Monday, November 12, 2007

Boomer Sandwich, and Barack Obama

My mother, my sister, and I make up a boomer sandwich. Meaning, my mother is WWII Generation, my sister (16 years my senior) is Boomer Generation and I am Gen X.

My mother and I have our complaints about the Boomer Generation. For my mother, the Boomers were the ones telling her that she needed to have her consciousness raised and that she was wasting her life by being "just" a housewife. I have received my own share of comments about how the Boomers broke barriers for me and here I am, ungrateful and a waste of a college degree, staying home with my babies.

The more things change ...

The self-importance of Boomers is a bit grating for my parents. "Weren't we out there marching, too? In fact, weren't we the ones organizing the marches?" they might grumble. Except that they are WWII-Gen, and they generally don't take the time to grouse. I am interpreting their rolled-eyes.

As a Gen X, my rolled-eyes come from the idealistic weak memory of some Boomers. "Well, we've solved the other problems, I think we'll find a solution for the environment, too," one clueless Boomer friend recently said to me. No, she was not being facetious.

And hey, while I am grousing, thanks for inventing the 60-hour work week!

Of course the truth is, some of you Boomers did some amazing stuff. And really did change the world. Sarah Weddington, I give you my thanks. All the female UU ministers who got out there and showed congregations that having a female minister wasn't so wild and crazy. All those who actively worked for tolerance and inclusivity. The women who busted the doors down to the Boardroom.

But as a Gen Xer, I have had the feeling, "Okay, okay, you were wonderful, you changed the world ... can I please stop genuflecting now?"

The problem is, just as there genuinely are slacker Gen-Xers, there are genuinely Boomers filled with their own self-importance, convinced that their view is not just valid, but that it's RIGHT. Exclusively.

And that, I think, is why Obama's quotation had some many folks sitting up and taking notice:

"There's no doubt that we represent the kind of change Senator Clinton can't deliver on. And part of it's generational. Senator Clinton and others have been fighting some of the same fights since the '60s. It makes it very difficult for them to bring the country together to get things done. And I think that's what people hunger for."

Depending on your birthdate-definition of the generations, Barack Obama could be characterized as either a Boomer or a Gen Xer. With this quote, he put himself firmly in the Gen X camp. And a lot of Gen Xers cheered.


Anonymous said...

I heard a great NPR program about Obama last week that included a great deal of discussion about the generational impasse he might break. I learned from the show that his mother is only five years older than Hillary Clinton, who was born in '47, which is one bit of data that puts him into the post-boomer generation.

The radio program was really good: "Obama and America" (On Point, November 6).

Lizard Eater said...

Oooh, thankee, Philo. I watched Obama on Tim Russert yesterday, but hadn't heard the NPR program.

Alex Winnett said...
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Alex Winnett said...
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Stephanie said...

I hear a fair amount of self-congratulatory rhetoric from people who identify as Baby Boomers. It tends to really push my buttons even as some of my good friends are the low end of baby boomers. I really don't feel like any problems have been solved whatsoever.

Bill Baar said...

Obama is old school Chicago Regular Democratic Politics... he's a heck of one to talk about anything new.

He's never said much about systematic police brutality in Chicago. Asked for the Feds to investigate it...he's silent about it because it hits too close to the home of his patrons.

Anonymous said...

Gen-Xers are cynical, because the generation after the idealists is SUPPOSED to be cynical. It's the next generation that will get things done. And they aren't nearly as dismissive of the Boomers ideas as the Gen-Xers are.

fausto said...

The thing that galls me (a late boomer) about Obama's comments is that the boomers didn't finish the job, they barely began it; and the ones who have remained most committed are not self-congratulatory and locked into old paradigms, but know full well how much remains to be done. Some of them have been wandering in the wilderness a good long time waiting for the right moment to come around again. Perhaps Obama's right that younger, more vigorous leadership might be more effective, but the fights he wants the opportunity to fight are the very same ones the generation before him never had the opportunity to finish. For a younger generation to dismiss the preceding one so scornfully, just as it seems that the new dawn they both hope for is beginning to break, is to misunderstand the nature of the real struggle. The geezers were young and intense once too, and the Xers' hopes and ideals are not nearly as fresh nor their elders' as stale as they might think.