By Robert A. Vella
In a thoughtfully expressive post titled Mad as Hell!! Really? fellow blogger DesertAbba lamented over Baby Boomers’ lost passion as America decays into a dystopian nightmare similar to the one famously envisioned by George Orwell:
“A really big problem is that those of us who are getting by are not angry. We have just enough that the problem of joblessness is not our problem, our student loans are behind us and weren’t all that heavy in any event. We are not among the 1-2% but we aren’t all that uncomfortable. Our SS checks get automatically deposited and our pensions and IRA drawdowns are enough. We still spend more at Starbucks in a couple of weeks than some families have for a starch-laden month’s supply of groceries. We feel the left side of our minds engage and the left side of our hearts speed up when people like Elizabeth Warren speak, but there are simply not enough of the likes of us who are willing to sacrifice even a little of our comfort to make changes. We are stirred by videos, assiduously avoid Faux News, tune in Madow and let PBS lull us to sleep, but we are not going to do anything that really costs us. Hence little will change no matter who is elected.”
My response acknowledged that frustration while adding a couple of other salient points:
“It is sadly true that we who fought so actively and so passionately against the Vietnam War, against corporate polluters, and against racial and sexual injustice, have become uninspiring in our old age. But, I would submit that the revolutionary fervor of civil disobedience is no longer our generation’s responsibility. That duty – fairly or unfairly – always falls upon the young.
We performed that duty in the 60s to early 70s, and some of us paid the ultimate price (e.g. Kent State massacre). We forced an end to the Vietnam War. We raised the environmental consciousness of the nation. We marched alongside the likes of Martin Luther King, Jr. We supported our sisters in their struggle for choice and equality. No, we weren’t perfect. Far from it. But, we did our duty.
Forty years later, I marched again with Occupy Wall Street joined by other aging Boomers. It was a commendable effort, but it could not be sustained. Millennials provided the energetic fuel, but the spigots quickly ran dry. When push came to shove, they retreated from real society and lost themselves in a virtual world of commercial bliss.”
I wasn’t trying to shift the blame onto Millennials. All Americans bear some responsibility for their nation’s demise, and none more so than the wealthiest and most powerful among us. It is rather stunning, however, to see the hopeful activism of the 1960s and early 1970s be replaced with defeatism and despair in just two generations. Even during the darkest days of Civil War, Americans didn’t give up hope. They kept on fighting.
What’s occurring now in the U.S. is unprecedented. When the people lose their will to win, a nation rots from the inside-out and will eventually crumble. It happened to Rome, and it’s happening to us. The only questions which remain are: How long will it take? – and – Can it be turned around in time?
The Boomers are getting old and tired. Generation X never became a social force of any significance. Millennials are moving in to that mainstream age group where career and family concerns take priority. Generation Z is still too young to be an agent of change. Perhaps they will in the years ahead as they discover who they are and wish to be.
I’ll conclude with these two recollections of the Baby Boomers. For better or worse, they made an indelible mark on America. The torch is now passed. What will the future bring?