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Boomer, X’er, Millennial. Rock Paper Scissors

Gen X is in the middle of a massively uncomfortable sandwich– between the powerhouse numbers of the Boomers and young adult Millennials. We were fantastically ignored in a recent dumbed down graphtastic CBS presentation (not even mentioned as being in existence). Gen X in many ways exemplifies the greed of the Boomers (look what age group encompasses the current Silicon Valley parasites) and the terrifying crisis of purpose that Millennials are known for. In short, we are maybe the worst of both worlds. That said as a Gen X’er, I personally feel like a bridge between the two groups. Yes, it’s a bridge like the Tacoma Narrows bridge, and pretty much every day seems to hit almost that same resonance, but a bridge nonetheless.

But never think there aren’t horrible Gen X’ers—Tobin, Squi, and PJ come to mind. And there are terrible Millennials—gun girl comes to mind.

I am proud of the wry self-deprecating humor so common with Gen X though—whether it is the obligatory minivan with an “I Used to be Cool” bumper sticker or just a really annoying willingness to generalize about entire groups of people. Come with me on this journey.

In trying to understand these differences, it seems we have to consider that we’ve been in a period marked by bizarre politics, insane weather– I can’t think how many times I’ve heard others say that it all just feels surreal. I’m not sure if it’s because our monkey minds have so much more information hitting us that Boomers and X’ers have even more of a dissonance. Perhaps some of that comes out as an unappealing inability to change and adapt. It’s been such a relatively short period of time that we’ve even had the internet in our daily life. This is an extreme advance in available information that sadly many use to get online and simply zone out. Not really much different than our parents going blotto on antennae tv or with a newspaper. It doesn’t seem to bring about the awareness or camaraderie one would expect with the instant availability of the world.. I think Boomers and X’ers may be using technology as place to hide, whereas Millennials are simply in their habitat; it’s how they communicate period. But it is still artificial and to be used with balance if we aren’t to lose sight of each other.

Boomers and X’ers, to a lesser extent, have been spoon-fed such a notion of what success is, and of course, it is almost always monetary. Even if Millennials were completely into that notion, it simply isn’t a world available to them. Hell, you can have a full-time job now and still die from not being able to afford your insulin. This is not something that would be happening in the 60’s. Unmitigated greed and hoarding on the part of the older generations have left the Millennials none of the safety they deserve in life. It’s entirely common to see news reports that denigrate large groups, but have you even seen a report that looks into why someone would need billions of dollars? If the average citizen really had a concept of what that amount of money means and what that hoarding costs others—I think a lot of the trans-generational angst would melt in the view of the real enemy.

And there is something of note in pop culture that I can’t help but think of as a sniff, a sliver, and a taste of lovely possibility–the fact that Millennials and those even younger might have less of the ego-driven hell inside them. Mainstream shows such as “The Good Place” or the sardonic, but ultimately altruistic “Russian Doll” exhibit the best of that generation’s slicing humor, but carry along a need for purpose, acceptance, and worth. It’s not Jack pretending he isn’t gay to fool Mr. Roper, and it’s not the usual young Boomer flick with a solitary protagonist battling alone to the tune of something awful like “Eye of the Tiger”. These battles and issues are only managed through love and cooperation with others—that we are tasked with caring for one another, and the battles are never “won”–they are merely mitigated through the cooperation and caring of others.

I do see some Boomers in a state of fear that their legacy of going against the man is threatened by these upstarts. But you don’t get to keep that claim that you are a rebel when you become so much a part of the status quo that your only goal is to pull up the ladder once you’ve climbed it. I see an unwillingness to gracefully pull forward with the young. MAGA seems to be part of this as well as some neoliberal fixations on the previous great days of Clinton or Obama, which were really only great for certain groups. I’m not saying that this is a completely older individual situation, but that seems to be the dreadful core. It’s odd that such diverse political types have this in common. Really, it’s a thrashing about and unwillingness to allow the cycles—Shiva the destructor being just as required as a creator. Give in to the storm and help the sprouts that arise afterwards. Alliances between Boomers and Millennials are most definitely possible. Whatever you think of him, go to the next Bernie rally and look at how his energy matches theirs. There is no predefined hate between these age groups if an honest desire to connect is there. I can see it; I’m the wavy bridge.

There is so much to appreciate about both generations. I applaud the destruction of napkins, Applebees and reastraunts that Millennials have been able to achieve. This is good stuff. Boomers, you have in many cases so much power and comfort in your lives—a safety the young do not have. Please do not forget that it was so much easier for you. Your minimum wage summer job really could pay for many state college classes all those years ago. And Millennials need to realize that not all Boomers are in a privileged spot. They didn’t all reap the rewards of this moment in time and many are elderly and fairly destitute. An elderly Boomer female might have slaved away for a family, not worked outside the home. Maybe she had a crappy husband who is gone and maybe she is trying to help younger members of her family too. It isn’t all so clear. Not to mention the young Boomer age guys who got shipped to Vietnam basically for being poor. They were given the gift of PTSD for their trouble if they came home at all.

But overall, I know it is fairly comic to even make these artificial delineations in age groups. Does anyone look at the husks of people in Pompeii and say oh wow, look at that 30-year-old slacker or I bet that elderly man was really a stand-up guy before he got hit with the pumice bomb? We share this extremely small window of time together with overlap. We will mourn each other, and our children will be mourned with the timelessness of the overlap as it has been since our type began. We are here to love and remember each other. We have an unbroken chain of love and loss that extends forward and back in time. It’s the only certainty we have, and each of our hearts bears that cross-generational loss. It’s imbued with significance and responsibility for others.

Boomer, X’er, Millennial….the most critical thing is to look at our now. How can we support and love each other in this present, and how can we do the clean correct thing for those coming later? Eliminating species, continuing to burn fossil fuels, continuing with this extreme meat consumption—those are just a few examples—it can’t stay like this. We have to do better, whatever age we are, and we have to do it in the now. No, we can’t put our lives off and only live the future—who knows if we have one? We will have nothing of meaning to our lives if we only do that. There is no guarantee, but we need to make sure it is a livable future for others because that part isn’t our call. We don’t get to ruin everything for others. This gives life meaning to all of us in our present and only guaranteed moment.

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Kathleen Wallace writes out of the US Midwest and can be reached at klwallace@riseup.net

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