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Ed Driscoll

Boomers Go Back to the Future

January 7th, 2011 - 9:51 am

The first Boomers hit retirement age this year, or as the New York Times memorably put it on December 31st, “Boomers Hit New Self-Absorption Milestone: Age 65.” And note that it takes serious chutzpah for the boomer house organ to accuse their customers having more self-absorption than the folks who staff the paper itself.

Meanwhile, at the more sensible Townhall, Suzanne Fields has a good op-ed charting their various zigs and zags over the decades:

This is the generation raised on Dr. Spock, a war protester, who published “The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care” in 1945, just as the first of the boomers was more than a gleam in his father’s eye. The ’60s, the decade bulging with adolescent boomers who demanded their way in everything from pot to peace, was noted for its paradoxes. Historian Todd Gitlin describes them as “years of hope, days of rage.” Allen Ginsberg howled that the Beats, who preceded the boomers, watched the best minds of their generation “destroyed by madness,” but the boomers by contrast rocked with the Rolling Stones and gathered no moss.

No generation can foresee its future (though they all try), and the boomers inherited the hopes of fathers who bought with great sacrifice a hard-earned peace with pride.

Daddies who had seen war up close on the beaches of Normandy, Guadalcanal and Okinawa sired ungrateful grown-up children who mocked Daddy’s yearning for the conventional middle-class life in a detached house in the suburbs with a lawn to mow, a grill for barbecue and a good public school for their kids. Moms who were there to take them to music lessons, basketball practice and after-school play rehearsals were accused of living in a “comfortable concentration camp.”

But a boomer can no longer filter the memory of his youth, no matter how hip he thinks he was, through rose-colored glasses. Life invariably gets in the way. The revolution that seniors spawned in personal lives of yesteryear is made more comfortable today with deficit spending and a country carrying trillions of debt.

Boomers share responsibility for mortgaging the future of their grandchildren. In looking back, they can see how the complexities that they tried to fit in a Procrustian bed of chaos and cliches demanding unlimited “sex, drugs, rock and roll” mock their approaching “golden years.” Fortunately the idea of “better living through chemistry” comes with a double meaning, referring to creative inventions and discoveries from miracle drugs to microwave ovens.

As Fields notes above, Boomer parents who had been through the extended double-feature of the Depression and World War II understandably wanted to shield their kids from similar horrors (even as the Cold War was trundling onward), which like many good intentioned ideas, did not end well. As Diana West noted a few years ago, it led inexorably to The Death of the Grown-Up, a condition that is impacting us still, and will likely not end happily:

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Or as James Lileks put it, with a nifty paraphrase of Sideshow Bob:  THE, BOOMERS. THE.

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