The Greatest Degeneration

The pleasant thought hadn’t occurred to us until we came across it in the lurid pages of New York City’s tabloid press, of all places, but it seems the upcoming presidential election “will likely be the last hurrah of the baby boomers.” No matter what horrors the race seems likely to inflict upon America’s once-great republic, well, at least we’ve got that going for us.
We came along at the very end of the officially-defined “Baby Boom” and are thus counted in that demographic cohort, even if our parents watched World War II on newsreels and instead served nobly in the subsequent Cold War and we therefore missed out on all the wild hippie sex at the rock festivals and anti-war protest rallies, so we’ve long been resentful witnesses to what n awful mess the bullying older brothers and sisters in our demographic cohort have made of things. Still, even we are disappointed that so many decades after the dawning of the Age of Aquarius all that talk of free speech and free love and Peter Max psychedelia the “baby boomers” are offering up the likes of 68-year-old Hillary Clinton and 69-year-old Donald Trump as leaders of the land, and that the slightly ahead-of-the-demographic-cohort 74-year-old Bernie Sanders, who is merely offering free stuff, seems to be the favorite of all the dimwitted young hipsters we know. Yet here we are, and in retrospect it all seems so predictable.
The world we were born into was by means no perfect, as there was undeniably a brutally and officially enforced racism in much of America and a more insidious but effective social restraints everywhere on women’s ambitions and opportunities and freedom to engage in wild hippie sex at rock festivals and anti-war rallies, and back then hardly anyone talked about homosexuality, much less transgenderism or any the other of a plethora newly found sexual identities, but it had its points. The “Greatest Generation” — or the “Greatesht Generashion,” as Peter Jennings once so memorably put it — had survived the Great Depression, albeit with a massive and unsustainable-over-a-century governmental bureaucracy, and had defeated Japanese Imperialism and Italian Fascism and German Naziism, albeit with a generation-long and potentially-apocalyptic Cold War against our erstwhile communist allies to follow, and it created Hollywood movies that still play well on late-night television and swing music that still sounds good on the old folks’ AM radio station and presidents who still stand well with the historians, and it was cautiously moving away from racism and sexism all on its own. The greatest generation’s children, and although we barely knew it we will miss it. Since then, the results of the greatest generation’s children have been decidedly mixed.
There’s no more Jim Crow anywhere, and we are glad of that, and we celebrate the entry of most of black America’s entry into the middle class and beyond, but we note that black lives are still disproportionately lost to the violence of liberal-run and economically depressed black inner cities, and that a “Black Lives Matter” movement more concerned with the relatively small number of black lives lost as a result of enforcement of the law is somehow as incensed as ever. Women are now empowered to run for even the highest office in the land, even if they’re under investigation for serious criminal charges by the feds, but after all that free sex now has the feminists huffing about a “culture of rape” on the liberal-run and ecumenically privileged campuses, and that woman who is running for president suddenly sounds ridiculous talking about it in light of the behavior of her predatory husband, whose “Baby Boom” presidency was supposed to wrap her candidacy in a warm sort of “Big Chill” nostalgia. We’ll no longer listen to anything about “free speech” from the baby boomer left, which now wants to constitutionally overturn the “Citizens United” decision to allow prior restraint of troublesome speech and calls for “some muscle” to turn away journalists from the public square, and we don’t even want to hear anything about free sex, given the legalistic consent forms that the feminists now want signed before a collegiate tryst, which is more onerous than anything those blue-nosed puritans on the ’50s right ever requested. There was some good rock ‘n’ roll, which pretty much had to happen once the ’50s had turned into Mitch Mitchell and there were all those cool brothers and hillbillies standing in the wings, and we still fondly recall a few of the more adventuresome movies, but for the most part it’s been all downhill.
Alas, the mostly downhill progression from good the ol’ Dwight D. Eisenhower of our birth to the current slate of presidential candidates of our middle age best tells the sorry tale. By now all the lefties fondly recall the 90 percent top tax rates and the deliriously high union membership rates and frank acknowledgement of the New Deal’s unsustainable-over-a-century bureaucracies, and they even acknowledge his cautious nudges toward racial and sexual equality, and although the right can only argue that those tax rates and union memberships would only work if you replicated the ’50s conditions of racial segregation and female workforce participation and a world where all the global competitors had been reduced to rubble by a world war, and that racial and sexual equality is best reached deliberately if not slowly, there is still a consensus that we all like the Ike who whipped the Nazis. Good luck to any of the aging current candidates who hope to achieve such a broad public agreement on their behalf, as they all represent the worst of their generation and have no one to fight with but one another and all those inconvenient Seventh Century Islamo-Nazis who seem to have followed the Cold War.
Hillary Rodham was the idealistic young woman who joined the effort to uncover the hated right-wing President Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal, and wound up getting kicked out for her overzealousness, then married a philandering cad who would propel her political career as a feminist heroine, and would slander whatever women her husband assaulted when he was the first “baby boomer” president, and did nothing memorable with a Senate seat won on his record of giving jumbo mortgages to subprime home buyers, and spent four years rolling over to America’s enemies as Secretary of State, and she’s now running with Wall Street cash and a Nixon-level investigation hovering over head as Hillary Clinton on her credentials as the First Woman President. Meanwhile the road followed by the presidential campaign of real estate mogul and gambling tycoon and reality show star and former professional wrestling performer Donald J. Trump has already been paved by the free speech heroism of Lenny Bruce and Larry Flynt and that kid who used to mock the handicapped children on your ’60s playground, and whose candidacy so uncannily recalls the “Me Decade” of the ’70s, and it seems to have missed the brief interregnum of the ’80s and gone right into all the strutting and bling-wearing of the dot-com and go-go ’90s, and for crying out loud he’s the Republican front-runner.
No wonder all those even more dimwitted young whippersnappers we run into in the X or Y or Z generations or whatever the hell they’re called these days are going with an even more geriatric old coot of a Democratic candidate such as self-described socialist Vermont Sen. Bernie Sander. There’s some debate among the old-time leftists about where Sanders is Old Left or New Left, as if that makes any difference, but least he’s promising free stuff, which at this point is bound to be more tempting than all that free sex and its attendant “culture of rape” and consent forms or that icky free speech stuff that now necessitates safe spaces and trigger warnings, so we can well understand how a dimwitted youth might buy into it. On the heels of a “baby boom,” such damage should probably be expected.
That oldest coot Sanders has a new ad showing an old Hollywood-style montage of regular ol’ hard-workin’ and mostly white Americans working hard in what looks for all the world like the America of our birth, and the targeted baby-boomers will immediately recognize good ol’ Simon and Garfunkel singing about going to look for “America” on the soundtrack. The ones who still retain a good memory, however, will also recall the song is a very sad one about a young couple who go out looking for America and wind up in severe nicotine withdrawal and a lovers’ spat and then sullenly read a magazine as the beautiful countryside rolls by the window and never do find America. All in all, it seems a perfect last hurrah for the baby boomers, although we wonder if Sanders paid the usual exorbitant fee for the rights to the song or if Simon and Garfunkel’s in-kind contribution to the campaign will be listed on the candidates expense reports.
Unaccustomed as we are to voting for people less seasoned than ourselves, we find ourselves with little choice but to invest our last hope in a younger generation. We can only hope that some corny old kernel of the church-going and child-raising and nudging toward equality of that old Ike world still persists in the new, and will find purchase in the soil of a still-fertile America, for we fear that our generation has cast its seed upon the ground.

— Bud Norman

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One response

  1. Dear Bud,

    If my children, now in their mid-30s – are an indication, they are rejecting the excesses of the Baby Boomers and see through most of the bullhockey, even to the point of listening to Rush Limbaugh AND AGREEING WITH HIM. Of course it’s possible that the wife of my youth and I have raised kids who, for some reason, have absorbed my own values, seeing as how so many parents are complaining about their kids and their desire for free stuff as you so eloquently recount. Or perhaps they are like the nail paring of a saint, to be stored in a reliquary, until the day that the Gods of the Copybook Headings bring the cycle back to point zero and civilization can begin again.

    P.S. You talk about being a pro wrestling performer as if it were a bad thing. I recall another performer who played a supporting role to a monkey who did a bang-up job as president.

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