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Thursday, April 21, 2016

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I read an article recently that got me thinking about something I rarely identify with: my generation. It's a spirited call to action, to which this is a complement. If you don't have time to read both articles, read Matthew Hennessey's.

I have friends across a range of ages and have always thought that was important, so even when “Generation X” was a popular term, I didn’t really submit to it. But age has been prominent this year in the U.S.A., more than race or ethnicity. The age of Bernie Sanders seems to be remarked upon as often as the remarkable fact that the U.S., at this late date, has yet to elect a woman president. What I never hear mentioned is that Hillary Clinton, several years younger than Senator Sanders, is the same age as our oldest president (the one I grew up with, Reagan.)

All of this has made me realize that the people least noticed and talked to/about in all of this are the generation doing most of the work and kid-raising happening today—mine. So I want to sit down in a [virtual] room with the Baby Boomers and the “millennials” and knock their heads together sort this out. I’m addressing this not just to Democrats, because one of the problems is that lots of Americans (including, until recently, Sanders) identify as independents. That’s not actually a problem, of course, unless your party is more important than your country. If it’s not (I’m looking at you, Republicans), read on.

The Sanders campaign has drawn the focus of this talking past each other, because its candidate’s age contrasts with the age of some of his strongest supporters. The Millennials are by no means all of his voters, but what Baby Boomers (the core of Clinton’s and Trump’s support) can’t get past is that these young people are voting for someone so old, when they themselves know nothing! They don’t remember First Lady Hillary Clinton. They don’t appreciate what happened in the 1990s.

Well, I do. And because I am in the middle, I can see farther than either of you.

Further into both the past and future. Unlike my youngest compatriots, I know members of the Greatest Generation—my grandparents’. I vividly remember people who lived through the Second World War. I have met Holocaust survivors on numerous occasions, and I will never forget them. The 1940s are receding into history, but still part of my century.

But I can also see further into the future than perhaps those born in the 1940s can. And that’s important, because the next President of the United States is almost certain to come, once again, from that decade. The presidency, and voters for the presidency, skew overwhelmingly Baby Boomer. By sheer size, the Baby Boomer generation has had overwhelming influence at every stage of their lives, and that continues. But as you guys retire, your grandchildren’s generation is going to need mine.
The week I graduated from college (=university), 1994. Reality Bites was in theatres.
 Most people my age are too busy. We’ve had presidents from your generation since 1992. That was when George Bush, a World War II veteran, gave way to Bill Clinton, the first Baby Boomer president. Back then, Bill was the draft dodging, pot smoking guy in his forties. Remember that? Millennials don’t remember when Bill and Hillary Clinton were the young First Family, but I do. You don’t have to remind me.

I get you, Baby Boomers. I’ve known of Bernie Sanders since before the Millennials were born. You were the original “never trust anyone over thirty” protesters, and now you see people under thirty voting for someone older than you and you don’t understand it. My gosh, are they even Democrats? The answer to that depends on your response now. They represent either the future of your party or its end.

I’m Ted Cruz’s age, so I remember the Soviet Union and the fall of the Berlin Wall. But these young people don’t. What they remember is capitalism never having worked for them in their entire lives.

And as for you, young people…of course I’m frustrated that you don’t like “feminism” or seem to appreciate all that your mothers’ generation went through, not to mention my mother’s. I’m a ‘70s-born lesbian, for Pete’s sake. But you are also the world that previous generations fought for. We wanted a generation that takes environmental science and homosexuality for granted, and thinks barring transgender people from bathrooms is stupid. We worked so that you would think electing a woman is no big deal. We are the generation that changed minds over this.

Every generation gets its turn to challenge what went before and try to do better. The Baby Boomers did this on a seismic scale, and gave us the revolutions of the 1960s. Women’s rights and gay rights come from that generation. Well done.

But this is your last chance. You get one more chance to run this country instead of running it into the ground. Many people, not just young people, have lost all confidence in the system even functioning, let alone fairly. You can continue to dismiss and alienate them, like your parents’ generation once did you, or you can listen to your children.

Both older and younger people need to listen to us for once. We’re the only ones who can understand you both.


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