As a Baby Boomer, I have developed a deep respect for Millennials. As flawed as Democracy may be, it remains for me the best of all systems for governance. This piece originally ran as a commentary in a local paper, and is especially pertinent now, with the most recent gun carnage against Jews and Blacks. It is a clarion call to Millennials, and to my fellow Boomers to go out and vote next Tuesday.
Baby Boomers. We were so certain of our uniqueness- of our destiny to defy the inevitability of history and change the world.
There were so many of us; we would overwhelm the forces of evil that spawned the senseless Viet Nam War and the brutality of racism. It was as if we were meant to be young at an ordained time in order to meet the tumult of injustice head on and usher a new era of peace and equality. But oh how flawed we were: never trust anyone over 30; dismissing our parents for having a stake in the system and buying into the American Dream- a dream so frail and perhaps illusory. But we fatigued so quickly in pursuit of our ideals.
After Kent State, realizing that the protective womb of the campus ruptured and that they could actually kill us, we receded from the struggle and forged a new strategy- the long game stealth coup- take the system over from within. But oh, how readily we caved- co-opted by our own greed and narcissism, and one day we awoke and found ourselves towing the line as obedient company men and women. But finally, change is in the air.
A new generation is here- the Millennials, and their slightly younger brothers and sisters, the Post Millennials- or, as I like to call them, the young people.
They are an emerging force. I deal with them daily- at the gym, where I am old enough to be their grandfather but am treated like a bro; in the senior center where I volunteer as a driver delivering meals to seniors less mobile than I, and the twenty-something coordinators are endlessly congenial and respectful to all; and the young retail workers who are ceaselessly courteous and patient. Where does all this “fragile as snowflakes and rattled by micro aggressions ” nonsense, of which they are accused, come from? Perhaps from curmudgeonly Boomers who swore they would never become like their parents and never grow old. Yes, never trust anyone over 30 went the Boomer mantra, but it seems all are welcome within the inclusive Millennial tent- all races and creeds, young and old, gay, straight, trans- come one, come all! And I have not even gotten to conscience and guts yet.
After the shooting massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in which 14 students and three teachers were slaughtered by a sick student with an all too easily obtained assault rifle, the expected and sickeningly redundant response by NRA beholden politicians was issued as if by script- “We extend our prayers and condolences.” The slaughter was characterized as a tragedy, tantamount to a natural disaster, followed by the customary litany of improved school security, screening for red flags raised by potential assailants, arm the teachers, ad nauseam. Everything but, of course, ban assault rifles. In the past after such massacres, the cries and pleas for gun reform would raise a tepid debate, then after a few weeks there would be a return to status quo. Not this time. Those very young people stepped up to the plate without flinching.
We Boomers demanded that the world be changed- now! The young people, wisely narrowed the scope. Spearheaded by the Parkland shooting survivors they coalesced quickly with one demand obvious in its simplicity- the right to go to school without fearing for their lives on a daily basis. High school students, barely beyond childhood, standing up before millions with pride and conviction, speaking with a strength and eloquence forged by trauma that belies there youth. They have seen death at their feet; the blood of their friends spilled around them. They will never be children again.
And they grow in number. They were an army at the “March For Our Lives” rallies. Uncorrupted and unyielding.
Some say we are sliding inexorably toward totalitarianism. I think of the old saw, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men (and women) to do nothing.” Our young are doing something.
And so, for you fellow Baby Boomers who may be reading this- we’re not dead yet. Don’t let a joint replacement or bypass keep you from reconnecting with your old passion and ideals.
And you Young People? Keep moving forward. Vote; organize. The fight will not be easy; the march may be uphill. You can handle it. Look at what you’ve already done. You are the new vanguard. Finish the job we started. You are young; you are the future; the future belongs to you.
Now go out and take it