Over Easy: A boomer’s lament

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 2/21/2020 5:49:22 PM
Modified: 2/21/2020 5:49:09 PM

The OK Boomer moment has come and gone and I didn’t even get a lousy T-shirt. All I got was Boomer Guilt.

In case you missed it, OK Boomer was “a thing,” which is how things are described when they become one. Things becoming a thing is a major thing.

OK Boomer is an ironic put-down, from someone younger and impatient with a baby boomer’s failure to grasp something supposedly obvious, such as the likelihood of climate change ruining everything we hold near and dear, or how to turn down the ring tone on their iPhone.

As soon as OK Boomer became a thing, social commentators wondered whether a civil war had opened between the generations. My first thought: Hasn’t it always been thus?

I remember as a youth rolling my eyes at my father’s stories of growing up in the Great Depression, which allegedly involved stuffing cardboard into worn-out shoes, getting only a couple pieces of fruit for Christmas and dropping out of high school to get a job — any job — rather than mope around the house and say “I’m borrrred.” Then came World War II and its sacrifices, which didn’t seem as momentous and relevant as the new bike I wanted in 1961.

You could hardly say “OK Greatest Generation.” Still we, the post-war babies, were self-obsessed, which is the way of things.

My second thought: Have we boomers dropped the ball? Did the world get worse under our watch? And how responsible am I, Dan Mackie, for this sad state of affairs?

By my reckoning, the boomers’ record is a little thin. The signature contribution of my generation is the Keurig coffee brewing system. It perfectly represents our need to have desires met with little effort, no matter the consequences. The Story of Stuff Project estimates that the number of little plastic coffee containers employed by the system could wrap around the planet 10 times. All that, and it wouldn’t even provide a barrier against meteors! Although they might encircle Mother Earth in the soothing aroma of fresh coffee, which would be sort of cool.

As far as I’m concerned, the Baby Boomer Era was birthed at the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. I just recently saw the cover image from the video that captured events there: peace, love, music — and mud and drugs (bad weather and bad acid). The subtitle declared, 3 Days that Changed Everything.

Baby boomers, well before things became things, were always declaring that something or other “changed everything.” Being young and impressionable, I thought that a music festival had, in fact, accomplished about as much as going to war against Hitler a couple of decades earlier. Well, not exactly, but sort of, in a hazy, oh-wow-man, one-toke-over-the-line sort of way.

But everything hadn’t changed forever. You knew that was true when disco came along just a few years later. In ways too complicated to explain here, boogie fever led to Ronald Reagan, and to where we are today: boomers getting shade from their children and grandchildren.

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We thought we were the Beatles, brilliant creatives, but maybe we were the Monkees, a made-for-TV band that claimed in a hit song, “We’re the young generation, and we’ve got something to say.” (Someone else wrote that lyric for them, sang the backup vocals, plus played the musical instruments.)

As for me, since I am not now nor have I ever been a billionaire, I cannot take full responsibility for the arc of history that has brought us to this point. I went to work, put the kids to bed, mowed the lawn, took vacations, paid my taxes, did my bit for worthy causes. Year after year, I reliably moved the clocks ahead in the spring and changed them back in the fall.

I cut down on plastic bags, recycled the newspaper and didn’t change my motor oil as often as the petroleum cabal recommended, doing my little bit to help the planet.

But I could have done more. We all could have done more. We could have paid more attention to the crap we were throwing away, for starters.

For the sake of our children, we could have noticed the drip-drip-drip of eroding opportunity. College costs more, health care costs more than that and pensions and benefits are being taken away. Amazon warehouse jobs aren’t so great, kids, but this is the golden age of two-day shipping!

And politics? Some are still working hard to fix things, but more people sit at home, online patriots, waiting for the meme that will change everything.

It just so happens that actual change comes unbidden and unseen, like extra bits of carbon in the atmosphere, unleashing forces that may once and for all, as they say, change everything.

Well, I seem to have gone off on a rant here. I don’t know if it’s the news, or that the Red Sox traded Mookie Betts that has me so unsettled.

But I do know this: If the boomers are going to be tried for negligence, younger generations will form the jury. We may not like the way it ends: Ms. Greta Thunberg, have you and the jury reached a verdict? What say you?

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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