Posted by: Dave | May 28, 2010

It’s All About Us

As the Baby Boomer generation begins our gradual slide into retirement, it will be interesting to see how our children reflect upon our accomplishments, especially in contrast to the generation of our parents, who mostly comprised what Tom Brokaw famously referred to as The Greatest Generation.  It was a title that stuck, and for good reason. Their accomplishments are noteworthy in a historical context, when simple survival, either through the dust bowl, the depression, or from enemy bullets, defined success.  After turning back tyranny on two fronts, they came home to build families and businesses. Many were successful beyond their wildest dreams.  They were mostly unified in their vision of a strong America, and possessed an optimism buoyed by success and security.           

The Greatest Generation then spawned The Baby Boomers.  We “Boomers,” are a statistical bubble.  A “frog in the snake” created when tens of thousands of service men returned home, got married, and established families in an environment of prosperity and promise.  Most succeeded in providing for their families what they were lacking in their early years.

History notes that our generation had different objectives than our parents.  In some cases we set out to be everything our parents weren’t: more focused on our country’s internal flaws of inequality, intolerance, environmental negligence, and in the beginning, an unpopular war. We made our first marks not with battlefield bravery, but through our protests on the National Mall, in town squares, and on college campuses. 

Most historians also agree that we were more self-indulgent, and more demanding.  We have been rarely motivated by duty or simple patriotism.  During the seventies, we were referred to as the “Me Generation.”

We attacked The Greatest Generation’s view of societal mores that had clear boundaries of acceptable behavior. We became more inclusive and understanding, but also created a “no blush” generation that interpreted poor decisions as accepted lifestyle choices, where the worst sin was being “judgmental.”  We replaced Bob Hope and Red Skelton, who could deliver long monologues without ever saying an off-color line, with humorists that bring every scatological joke imaginable from the locker room to the living room.  Traditional, family oriented television programs were usurped by entertainment that glamorized self-indulgent lifestyles that were neither realistic nor tenable. It became popular to emphasize family flaws in our entertainment. Any assertion that a traditional marriage was better for raising children was met with howls of criticism from the cultural elite. Our family structure is barely recognizable in many quarters, with divorce and out-of-wedlock birth rates that are twice that of our parents.  We pretend it is ok so as not to be “judgmental.” In short, we became more liberated but less stable, and consequently more dependent upon government than our parents. 

We have also been at war within, a hyphenated menagerie of placard-wielding activists, many of whom identified ourselves as something other than Americans first, but still ready to take to the streets and fight over a multitude of issues. We have agreed on little, from the definition of marriage to whether or not English should be our official language. Even the brief unity that enveloped the country after 9/11 quickly dissipated with much criticism focused on our government and our way of life, as if we deserved it.

The Greatest Generation grew up in cities with safe neighborhoods.   Many of our Baby Boomer parents roller skated on city sidewalks and played in the city parks.  They walked to their neighborhood schools and delivered newspapers on bicycles.  Today, most of our cities have become urban cesspools.  Detroit, once a shining city that provided jobs for tens of thousands, is now an urban cesspool with city blocks that are being bulldozed in hopes of developing urban farmland.

No better metaphor for the Baby Boomers may exist than Bill Clinton, who was handed, by his Greatest Generation predecessors, a world, for the first time in fifty years, not threatened by the Cold War.  But as he oversaw a period of great economic prosperity and national security, his behavior was marred by self-indulgent personal transgressions that may be his enduring legacy.

So the Boomers replaced patriotism with activism, but to what end?

We had some victories, but we also made some messes, and that may be what we are remembered for.

Our greatest mess may be our sense of entitlement and the accompanying debt that we are leaving our children.  The problem will grow as the trickle of babyboomer retirees becomes a torrent over the next decade.

How fitting it may be then, that the table has been set for one great last protest.  But this one will be focused not at the institutions of our parents, but at our own children…a massive angry gray crowd filling the streets, all unified for once in agreement that we deserve the entitlements that we voted for ourselves-not only our social security, but our “right” to free prescription drugs, and now healthcare.  And we will probably win…due to our low birth rates, we outnumber our children. 

So if one of us has spawned the GenXer’s version of  Tom Brokaw, don’t be surprised if the tone of our definitive epitaph is more resentful instead of awestruck. A more cynical study may be in order, with a more appropriate title, such as “The Baby Boomers:  “It Was All About Us.”

But why worry now?  The crisis is years away.  For some, the motor home is packed and the medicine cabinet has ample supplies of Cialis. 

Margaritaville is just around the next bend in the road.



  1. I think you absolutely nailed it, son. I’m glad that there is no more discrimination as I knew it and also for other improvements, but I and my friends of the Greatest Generation just cannot understand the movies, so called comedians and political commentators who cannot function w/out just plain filth and anger. Why are they always so angry? I am so glad I lived in a time when things were more innocent.

  2. Maurice, it is great for me to read your work again. You ably illuminated the tremendous difference among the generations. Love you man! cb

  3. Just today I told my kids that my father was prepared to lay his life down for me to have a better future than he did (WWII, USMC Iwo Jima) and my wife jumped in and said the same (her father WWII, USN) …and my generation is passing to you crap…my kids are 23 and twins 21. It is sad, but I am NOT going to give up. I am dedicated to be a fountain of truth…I am digging into our rich history as well as the Bible. Keep writing brother…this is excellent. I have been “thinking” these same thoughts, but at the elementary level, you made my thoughts “sing”…thanks and keep it up!
    john A

  4. Hopefully our children haven’t learn from us how poorly we value life and figure out there’s a way to change who outnumbers whom. A few death panels and voila, away with their competition at the polls and away with those elderly health benefits we voted for ourselves. The abortionist’s saline morphed into euthanasiast’s gas. “Don’t feel guilty, they won’t feel a thing.”

    Ideas have consequences…

    Excellent piece, Mo!

  5. Here we go again, same old song again. Once upon a time everything was great and clean: Norman Rockwell, America united, Great Depression, Normandy, Greatest Generation, Ozzie & Harriet. If you were a Leftist you would include vague references al la David McCullough in Seabiscuit about how FDR “stirred our spirit”. Then the Gathering Storm: Self-indulgent baby boomer Me generation, feminism, drugged hippies dancing in the street, and the supposedly new phenomenon of “hyphenated Americans”. Oh the (Red) terror.

    Leave it to Gene Wisdom to make the Palin connection via “death panels”. Guess what, conservatives: there will not be death panels, because as America is bankrupted by military spending, the old folks and veterans will be left to die in the triage of Walter Reed-like hospitals set up by “the Greatest Generation”. In the world made by globalist Reaganites, there won’t even be the dignity of a death panel–there will be NO MONEY for anything except keep our occupying armies in their Green Zones.

    None of this upcoming national bankruptcy was desired by true conservatives: Sumner, Weaver, Kirk, and Mises. It was, however, made inevitable by the military Keynesian vision that Buckley, Reagan, and the Neocons unquestionably shared with the New Dealers and Great Society folks. And the kicker is that the Commies–China and Vietnam–beat you on the battlefield and now are buying you out. No, James Burnham, there were never commies under the bed, but they made (and will own) the bed you sleep in–and the copy of the latest Palinite dreck on your nightstand (and the nightstand)! I see it has been a long slide for conservatives as they went from Spengler and Kirk to Limbaugh and Palin.

    PS, Hey, why is there no mention of Iran-Contra on this website? Wasn’t the Gipper, in all is undercover savvy of selling weapons to Iran and “Islamo-Fascists”, part of the Greatest Generation?

  6. Actually, MJ, I have no use for Palin. But let that not get in the way of you missing the point, which is that we who have imposed these costs on our children may find ourselves at their mercy. And our own demonstrated lack of concern for life may come back to bite us Baby Boomers in the ass. It was certainly a truth grasped by Weaver. It just slipped right by ol’ MJ, though. I’m really not sure what propelled MJ to hit the ramp to make the leap from Dave’s point in the original post to neo-cons and “globalist Reaganites” to James Burnham and the Red Chinese.

    The societal decay wrought by us Baby Boomers came about as we lost sight of truths seen by such as Weaver and Kirk. Also, the moral and economic consequences as we lost sight of economic truths taught by Mises, as well as Hayek. I would argue that the reality we face as described by Dave in the post has nothing at all to do with an interventionist “neo-con” foreign policy. Hopefully MJ can remove the ramp and take us their without a jump.

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