D. Dowd Muska


The Selfishest Generation’s Sorry Record

November 14, 2013

There’s still time. Turn your televisions off. Now. And don’t turn them back on until November 23rd. By then, crazed, schmaltzy, vacuous JFK nostalgia, currently enveloping the nation, will have dissipated.

Coverage of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of the 35th president started two weeks early, and will culminate on the 22nd, with NBC’s “two-hour documentary ‘Where Were You: The Day JFK Died,’ reported by Tom Brokaw.”

An appropriate commemoration of a presidency tragically extinguished by a crackpot’s bullet? Nah. It’s just another opportunity for Baby Boomer navel-gazing.

Forget Watergate, the McGovern campaign, the first Earth Day, Woodstock, Tranquility Base, Vietnam, the Summer of Love, the struggle against Jim Crow, the Beatles on Sullivan. It’s the murder of John F. Kennedy that resonates deepest for Boomers, the 78-million-strong cohort born between the end of World War II and the early 1960s.

Kennedy’s killing is the fount of Boomers’ victimization saga. Losing such a “visionary” leader, their dubious narrative holds, was the first of many traumas. In the decade and a half to come, they would realize that America had too many sexual “hang-ups,” capitalism was incompatible with environmental protection, and the have-nots had not due to inadequate “public investments” -- i.e., expensive programs designed by Ivy League grads. While male Boomers were shipped off to die for nothing in a far-off jungle, their distaff counterparts began to understand the boring and demeaning nature of being a “stay-at-home mom.” Careers were preferable to a life sentence in the suburbs. Accordingly, marriages had to eschew gender roles. And when a union faltered, it was better for everyone, including the kids, to divorce.

The heart gets what the heart wants. No matter who gets hurt.

As the ‘70s gave way to the ‘80s, the U.S. became a full-bore Boomer Nation. It still is. Traditional notions about connubiality and child-rearing are passé. One of the vilest things that can be said about someone is that he is “judgmental.” NIMBYism and weather paranoia, fueled by junk science, are pervasive. There is no social or economic problem that lobbyists cannot leverage for greater taxpayer-financed outlays.

America’s had Boomer presidents for 20 years, and the national debt has jumped from an inflation-adjusted $6.8 trillion to $17.1 trillion. (Unfunded liabilities are astronomically higher.) Over 40 percent of births are illegitimate. Welfarism is rampant, as the able-bodied choose subsidies over work. Popular culture celebrates ignorance, vulgarity, and solipsism.

Worst generation ever? The case is strong. After all, the Baby Boom’s responsible for Bill Kristol, Cass Sunstein, Peggy Noonan, Oliver Stone, Bill O’Reilly, Anna Quindlen, Donald Trump, Stephen King, Karl Rove, Sonia Sotomayor, Sean Hannity, Bill Maher, John Podhoretz, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Dick Morris, Paul Krugman, Victor Davis Hanson, Bob Costas, and Ann Coulter.

Boomerism afflicted the nation with appalling public policies and a legion of third-rate thinkers, but don’t overlook its cost to individuals. Earlier this year, Bloomberg covered the results of a study that found that Boomers “have more chronic illness and disability than their parents, as their sedentary habits and expanding girth offset the modern medicine that enables them to live longer.” Boomers, notes Richard A. Friedman, M.D., “are far more likely to use illicit drugs than previous generations.” The group’s suicide rate, The Washington Post reported in June, “shot up precipitously between 1999 and 2010.”

In 1967, Time assured its readers that “the generation now in command can take solace from its offspring’s determination to do better.” Those 25 and under, the magazine concluded, would “infuse the future with a new sense of morality, a transcendent and contemporary ethic that could infinitely enrich the ‘empty society.’”

But Boomers peaked early -- protesting conscription and the slaughter in Indochina, for example, and raising awareness that pollution was a genuine problem. Since then, their record has been nothing short of disastrous.

“I loathe my generation,” Boomer Joe Queenan growled in 2001. “We became culturally frozen in time at a very early age and continue to think of ourselves as trailblazers. It’s completely pathetic.”

Four years later, columnist Nicholas D. Kristof predicted that Boomers “won’t be remembered as the ‘Greatest Generation.’ Rather, we’ll be scorned as the ‘Greediest Generation.’”

Instead of producing more rhapsodies for, as Stone’s comically earnest JFK has Jim Garrison quote Tennyson, “your dying king,” Boomers should look ahead. They still posses considerable resources in politics, media, and academia. A mea culpa, combined with an offer of assistance to the generations charged with cleaning up the Republic’s many messes, would help rehabilitate Boomers’ well-deserved reputation for narcissism.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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