Menudo" albums flying off the shelves lately? When did Culture Club have their last hit?
Television and Role Models
"All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident." - Arthur Schopenhauer.
We ridiculed it in the nineties. "Come on Dan (Quayle). It's only TV!!" Today, we're still at the "violently opposed" stage.
How many television shows lasted throughout the eighties? Gen-Xer Martin wrote to remind me that "Wheel of Fortune" has been around for a long time. (And he was serious about it. I know he was serious about it because he also told me that he can do advanced calculus in his head.)
Do you suppose we'll still be watching re-runs of "Married With Children" in the next decade? (Lord, I surely hope not.) As clever and well-written as it is, what lasting, positive mark has "The Simpsons" made? The writers of "Father Knows Best" and "I Love Lucy" felt they had a responsiblity for the message their work delivered. What responsibility do the writers of "Malcolm in the Middle" feel they have?
When I review the television shows from the sixties, I can see strong, parental role models in nearly every one. "Father Knows Best," "Leave it to Beaver," "Bonanza," and a dozen others. Name me one sitcom on television today with a strong, positive, male role model. Name me just one. Don't tell me, "It's only television." We both know better than that.
We could look up to The Greatest; he taught blacks and whites alike that anybody can be somebody special. What has Mike Tyson taught the Xers? You don't need any help from me on that one.
Some of the boomers' music was a little goofy. "Does your chewing gum lose its flavor on the bedpost overnight" comes to mind. (Yes, we have the complete lyrics in our Music Room.) And our parents were right; we played it too loudly. But much of it was poetic. Paul Simon is, essentially, a poet. Our idols sang about love and tenderness, hope and happiness. One of my favorite songs from the sixties was written by Carole King; the Shirelles made it a hit:
Is this a lasting treasure,
(Check the Music Room for the rest of the lyrics.) And it was all harmless, until the Beatles began singing songs with lyrics like "Happiness is a warm gun." And then Paul Simon wrote "Me and Julio down by the school yard." Friends, I have no earthly idea what that was all about.
Now, I understand that the Cop Killer album and Tupac Shakur may not be representative of today's music. On the other hand, Marilyn Manson is fairly mainstream. And he sings, "I got my lunchbox and I'm armed real well... so no one ... with me; next mother... gonna' get my metal.") In the 80s I heard a song with lyrics that advocated getting "the maximum pleasure from the minimum love." Our parents never had to worry about warning labels on the music albums we bought. But just how would you describe The Notorious BIG... other than "dead"? What are the lyrics teaching the teenagers today? The same stuff Alice Cooper taught the Xers in the 70s and 80s. Think about it.
I have been criticized for using Marilyn Manson's lyrics to make my point. More than one young visitor says he is "so yesterday." Let me then point to Eminem, in 2003, the nation's top selling rapper. Certainly he must be "so today." In a social protest song ("We as Americans"), he rants:
I don't rap for dead presidents.
In the halftime performance for the 2004 Superbowl, aside from Janet
Jackson's mammary, P. Diddy and others by other rappers on the song:
I'm the definition of, half man, half drugs
Oh yeah... that's inspirational.
Let's see now... I am scanning the lyrics to the protest songs of our generation.... I do not see any that wished the president were dead; not even LBJ, who was sending our generation to the rice fields of Vietnam. Nope, not once.
I'm not being critical of the Xers; if you think that's my point, you're way off base. What I am saying is that there does not appear to be a whole lot of "social glue" that keeps them and the teens of today together. Their idols are "so kewl" one day and nonexistent the next. Their positive role models on the national level are few and far between. ("I want to grow up and be just like President Clinton." Echhhh; kinda' scary, isn't it?) That's not their fault; in fact, it is ours (us boomers). But that's the way it is. No wonder, as Douglas Coupland says, they are typified by pessimism.
A Matter of Values
[Xer Philip has been taught well. His first thought was that the teacher should have been arrested for assault. That is where his values are. This is the priority he was taught.]
But our SAT scores were a lot higher. (Yes, the CEEB has dumbed them down to meet today's norms. Don't even try to disagree with me on this one.) We had to diagram sentences; we memorized the Gettysburg Address. Many had to repeat a grade in school because we couldn't cut it. Bobby Miller, the son of my mother's best friend, nearly failed to get his high school diploma because he could not pass a swimming test - a swimming test! But most of us endured the agony of real tests and real grades, and managed to escape with our self-esteem intact. Today you graduate just because you have been there long enough - they call it "social promotion." And the ones who will suffer as a result... are the Xers and today's kids. In New York City, officials estimate that if they did away with social promotion, a third of all the fourth to seventh graders would fail. Who do you suppose the educators are here, folks? That should be telling us something profound; but we choose not to listen.
[In 2002, 23 eighth grade students in the Rockford, Illinois school district failed every class... every one. And yet, they were all promoted to ninth grade.]
In the 60s, a few boomers "had to" get married - not many, but a few. The Xers were taught that freedom meant living together without the commitment of marriage. A lot of them did. Today, many high schools have day care centers for the children of children. Having a baby has become a social status symbol... and the school and the government is supposed to take care of the responsibility part. In the 60s, about 5 percent of children were born without the benefit of a married, committed pair of adults. When most of the Xers were teens, the number was about 25%. Today, about 33% of our kids start out life so handicapped. "Hey, everybody does it; it's cool." They are taught that this is the norm; it is socially acceptable. And when Dr. Laura speaks out against such behavior in strong, confident, and unyielding terms, her critics tell her to mind her own business.
We are still at the "ridicule" stage here, folks.
The boomers were taught that we had to work our way to the top, and that everything had a price. One of comedian Johnny Carson's favorite serious lines was, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." Apparently, not so today. Gen-Xers were taught (by example) that part of the government's responsibility is to do just that: provide a free lunch. Many of them really think it is free. Many of them believe that the government has its own supply of money.
As a result, today we seem to want everything, and we want it now! I saved for years to be able to afford a new Mazda RX-7. Heck, by the time I finally got it, I was almost too old to enjoy it. My Gen-Xer neighbor wanted a BMW when he was 24; so he just leased one. I washed and waxed my RX-7 every weekend. My neighbor never washed his car; heck, it was not really his anyway. There is something wrong with that. But that is how the Xers were taught. Again, it is not their fault; but they will suffer from it, nonetheless.
We didn't talk much about hardships and sacrifice when I was growing up in the fifties and sixties; we didn't dare. Our parents had exclusive rights to that. They had lived through the depression. (Contrary to what you hear today, a depression is not when you don't have a job. A depression is when 25% of the workforce does not have a job.) Their independence and freedom had been threatened by a war that required significant sacrifices by everyone; my mother kept several ration coupon books as a reminder. But our parents did not think of themselves as victims; they did not complain. They just wanted a better life for their children; and they paid the price for it. My mother gave up a professional career because she considered it her responsibility to raise her children. It was not the government's job; it was hers.
But today, we consider it a sacrifice when the cable TV goes out and we have to dig out the rabbit ears to watch NFL football. We expect the government to provide for and monitor day care centers so we can pursue other things, and the teachers to serve as disciplinarians over our kids. Who are the winners and losers here?
And today, we are beginning to demand 'round-the-clock day care. Yep, in another decade we will consider it our God-given right to drop our kids off at day care for our own little kids-free, 3-day weekend. And we will consider it our employer's or our government's responsibility to provide that "right."
Today we are all victims of some type of mistreatment, and the first thing to do when we don't get what we want is to call a lawyer or pass a law mandating whatever it is that we want. This is what the Xers and today's kids have been taught.
In citing injustices in the world in which she grows up, 14 year-old Claire writes, "why is it that I can die in a war that I don't believe in before I can legally purchase a beer?" This is apparently a major concern to her. . . at age 14. (And yes, I did remind her - rather forcefully - that when many of our classmates were 18, they were drafted, forced to serve, and died in a war; and they could not even vote to protest it.)
After he retired from the military in the fifties, General Douglas MacArthur appeared before a graduating class at West Point, and spoke passionately about "duty... honor... country." Can you possibly imagine our first boomer president trying to make that speech?
So I do not know exactly what defines the Xers, and I do not know what
they, as a group, believe in.
Society has become too diverse and too complicated for any theme to dominate. And that's a shame. But without a national theme, a national goal, or national role models, it is harder for a generation of young people to have a single direction or theme. So that may be why it is harder to define the Gen-Xers.
Forty years later, my father's business partner is, to me, "Dr. Weckesser" - not "Elden," as his peers call him. My former neighbor and best friend's parents are "Mr. and Mrs. Levine" - always have been; always will be. I would never, ever think of referring to them otherwise. Here is some of what I wrote about Mrs. Levine: "She was fair and compassionate. She reasoned with us; but she made and enforced the rules. She never yelled; I don't think she ever raised her voice. But she was the boss. There was never any doubt or hesitation on her part." (You can read more about what I think of Mrs. Levine here. But as I write in another essay here at BBHQ, we are not one boomer. A survey we took at BBHQ revealed that a third of all boomers think (or thought) of their parents as "their friends." But two thirds of them think of their children as their friends. I have asked every parent of a boomer that I can find if they ever thought of their children as "their friends." Most of them look as me as if I were nuts! Of course they do not!
Many of us are more interested in becoming friends with our kids than teaching them respect. We are afraid that if we discipline them, they will close off communication and be unwilling to talk to us. Frankly, we want them to grow up and get out of our hair as fast as possible.
We do not understand that when we allow our children to become our friends, we lose the stature that is essential in any structured society. There is a school district in the U.S. that has decided to encourage students to refer to their teachers by their first names. What moronic boomer thought is this idea? This is simply idiotic!
And the results should not be surprising. We read about them every day in the newspaper.
Sixteen year-old Kate has a different take on the idea:
Kate thinks that if kids call their teachers by their first name, they will get to know them better; they will LIKE their teachers. And because they LIKE them, they will work harder to please them. (Does the name Mary Kay LeTourneau come to mind here, folks? Look it up!)
This is what we have done, folks. This is how far we have come. For some, teaching has been reduced to a popularity contest.
Yes, today, many kids do know their teachers better; and many teachers know the kids better... too often, much better than they should.
Here's a question for those of you over the age of 40. When you were a kid, how many instances of teachers having sex with kids did you hear about?
For those of you under the age of 40, the answer is zero. None. And it is not because they just hid it better back then. It is because there was an invisible but clear line between the teachers and the kids. Everyone knew it. (Virtually) everyone obeyed it. But today, because we (and I mean we – those of us in charge) have horribly blurred that line... you get what you get. This is a despicable outcome, born of outright stupidity.
We run a simple, harmless, little bulletin board called the BBHQ Peanut Gallery. Visitors there may comment about any topic of interest to boomers. One Gen-Xer added this: "Did it ever occur to you aging fools that perhaps you simply don't understand...." If we would listen, we would realize that this hostile tone used so frequently and blatantly by kids is telling us something. This is what happens when we encourage kids to be our friends, when we encourage them to call us by our first names.
On the other hand, respect may not be important any more. We never thought we would attract teenagers to Baby Boomer HeadQuarters, but we welcome their input. In responding to this essay, 14 year-old Marisa writes, "i think you should sit back and enjoy life. So the Xer's have no respect? What's the problem? Is respect an essential part of the world?"
That's what she wrote, folks. How should I respond to that? I told her I would ask for your suggestions. What should I tell her?
Well.... the discussion continues..... with responses from visitors, and in most cases, our rebuttal:
One particular e-mail message from an Xer reveals a great deal. First, Henry writes: "re-read your article, and then... think about how you sound exactly like your parents." As if there were something so terribly wrong with that. Henry claims to be 31, but he still doesn't get it. Surely he doesn't understand what a compliment that is, because he was not trying to flatter me. As for named generations, he puffs out his chest and asks me if I have heard of "the Silent Generation? Hemingway and Fitzgerald's Lost Generation?" Then he writes, "And you dare to compare your SAT scores to mine?" Exactly when did I do that? And then he complained that my essay lacks logic: "Your style of persuasive writing is sorely lacking, old man; it lacks logic. You can ..................... all you want; like most boomers, you can skew the rules of the game in your favor all you want." This is how he has chosen to show me his displeasure. This is apparently how he has been taught to do so.
Then, referencing his own planned web site, he writes, "I'm going to lambast and expose you as the noxious wheezebag that you are." Finally, he stabs me in the heart: "I'm shocked you could figure out how to turn on the computer to produce a website (or did a Gen-Xer show you how?)." Ouch! That one really hurt.
Now, I understand that he may be upset. But what in the world did I do to warrant that level of disrespect? And that is my point here. Maybe we boomers have not demanded respect from our kids (apparently Marisa's haven't), but I don't think that any generation in history has been so blatantly and openly disrespectful of its elders. I suspect that one leads to another. And that says a lot - about both of us.
In all fairness, I should also say that I have received a few polite, thoughtful responses from Gen-Xers who.... who get it, and are trying to help fix it.
A visitor who identified himself as Homerr Simpsonn wrote: "I can't believe that you think people who were born in 1979 and 1980 are so stupid. Are you stupid?" No, I don't think Homerr is, either. He just doesn't get it.
One visitor replied: "I know there is a lot to be desired with Gen Xers, but please tell me, who raised the Xers? Yes, the Boomers. How come those values weren't passed on?" Good question; a very good question. What's your answer to that, friends?
Another Gen-Xer wrote:
And I replied to her: "My comments were not meant to paint all Gen-Xer's as wrong or hopeless. Surely your head is in the right place; good for you. Keep your wits about you; realize what opportunities there are for you... there are numerous, no matter what your circumstances. Indeed, you will be plenty good enough. I worry not the slightest for you, Amanda. Lead on!"
On April 1, someone who identified herself only as "Monica, G" wrote, "I am a member of generation X. I can't believe how critical you were of our generation. I feel your jealous of our many advantages that you didn't have. I hope you adjust to the 90,s soon." I can't tell if that was an April Fools' joke, but surely, Monica just doesn't get it.
A Boomer named Kathy offers her opinion... and she is taking no prisoners:
A Gen-Xer who wishes to remain anonymous wrote:
"Take the traditional work ethic - work hard and do the work well and
you'll have it all. The Silents were already aware that if you work too
hard all you'll get is either a heart attack or more work piled upon you
and a label as a stooge. The Boom found this out and saw through the
spell to come to the realisation that hard work is fine, but one has to
get a head and get what's supposible [sic] coming to you. Get what's
owed to you. Clean up any messes that affect society after the
"While the Boom generation was out getting a head in society, making ends
meet by having both parents work, (sometimes a necessity, most of the
time to get away from the responsibility of taking care of their
children), we junivenile [sic] delinquents - oh, remember this Silent
50s term? - were busy as well taking care of ourselves, taking care of
the household chores, including younger brothers and sisters, busy being
adults in a world that was doing it's own thing."
"And let's talk about respect here. It's earned, not given away freely.
To use a hippie term -but usible [sic] even with non-hippie Booms - 'let
make the private public.' Free love, condoms, teachers on a first name
basis all came out of the Booms great social experiments = not we can
change the world, but we, the Boom, are the world. The me generation.
The generation of don't tell me, I'll tell you. Do what I say, not as I
"The Boom and the Silents created these monsters X-gens, but like
always, you won't take the responsibility for it."
"While the Boom generation was out getting a head in society, making ends meet by having both parents work, (sometimes a necessity, most of the time to get away from the responsibility of taking care of their children), we junivenile [sic] delinquents - oh, remember this Silent 50s term? - were busy as well taking care of ourselves, taking care of the household chores, including younger brothers and sisters, busy being adults in a world that was doing it's own thing."
"And let's talk about respect here. It's earned, not given away freely. To use a hippie term -but usible [sic] even with non-hippie Booms - 'let make the private public.' Free love, condoms, teachers on a first name basis all came out of the Booms great social experiments = not we can change the world, but we, the Boom, are the world. The me generation. The generation of don't tell me, I'll tell you. Do what I say, not as I do."
"The Boom and the Silents created these monsters X-gens, but like always, you won't take the responsibility for it."
Our anonymous visitor makes some very good points, but proves he is a Gen-Xer (pardon the generalization). Most Gen-Xers who comment on this essay see it as a boomer trashing them. But true boomers see it for what it really is, then hide their heads and go on to something else.
Boomer Susan adds her point of view: "There have certainly been some mistakes that we Boomers have made with respect to our roles as parents. In our mistaken belief that raising children with boundaries and rules would crush their "free spirits," thereby ruining their self esteem, we have unwittingly created a generation of self-centered egotists. Why are we so surprised at this predictable outcome?"
Gen Xer drlusk does not get it, either. In part, he writes, "Your description of the BBer's is one of denial. I think it is shortsided of you to feel that the generalities you profess to were not true of everyone in your generation." I hear him; but I have absolutely no idea what he is saying. After referring to the values demonstrated in TV sitcoms of the sixties, he writes, "The [music] artists you talk about from my generation are lashing back at those exclusive morals that were perpetrated on them by the white majority." I presume from that that he wants me to feel guilty that we "perpetuated" morals on some other race... morals such as honesty, respect for life, integrity, and decency. If he expects an apology for that, he'll have to look elsewhere. Those were the morals that our parents tried to pass on to us. If we have tried to "perpetuate" them on to the next generation, we have failed miserably. Finally, he writes, "As a GenXer, I do not feel that you have love for me or my generation." Well, he is right; I do not feel any love for drlusk. Is an apology in order for that? drlusk seems to think so: "If this is true I feel sorry for you. We will run the world someday." So he thinks that because he and his generation will run the world some day, I am supposed to love him?
Gen-Xer Ajax has been doing some serious thinking:
"Respect must be earned. 'Kids today' have respect for people, things,
and ideas that can *demonstrate* they are worthy of respect. 'Because I'm
your father' is no longer enough to command deference. 'Because it's in
the Bible' is no longer enough to command obedience. Grey hair is no
longer a badge of honor, and it no longer grants automatic authority over
younger men and women. The criteria that matter now are wisdom,
open-mindedness, and acceptance of change. Whether you are seventeen or
seventy, if you lack any of the above, you have no place in the society
Generation X is creating."
"Third. The logical outgrowth of a national ideal of tolerance is the
fracturing of the nation along lines of belief. We are no longer One
Nation Under God. Other than the core belief of tolerance, Generation X
rarely agrees with itself, or anyone else, about anything at all. We
form 'communities of interests,' sub-societies of like-minded
individuals, instead of being limited to the communities of our
neighborhood, our church, our school, our country. We cooperate, but do
not compromise. We respect, but do not venerate, or blindly follow. And
we believe what our eyes and ears tell us about the world, not what Time
Magazine, Marilyn Manson, Jerry Falwell, or the Reform Party tell us."
"We are a global village. Parents can no longer raise their children to
share their beliefs by isolating them from opposing beliefs: it simply is
not physically possible. They must *live* their ideals, as they did in
the 60s, in order to convince us that these ideals are worth living. They
must inform; not preach, not threaten, not forbid. They must listen, not
lecture. And they must learn, once and for all, that they aren't smarter
than their children. They are only older, and the better ones (which
sadly, seem to be fairly scarce these days) have learned more from their
"The Baby Boomers are to blame for the mindset of Generation X... The
Baby Boomers dethroned the WWII generation, rejecting many of its core
values. The shoe fits rather tightly when it's on the other foot, does
"Respect must be earned. 'Kids today' have respect for people, things, and ideas that can *demonstrate* they are worthy of respect. 'Because I'm your father' is no longer enough to command deference. 'Because it's in the Bible' is no longer enough to command obedience. Grey hair is no longer a badge of honor, and it no longer grants automatic authority over younger men and women. The criteria that matter now are wisdom, open-mindedness, and acceptance of change. Whether you are seventeen or seventy, if you lack any of the above, you have no place in the society Generation X is creating."
"Third. The logical outgrowth of a national ideal of tolerance is the fracturing of the nation along lines of belief. We are no longer One Nation Under God. Other than the core belief of tolerance, Generation X rarely agrees with itself, or anyone else, about anything at all. We form 'communities of interests,' sub-societies of like-minded individuals, instead of being limited to the communities of our neighborhood, our church, our school, our country. We cooperate, but do not compromise. We respect, but do not venerate, or blindly follow. And we believe what our eyes and ears tell us about the world, not what Time Magazine, Marilyn Manson, Jerry Falwell, or the Reform Party tell us."
"We are a global village. Parents can no longer raise their children to share their beliefs by isolating them from opposing beliefs: it simply is not physically possible. They must *live* their ideals, as they did in the 60s, in order to convince us that these ideals are worth living. They must inform; not preach, not threaten, not forbid. They must listen, not lecture. And they must learn, once and for all, that they aren't smarter than their children. They are only older, and the better ones (which sadly, seem to be fairly scarce these days) have learned more from their experiences."
"The Baby Boomers are to blame for the mindset of Generation X... The Baby Boomers dethroned the WWII generation, rejecting many of its core values. The shoe fits rather tightly when it's on the other foot, does it not?"
Gen-Xer Amy thinks some of my comments are misdirected:
An anonymous 20 year-old visitor writes, "if we have more people like you who wrote this essay as our examples we will fair far more better then we have been, we are all paying for decicions [sic] made by the populations of the 60 and 70 and 80 years... i just wanted to say KOUDOS to you and hope you reach many teens that see that you are trying to show them the problems." Actually, I never intended to reach any teens with this essay, but I'm glad that some people get the message.
Gen-Xer Brandi is reaching out:
"At age 24, I have never felt so alone in my quest for self satisfaction.
I feel like I have been spoiled then thrown into a life I am way too
unprepared to handle. I am far from 'perfect the way I am,' and have no
clue where to go for help. The Xer's say 'Who cares' and the boomers are
affraid [sic] to tell it like it is."
"At age 24, I have never felt so alone in my quest for self satisfaction. I feel like I have been spoiled then thrown into a life I am way too unprepared to handle. I am far from 'perfect the way I am,' and have no clue where to go for help. The Xer's say 'Who cares' and the boomers are affraid [sic] to tell it like it is."
Post Gen-Xer Kristin offers her perspective:
"Almost all the teenages [sic] of this generation begin looking for a job when they turn 15. We become independent so much earlier because we don't need our parents. Most teenagers of today don't care, but they don't need too. They know what they want and how to get it, and by the way, we get what we want without the partents [sic]... Just because now you are old and you want to be a kid again, don't call down the teens of today, they are the future of the tommorrow [sic]. And there's a [expletive deleted] damb [sic] good-looking future ahead of us!!!" Wow! Guess she sure told us!
Another anonymous Gen-Xer admits he did not even read the entire essay, but clearly showed he doesn't get it at all: "In particular, you appear to attribute a number of qualities to the baby boomer generation that belong to your parents' generation. After all, boomers did not all the family-friendly television programming you mentioned, their parents did. Baby boomers created 'Married with Children....' You were not responsible for your stable upbringing, your parents were. Your generation came of age during the 'Me' decade and made divorce normal. From my perspective, it always appeared that the boomers did all the drugs, had all the sex, made all the money and left the rest of us with all the problems that come with drug use such addiction and crime, sexually transmitted diseases, and a huge national deficit." I guess it goes to show how wide the communication gap is. 'Course I s'pose it would have helped if he had read the entire essay. I have no idea what he thought my point was. And then he adds, "Our generation is making the world a smaller place and showing that the best way to make use of our affluence and leisure time is to give back to our families and communities." I don't know what planet he is on, but he should have quit while he was ahead.
Boomer Kathy adds, "One thing was made painfully clear in your reprinting of Gen-Xers' letters. We no longer teach spelling, grammar, or sentence structure in schools. Astonishingly, most of the young people responding to your essay won't even think that that's wrong." Oh, I don't even what to get into that here, Kathy. Of course, you are right; but based on the mail we receive here at BBHQ, I'm not sure we boomers are much better. Our "When I was a Kid" section is much better, but only, I suspect, because we browbeat visitors and threaten to put their mistakes on their "permanent record."
A boomer teacher offers something from her experience:
Dominique, who refers to himself (?) as "A HUMAN from 'Generation X,'" spent more than a half hour composing his response. She begins with, "Please consider the fact that I spent time in writing this and would highly appreciate if you would actually take some intrest [sic]." Was there anything in what I have written that implied that I would not take interest? Doesn't this essay strongly imply that I take a great deal of interest in what visitors write? Why would she begin with that? Beats me.
Gen-x'er Johnson replies:
Johnson is probably right..... what a horrible shame that is!
Gen-Xer Shannon writes, "I think that the stages we are meant to go through as teenagers, for some reason... stuck to my generation like glue and the emotional maturity of generation x is still age 13!... Children murder children today; when I was in school, thy teased, not killed! What is next? Maybe all of our generation X's should stop being defensive and listen to the pleas from our parents, before it's to [sic] late!!"
Boomer Nancy writes, "I recognize myself as one of the Boomers who struggled so hard for so many years to 'give' my son as much as I could, that I completely missed the mark on actually teaching him how to 'get' it for himself! At the same time I was telling him he needed to be self-sufficient, I was handing everything to him while expecting nothing in return. In reading through the responses to your essay, I gained incredible incite to what he went through growing up...wish I had recognized it WHILE he was going through it."
Teenager KC has some interesting things to say: "Speaking as a 'new millenium' teenager, I believe that teenagers today are a lot more violent, crude, and angry. We idolize rockers, like Marylin [sic] Manson, who worships the devil on stage, and rappers like Tupac, who degrade women. We attended what was supposed to be a festival of 'Peace and love' and set fire to refreshment stands. But... in 30-40 years, I may look at teenagers in disgust, and wish for the good old days."
Teenager Andrew gets it: "Society is falling apart because of lack of respect, yes. society is falling apart because of lack of good role modles, yes. Society is falling apart because we think the government is a meal ticket, yes. Society is falling apart because no one cares, YES. If no one cares then no one will act, younger people are scared and confused in a world... The violence we carry out, we are immitating. should a teacher get in trouble because she slapped a student who called her a bitch? no, thats the most foolish message I can think of to give a young person, and I am one... If you want the gone respect, pick yourselves up, show us what you can do, thats what the world wants of the younger people anyways isn't it? be fair and don't be so apathetic."
Boomer Bobtalk writes, "I'm definately [sic] a "boomer"; (born 1954). While what you write rings true, it is incredably reminiscent of what my parents' generation was saying and writing about us in the 60s. Am I right?"
Well, in a very general sense, he is right. They did not like our music. But just exactly which of our rock n' roll songs advised us to violate a woman with a broomstick? Which of our songs talked about having a gun and an intention to shoot people? Our parents said we were too rambunctions, but how many teachers were shot in the face by their students in their own classroom? How many times did headlines of kids taking guns into their schools and shooting their colleagues and teachers? How many times did that happen when we were growing up? How many drive-by shootings did we hear about as kids? But to today's kids, it is a part of the culture.... it just happens. When we were kids, the thugs used knives and fists. Today, they use semi-automatic weapons. Telling our kids that we were just like that is to suggest that what they are experiencing is nothing new, and perhaps, not so very wrong at all.
And by saying "While what you write rings true, it is... reminiscent of what my parents' generation was saying... about us in the 60s," I infer that Bobtalk is suggesting that our parents overreacted, and so we are overreacting, too. Such thinking is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Gen-Xer Daisy nails it: "I agree with some points you pose... (at least you take responsibility for the values that have been passed down to us). And maybe we are a cynical group of young folks but it is difficult not to be when we have to endure such things as the president preaching family values as he pleasures himself with every woman in reach completely disregarding his wife and daughter and his country! Did I mention that Clinton is the first boomer President?" No, Daisy, you didn't... you didn't have to.
A boomer mother had this to say:
Another visitor's comments reveal a great deal:
Another boomer thinks we nailed it here:
An insightful X-er weighs in:
Here is an Xer who has dome some thinking:
Gen-Xer Kelly gets it, better than most:
Gen-Xer John M shows that he has strong opinions about us, and especially
"In 1993 when I was a teenager, there were 54 violent deaths on high
school campuses. In 2000 there were a mere 16. But people thing
violence and guns are a bigger problem now then even just a few years ago
right? Why is that meathead? Because the media changed. They saw the
HUGE ratings Columbine gave them and now jump on every high school
shooting out there. In '94 I had a school shooting at my HS, but we
didn't get interviewed by CNN, Time and Newsweek. But the violence,
drugs and sex was all there. It was there when you were in high school
as well meathead. Get it? No I bet you don't."
"In 1993 when I was a teenager, there were 54 violent deaths on high school campuses. In 2000 there were a mere 16. But people thing violence and guns are a bigger problem now then even just a few years ago right? Why is that meathead? Because the media changed. They saw the HUGE ratings Columbine gave them and now jump on every high school shooting out there. In '94 I had a school shooting at my HS, but we didn't get interviewed by CNN, Time and Newsweek. But the violence, drugs and sex was all there. It was there when you were in high school as well meathead. Get it? No I bet you don't."
Now, I' not sure at whom he is more angry, me or nature. First he calls me an idiot for supposedly trashing his generation, and then he trashes kids younger than he is, saying "Its [sic] freaking inevitible." He claims to know more about our generation than I do. "It was there when you were in high school as well meathead." He offers no evidence, but that is his claim. He thinks I do not like him because he has no memory of my youth. He also falsely concludes that I am jealous of his generation. Obviously he has not read the essays at BBHQ that recall most fondly our youth. Would I give up my experiences for his youth? Not a chance.
"Respectfully, you're an idiot." I'm sorry, John, but I saw a complete absence of respect in your comments.
John, there were no shootings in my high school when I was there. None. Not one. Trust me, John; CNN was not there, but I was. I would have known.
Once again, like most Xers who respond to this essay, he does not get it; but he does demonstrate my point. I'm sorry, John, but you responded emotionally to the essay and thus missed the entire point (not to mention several lessons in high school grammar, sentence structure and punctuation).
A Gen-Xer who calls himself doesntexist has a real chip on his shoulder: "You think I am so stupid you can get away with this delusional projectionistic brainwashing. You won't hire Xers who graduated in the early '90s for real jobs and do what the G.I. generation you rebelled against while smoking weed and burning the American flag did for you... It is a shame you weren't crushed to death by loudspeakers at Woodstock."
... kinda proves a point, doesn't it?
A gen-x'er, now with kids of her own, write this:
What is your response to that?
Boomer Dale adds this:
"Another 'boomer here; was born in '54. We too made the mistake of not raising our kids like our parents raised us. By the time I realized the mistake, they were in their early teens and the word respect was all but gone from their vocabulary. Needless to say, the high school years were difficult times for us."
Gen-x'er Shannon adds her wisdom:
"Most comments from my fellow gen x-ers were rather embarrasing. I think that one of the biggest problems is that everyone who is in a bad situation in life wants to blame someone else for his/her current status. My parents are baby boomers but they did raise my sister and I in a very sheltered home, one with lots of rules. After being out in the real world, I am even more grateful for my strict upbringing. John M, along with some other gen x-ers, clearly made your point about my generation not knowing the definition of respect. Generation X-ers are adults now and we have the power to change things if we choose to. We're intelligent enough to realize what things have negatively affected our lives so as not to do the same with our children. If our parents made some mistakes in raising us, we need to be intelligent enough not to make them when raising our children."
Here is another comment from a spirited x'er:
A boomer replies:
"What makes you think that the boomers will have a choice to give up thier jobs. Being the first time in history, there will be record numbers of boomers retiring. How will you GenXer's be able to support our social security, and support the younger people? Most likely the goverment will set new standards (up-ing the retirement age) So I doubt, with regret that the door will be hitting us in the a... anytime soon. something to think about."
Gen-Xer Nikki, another hit-and-run visitor - we get a lot of them - thinks this is much ado about nothing:
"Stop 'making a mountain of a mole hill'. It's called a generation gap. You can argue all you want about how far away from 'normal' or 'morals'... etc we've gotten, but you know what? No matter what you think, you can take any generation and get the same response from them about the ones below them."
Nikki doesn't get it. She also thinks that kids going into their school and murdering their classmates and their teachers is just aother "mole hill." She seems to think this kind of thing goes on in every generation and is nothing to get upset about. Kinda' proves one of my points, does it not?
But Nikki didn't give us her e-mail address, so we cannot respond personally to her. So as a result, I decided to take her comments and turn them around on her.
See, Nikki, we always have the last word here, though we play our trump card only when we have no other choice.
An observant BBHQ visitor, who came along a decade before the boomers, writes:
I suggest (and I don't claim this as an original observation) that the development and proliferation of ever more powerful and versatile communication technologies have profoundly changed the experience of each generation. I can see why traditional structures of authority and respect have weakened or virtually disappeared. I wouldn't idealize my generation or any other, before or after mine, but I do think that society like people may grow more fragile with age, and younger people may be dealing with more structural problems than their parents and grandparents. It was my lot to grow up before the advent of affluence, when values were still influenced by the depression and the second world war, when we had books instead of electronic media. It was also a time of unquestioned racism and discrimination against females (my gender). Perhaps most saliently, there just weren't so many of us yet.
Gen-Xer Meg has an long and interesting story. But her conclusion is simple: "More GenXers should listen to their grandpappy and shut their mouths. Sheesh...too much noise!!!"
Gen-Xer Michelle adds this:
Yep; she makes a good point.
Xer Greg writes:
Well, yes he is right.... he does not get it. And what "seems" to him is not so. Greg does not explain exactly what he identifies as "patronizingly superior attitude," so it is impossible to defend myself on that one. As for what Greg "could do without," hey; no one forced him to read this page. Sorry, but Greg does not add anything significant to the debate. Is this another example of a "cherry picked Gen-X reader posts"?
Here is an Xer who was taught well:
He should be proud.
Our Music Room will expose you to some of the music that defined the boomers. While you're there, look up the lyrics to some of the songs; that will explain a lot. Our Sixties Section offers more information about the sixties. And the Boomer Essays contains some perspectives on what it is like to be a boomer.
Next, you might want to go to your local library and look up "Life" magazine from the sixties. "Life" was a weekly back then; in fact, it was the weekly magazine. Hugh Sidey's essay on the back page was always terrific. Finally, if you have the luxury, ask your parents. Listen closely; in fact, record what they have to say on tape. Someday, your grandchildren will thank you.
- Hershel M. Chicowitz
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|The BBHQ Feature Album is "Old Friends Live on Stage (Deluxe Edition) (2 CD/1 DVD)," by Simon & Garfunkel. If you were fortunate enough to see them in concert in 2003, I do not have to sell you. The concert was terrific! This album collection includes 55 songs, plus their new recording, "Citizen of the Planet," and one of the songs sung by the Everly Brothers during the concert. The DVD was recorded during their concert in Madison Square Garden in 2003. For any S&G fan, this is a must have! But then, you knew that already, didn't you?|
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