Preach, preacher, saith the choir

Why the Grasshopper Generation is the most hated generation:

Pity the baby boomers, blamed in their youth for every ill and excess of American society and now, in their dotage, for threatening to sink the economy and perhaps Western civilization itself.

The revival of The Great Gatsby serves as a reminder that continuing to blame boomers even in their old age was not a foregone conclusion. The young people of the 1920s were as controversial to their older contemporaries as their counterparts in the 1960s and 1970s. They were called flappers (less commonly “sheiks,” in the case of men), or Bright Young Things in England. The cartoons of John Held, Jr. have memorialized their hair styles, bobbed for women, slicked back for men — the Beatles cuts and Afros of their own time. But the gilded youth of that earlier age, having enjoyed bootleg liquor and cigarettes rather than stronger substances, were allowed to make a discreet transition to middle age and then little old lady and gentleman status without the medical clucking or cultural sneers of journalists. They vanished back into the multitude while the so-called Boomers seem destined to be hounded to death. Why?

I can think of a few reasons:

  1. They ruined American society.  Even the acts for which they can’t be held responsible, such as the 1965 Immigration Act, they resolutely supported.
  2. They are, to the extent that one can categorize an entire generation, short-sighted and selfish.  It is astonishing to compare the lack of interest my parents’ generation has in its grandchildren to the dedication that my grandparents’ generation showed to us. 
  3. They are obnoxious.  As PJ O’Rourke once pointed out, the Baby Boomers still clinging to their teenage music and styles would have been like his parents wearing zoot suits in their old age.
  4. They bankrupted the country and their families.  No generation was given larger inheritances by its parents’ generation.  And it is quite likely that most Boomers will leave nothing behind. 
  5. They were given wealth, peace, and power, and instead of being grateful for it, they scorned the traditions of their forefathers and squandered what they were given.

The ills of an entire generation cannot be placed at the feet of every single one of its members.  But neither can any individual member reasonably pretend the rightful anger that following generations will be directing at the Baby Boomers as a whole is unjustified.