The Contrary Generation

Tom Brokaw dubbed my father-in-law’s compatriots the greatest generation. They grew up during the Great Depression and fought WWII. They believed in sacrifice for the greater good and love of country. They worked hard, persevered against long odds, and fought harder after getting knocked down.

They also spawned the Baby Boomers.

I’ve been wondering what moniker pundits will give to my generation. Some of the early Boomers protested the Vietnam War, participated in the free speech and free love movements, took drugs, formed communes, refused to conform to the demands of the free market system. Then, in the eighties, Yippies evolved into Yuppies. They swerved to the right and pledged allegiance to capitalism, greed. Yuppies became neo-cons in the late 90s and early 2000s. They believed in the United States’ right to use military power to intervene in the Middle East, to depose governments and install American-leaning democracies. Now a significant percentage of the Boomers believe in Trump, the great Big Daddy. They pray that he’ll use charisma, loud-mouthed bullying and cut-throat bargaining to secure the tattered remnants of white privilege. So much for peace, love, nonconformity and power to the people (uh huh).

We are the contrary generation.

Of course, not all the boomers swayed to the tune of every passing fad and bowed down to every commercial campaign. Not all sold out. Some tried to make their portions of the world better. But I had hoped that the abundant youthful idealism of the 60s would have produced more positive action over the long haul.

The 60s were a party. The 70s a hangover. The 80s a redirection. Every year from 1992 on has been part of a fitful thrashing about, a search for solid ground. I understand why the millennials look at us in disbelief.

But the Boomers are human. Current and future generations can look at us as a cautionary tale. The Millennial and I-Generation’s assumption that they won’t fall into the same traps leads to identical behavior. The Boomers, once upon a time, thought they were better than the Greatest Generation. They thought they were special. Look how that turned out.