I should have done this long ago but I kept hoping that things would work out; praying that I wouldn’t have to humble myself with an apology. However, it has reached a point where the inevitable is, well, inevitable.
So, here goes.
I am deeply sorry about the Baby Boom; no really, very deeply, remorseful even.
Being one of the very oldest Boomers my-own-self, I must admit that we are an unusually irritating generation. We had good intentions. At least the road to hell is well paved.
There are a number if specific failings that deserve full disclosure. However, before I go down that inglorious list, let me acknowledge that we actually did pretty well in the music department.
The Baby Boom rescued the 1950′s music scene from, among others, Gogi Grant, Kay Starr, Frankie Lane, Jo Stafford and Mario Lanza. And, although there was a brief 1956 “Hit Parade” uprising by the old-schoolers when Hugo Winterhalter released “Canadian Sunset”, rock-n-roll beat back the challenge easily.
Launched in 1955 by Bill Haley and his Comets, rock-n-roll never much looked back. Almost immediately it gave us Elvis (pre-Army, authentic,”I ain’t fat yet”, bad boy), The Platters, The Champs, The Coasters and Domenico Mudugno. The magic fuel in the R&R tank was the introduction of the Les Paul model solid-body electric guitar. In all of its various designs, the electric guitar was, and is, the bedrock R&R requirement.
There were the occasional lapses, I’ll admit, like the unfortunate Sheb Wooley “Purple People Eater” release, but in the main, the music created and supported by the Boomers is still classic, hummable and endlessly covered by contemporary pretenders. I think that even the most ardent anti- Boomer will admit that Boomer music is far superior to rap, krunk, ska, grunge, punk, bitpop, filk or skronk.
I’m also sure, however, that even with the music, the Baby Boom’s multiple sins outweigh this singular contribution. And so, let us commence the secular confession and apologia.
I’m ashamed that you have to endure Viet Nam War stories. The Boomers weren’t responsible for this particular dust up but we contributed most of the blood in the “blood and treasure” part of the equation. Now, at any gathering that includes older Boomer men, someone will launch into a primarily fabricated account of their heroics during the Tet offensive or some such. In my experience, having been on active duty with the U.S. Army (salute) from 1969-1972, those who actually had combat experience rarely want to re-visit the particulars and those who tell the tales were probably somewhere safe and warm, like Toronto.
We lied about Woodstock. It was a lot more fun if you weren’t actually there. Crawling in the mud, sleeping in the rain, worrying about tainted drugs and arguing with some stoned guy from New Jersey about the meaning of Joe Cocker’s version of “A Little Help From My Friends” is only fun in hindsight.
We ask forgiveness for our George McGovern support. Not that George wasn’t a fine fellow, he was, and not because we, in our let-us-change-the-world idealism were wrong about Richard Nixon, we weren’t, but we should have backed a candidate who actually had a chance of winning. George amassed a whopping 17 electoral votes by taking one state, Massachusetts. The man couldn’t even carry his own state of South Dakota, the political equivalent of not being able to get laid while at the Chicken Ranch. We Boomers must take our lumps for our part in the public re-emergence of Tricky Dick from his lair in San Clemente.
We regret Bill Clinton and George W. We may end up regretting Obama, a very young Boomer, a fact that may grant him a bye, depending on how things go. As for Bill and Hillary (co-presidents), while the country was actually in reasonably good shape economically, they pretty much dismantled the financial regulatory system during their tenure and this came back to haunt America big time. It isn’t so much Bill’s lack of foresight and leadership that deserves a mea culpa from Boomers, it’s our support for a recovering nerd and policy wonk with little or no class and no self control whatsoever. Apparently, not learning a major lesson regarding Boomers as presidents, the country turned to yet another, this one poised to lead thanks only to having won the Lucky Sperm Contest. As the second presidential representative of our cohort, George W. was mostly an embarrassment. While he would likely make a great next door neighbor, you know, genial, willing to lend tools and a hand, share a cold one, etc. etc., I already have good neighbors and none of them strike me as Leader of the Free World material either. Obama is probably the Boomers’ last shot. I just wish that he hadn’t been born in Kenya, wasn’t a closet Muslim and didn’t have that whole Antichrist cloud hanging over his head.
We are mortified by our sheer numbers; forgive us. True, it was our randy parents who, caught in the titillating afterglow of saving the world from fascism, resumed a normal home life and bred like mink. By January 1,1946, the first of 77 million Boomers emerged from wombs across the country, screaming for attention and succor, activities that we habituated. The harvest of our parent’s libidinous loins didn’t slow to a more puritanical pace until the year 1963 finally closed up shop. By then, the demographic charts contained this humongous lump of humanity that has since been working its way through the American digestive tract like an entire pig in a python. When you walk down the street today, one of every four passersby is a Boomer. They are the ones who have that smug look of the entitled.
Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who….oops, wait, no one actually trespassed against us. In fact, we pretty much got the long end of the wish bone. We would really like to return the favor, kids. However, we actually want everything that has been promised us. So, the next best thing is for us to keep on taking, piling on the debt (you can pay it later) and plead for your understanding as your standard of living falls, your payroll taxes steadily mount, your children face their limited educational and career choices while we Boomers sail on through our very special, meaningful, creative and blessed lives. We want every red cent of our Social Security, even the the Donalds and the Bills and the Melindas among us. We want it, even though the amount we paid in is far short of what we’ll extract, now that we are living 30 years past our retirement.
Fair’s fair. And, those artificial joints, we want those too, at your expense of course, and I know that I speak for the corporate pooh-bahs, the investment bankers and the Hollywood icons on this issue. We’re all sorry, damned sorry, sincerely sorry. But the fact is, Boomers just weren’t wired for sacrificing for the common good. Apparently, our parents and their parents used up all the genetic altruism fighting the Axis of Evil (the first one, not W’s pretend one). We don’t know where your altruism came from kids; certainly not from us.
I’m sure that there is much more that you expected to see in a blanket apology from a Baby Boomer but whatever it could possibly be is easily countered with slippery, lawyerly talk, e.g. “…that depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”
We are sorry in a way in which only Boomers can be sorry (not being one, you wouldn’t understand). It is deeply, truly, in-the-marrow painful, a pain that can only be managed with Medicare Part D prescription anti-psychotics.
Wish I hadn’t hit the “post” so quickly…my apologies. Bruce, your comments on Social Security and especially on Medicare are much appreciated and may I add? Gov’t should NOT have and still must stop “borrowing” from Social Security funds. That, and returning “borrowed” monies to that treasury would extend its life. No need to dismantle either SS or Medicare, just keep both funds “clean”. ACA should transition into Medicare for all because it works. That would benefit current and future boomers. Thanks, Jim Rogers…good comment.
~DOB ’42…and hoping my peers get on the ball and share our lessons we’re proud of!
No….it’s not. It’s just more of the whine from a generation that “had it good” after the “war babies” paved the way to what was thought would be a more “enlightened” USA. DOB “42.
Cathy Severson says
I chuckled through most of it and laughed out loud at a couple of spots. I was born in 1952 and not then or ever since then has anything appealed to me about Woodstock. Sorry.
I’m a bit tired about Baby Boomers only being indulged and their parents being these selfless patriots who saved the world. They were just as much a product of their environment as we are ours. They created the 50’s. Remember. Suburbs, Big cars with big engines and bigger air polution, the Interstate system-both a blessing and a curse, Playboy and MacDonalds. They are not any more blameless than we are the damned. We grew up in an unique period of time. Times are changing. The world is changing and we’ll all adapt, and adjust. Some will thrive and others will struggle.
Jim Rogers says
Right on, Carhy!
bruce brittain says
Cathy and Jim–
Thank you both for your responses. For a writer, reader response is a primary source of validation.
My Changing Aging article was written with tongue pretty much in cheek. I have to take exception, however, to being accused of not being a “rocker” due to my Woodstock comments. My first R&R paid gig was as a seventh grader in 1958 and I have being playing music for pay ever since (including this past weekend). My “rocker” credentials are firmly established. However, while crawling in the mud and being trained to shoot anything that looked like a Viet Cong in 1969, the hype about Woodstock (that same summer) was dismissed by those of us not able to attend for reasons of military obligations. Jim, if you were actually there, I’ll take your word that it was as fun as claimed.
As for the parts about the Baby Boom’s role in contributing to and taking entitlements from the government, I’m deadly serious. We are a mathematical problem. And, many in our cohort seem to have lost the notion of sacrificing for the common good. Our parent’s generation (and those before them to be sure) were clearly more willing, however grudgingly, to do with less or without, if it meant supporting the common good.
Our current Social Security system was devised in 1935 when growing old as a working man often meant penury and a very stark existence. FDR could only get the legislation through by including everyone in the system, even the wealthy. It stands that way today against all logic. In addition, the epidemiological revolution of mid-twentieth century means that what most of us contribute will be less than what we take out simply because of longevity. The solution to the long-term solvency of Social Security is actually not much of a sacrifice for those who actually don’t need 100 cents on every dollar that the system now promises (luckily, I am included in that group so I have financial skin in this potential solution). What I’ve found, however, is that the mere mention of modifying the system to insure it’s solvency evokes outrage, even among those whose retired years are or will be very secure via other financial sources. The selfishness of that response is telling.
Fiscally, however, Medicare is the real elephant in the entitlement room. From my research it is clear that the system actually works very much as designed and as a single payer system is far more efficient in suppressing healthcare cost inflation than is the polyglot stew of the for-profit private health insurers. The primary internal fault of Medicare is fraud and the fact that more of its resources are not used to suppress it. Medicare, however, is basically trapped inside a dysfunctional and non-market based American health care industry. Anyone who claims (as many politicians do) that we have “the best healthcare system in the world” is a jingoistic buffoon. One cannot take a hard look at our brethren in the world’s developed countries and not find our system of delivery and fee-for-service payment wanting.
We have highly advanced technology to be sure, but our system puts families’ financial future at risk. In no other developed country do people face bankruptcy due to medical bills. It is the leading cause in the U.S. I find this morally offensive. The much maligned Affordable Care Act, a.k.a., Obamacare, is a minor step in the right single-payer direction. For those who take the time to look beyond the politically driven, bumper-sticker digs at the ACA, there is clearly a need to change the country’s approach. If the Baby Boom were to collectively understand this, and connect the dots as to its 77,000,000 head count impact on Medicare, then we would get bi-partisan (remember that?) support for a single-payer system and drive the insurance companies back to life, casualty and property insurance where they belong; the built-in conflicts of interest are fewer in those lines of risk.
Thanks again for taking the time to respond. If you are interested in my many other tongue-in-cheek columns, please go to http://www.13thclown.com. If you are interested in hearing (or better still, buying) some of my music, visit http://www.brucebrittain.com
Jim Rogers says
I make no apologies whatsoever for anything my generation participated in. Not Vietnam. Not McGovern. Certainly not Clinton. As for Bush 1 and 2 … Well, they’re the proverbial exceptions to the rule. And, oh yes, that Nixon fellow. We put him in office, and then we took him out of office. Not all that bad, really. We made history doing it. We showed the world how American democracy works. Too bad those folks in Iraq couldn’t figure it out, but don’t blame Boomers for that. Our generation saw the first man land on the moon. We saw the Berlin Wall go up. And then we saw it come down. We made friends with China — sort of. We made friends with Russia — sort of. At least we ended the lousy Cold War — sort of. Now, if we can only find a way to make up with Cuba … I’d sure appreciate having access to those wonderful cigars again. As for rock n’ roll … what’s not to like? Oh, that’s right; there was that little flirtation with disco during the 70s. While I liked the ladies in their sexy disco dresses, the music left me a bit cold. But, again, we survived it. By the way, Woodstock wasn’t all rain and mud, you know. That was a very small — but fun — part of it. With Woodstock, what we’re really talking about is the most iconic rock concert in U.S. history. You’re no rocker at all if you besmirch Woodstock. In fact, talking badly about Woodstock ought to be a tar-and-feathering offense — especially if you consider yourself to be a rocker! And while I don’t know much about economic theory or how we’re “piling on debt” for future generations, I’ve got a hunch everything is going to work out for the best. We’ve been hearing that same ol’ scary tale about pending economic Armageddon for decades. I’ll believe it when I see it. In terms of the stock market, I think Warren Buffett probably has it right: Buy when everyone else is selling. Sell when everyone else is buying. It ain’t exactly rocket science, but it works. So, let me reiterate: No apologies. None. Nada. Zero. Ziltch. You Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers should have it so good!