Friday, December 12, 2008
Boomers Going Bust
No matter the flavor of your political choice, after what seems like almost ten years on the campaign trail, there is a general sense of relief that the Presidential election of 2008 is behind us. That said, now don’t grab your throat and gag, I have to offer just one more slant on the process. Then it can be behind us. Maybe.
“Eat dirt and die!” I was reminded recently that back in the 80’s I would clench my fist and shout that charming sentiment at folks whom I determined were offenders in one way or another. You might wonder why, not being particularly athletic or able to defend myself, I would feel comfortable hurling such a confrontational statement. Divine right: I’m a Boomer and we’ve always felt that the world is ours. Our Daddies came home from the war and apparently were very glad to see our Mamas and pretty soon, there we were: the “Pig in the Python.” My financial advisor, Larry, recently described us as that lucky generation between the two Great Depressions. Estimates place the number of those of us fortunate enough to be born between 1946 and 1964 at about 79 million, slightly over 30% of the U.S. population. With numbers like that on my side, it’s not surprising that I started to think that I could do anything that I wanted, including yelling rude things with impunity.
So, having sported that mindset for most of my life, this last election came as a dope slap. We, the changers-of-society, arbiters-of-what-is-popular, movers and shakers, are starting to be considered relics of the past. What? How can this be? There must be a mistake here, or perhaps my soon-to-be-old-person hearing is failing. Like Al Haig, (not a Boomer, by the way) we’re “in charge here.” Or were.
Our President-elect, born in 1961, technically is a baby Baby Boomer, but he is too young to have served in Vietnam. “So what?” you may say. Well, the “So what?” actually is one of the things that started me on this depressing, has-been rant. I heard on NPR that the last several Presidential nominees who had served in Vietnam were not elected: Al Gore, John Kerry, and John McCain. The implication being that those of that generation were no longer necessary: for a Boomer, a stunning blow as a thought to consider.
Couple that with a real-life incident and this member of the “pig in the python” set may be lower than a snake’s belly. Walking home from the Notre Dame stadium after a football game shortly before the election, a young, obviously inebriated man grilled our group (Boomers all) about who we were supporting for President. Varying responses from us led him to declare that he was supporting the Libertarian candidate. (We’ll not dwell on the fact that he informed us that most people didn’t even know who the Libertarian candidate was, but that he would be voting for Ron Paul. Poor Bob Barr, the actual Libertarian candidate, must have been too low-profile to catch this young man’s attention. However, I’ve mellowed over the years and forbore from correcting him or suggesting that he “eat dirt and die.”) We mostly ignored him and just let him prattle on until he finished instructing us. But when he had finished making his case, before leaving us behind as he passed into tomorrow, he tossed a final comment over his shoulder, “I’m voting for Ron Paul and I’m 26 and that’s how it is now.”
Although I’m reasonably certain that he didn’t vote for Ron Paul, his statement of “I’m 26 and that’s how it is now,” bounced around in my brain.
We tend to think that we are just the same as we always were: not old. Even old Senator McCain (also not a Boomer) referred to one of us as “washed up.” “Just like we always were” must not be true. We Boomers no longer are 26, and that’s how it is now. We have to begin to step aside, even if we do so in protest, shouting “Eat dirt and die.” That’s our lesson from the election of 2008.