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December 20th, 2017

“A Generation Of Sociopaths”…And Other Lazy Ignorant Stereotypes…

I was raised, as I’ve said often, by a single divorced mother. I’m not relating this to wear it like a badge, but offering it as explanation. The attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors we express in our everyday lives may well have their biological roots…as in for example the fact that I’m gay…but they’re almost certainly flavored by our life experiences. Different metals behave differently in the fire, but still the fire changes us.

It makes throwing labels around at people problematic. I understand the human need to identify, categorize, sort, put a name on things the better to understand them. But what you must always keep in mind, what Jacob Bronowski clarified for me in his Science and Human Values essays, is the concepts by which we understand nature are always imprecise and imperfect. You have to treat them with humility. What is a planet?

By this stage of my life I suppose I should be used to having labels slapped on me, and all the baggage that comes with them. In grade school I got the problem child label simply for being raised in a “broken home”. Among various family members I was granted the label of being my father’s son, and dad having died robbing a bank that label came with its own lovely baggage set. My maternal grandmother’s favorite name for me (when mom couldn’t hear it) was Stinking Rotten Good For Nothing Garrett Just Like Your Pap…not exactly something that’ll fit on checks or credit cards.

For being a slight somewhat girlish kid in grade school I received a variety of labels. Mom and I lived a very low budget life…another set of labels. In my senior year I came out to myself and earned the gay label, and all the ancillary labels that came with it that Facebook would probably censor if I posted them here. Ever since I can remember I’ve had the urge, the need, to express myself in various forms of art and Artist is the only label I’d willingly apply to myself except it feels so damn pretentious. But there are others: Cartoonist, Painter, Photographer. Sometimes I wear one of those. I took up building my own computers and programming them…another set of labels. I read a lot. I pay attention to political events. I like to travel. I like to explore. Nerd. Geek. Tourist. Wonk. I’m in my 60s. There’s geezer. Old man. Computers have allowed me to suddenly, late in my life, earn a good income. There’s Yuppy. I drive a Mercedes-Benz. There’s Bourgeois. It’s a diesel. There’s nerd again. I should be used to it by now. But it’s not the labels, it’s the baggage that comes with them. You want me to stick the Ignorant label on you, apply a label to me and then expect me to wear the baggage that comes with it. Especially this one: Boomer.

I used to wear it without too much discomfort. That nerd label…I saw it as merely a statistical description. I was born in 1953, therefor I am part of the post war baby boom, therefor I am a boomer. My generation was the reason so many new schools had to be built. So far, so good. But where once I was a trailing edge boomer, benefiting from the struggles of the older kids ahead of me that allowed me to wear blue jeans and long hair in school, suddenly one day I realized I was being lumped in with kids born in the 60s as though we all had the same culture, the same life experiences. Boomer. Never mind the political baggage. Anyone with half a brain who walks through life with their eyes wide open and their mind still curious cannot help but see how generational labels are as superficial and misleading as any other. There’s a history here that separates us Kennedy era boomers from the Reagan era ones, and I can sum it up with the name of a country: Viet Nam.

Some years ago I’m quietly standing at the balcony rail of the outdoor smoker’s lounge of one of D.C.’s gay bars, puffing on one a mini-cigar. A cute young guy walks over to me and gives me a look…

Me: Hi.

He: Are you a throwback?

Me: Sorry?

He: You lived through the sixties?  You know…the hippies and that stuff…?

Me: Yeah…but I wasn’t a Hippy.  There were a lot of different things going on back then.  Most of us were just along for the ride.

He: I know…I’ve read all the books.

Me: Throwback?

He: You know…from back then…

Me: I don’t understand your use of the term.

He: You’re about my mother’s age…

Well I hope “all the books” weren’t published by the same people who make biology textbooks for Liberty University.

Perhaps Ezra Klein and Sean Illing read the same ones. Klein this morning retweeted gleefully this Vox article: “How the baby boomers — not millennials — screwed America” Subtitled: “The boomers inherited a rich, dynamic country and have gradually bankrupted it.”

So I go to look and right there at the top of the page is…Oh Goodness There They Are…


Screen cap of Klein’s tweet…this is the photo that leads the article

…The Dirty F*cking Hippies “…dancing during an anti-war demonstration staged by the Spring Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam at Golden Gate Park’s Kezar Stadium on April 15, 1967.” I’ll just bet they’re all smoking acid too. You two have read all the books…right? I haven’t seen such lazy cheapshit stereotyping since the last time I read an article on The Federalist about Teh Gay.

Illing’s article promotes A Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America by Bruce Gibney. “The boomers, according to Gibney, have committed “generational plunder,” pillaging the nation’s economy, repeatedly cutting their own taxes, financing two wars with deficits, ignoring climate change, presiding over the death of America’s manufacturing core, and leaving future generations to clean up the mess they created.”

The boomers. The boomers. The boomers. I was raised by a divorced single working mother. My dad died trying to rob a bank. I grew up in a series of small apartments, wearing mostly second-hand clothes and going to public school, where in the 1960s, because I was the product of a “broken home” I was treated like a problem child even though I was pretty well behaved. That didn’t change until high school. I was the first male in dad’s side of the family to finish grade school and get a diploma. I did three semesters of community college and then had to go to work to support mom and me. For most of my life I had no idea how I was going to earn a living and resigned myself to a low income life lived in rooms rented in other people’s houses. Before I started earning a good living as a software developer I had no car, and no prospects. Seen from within, the life I am living now seems an absolute miracle to me. And I look at what the republicans and their billionaire money teats are doing to All Of Us let alone the next generation with a dull horror, Because I Led That Life, I can imagine perfectly well what it could easily have become had I not had the lucky break that allowed me to escape it, and I don’t want it happening to Anyone Else.

But no…I’m a boomer. And a Dirty F*cking Hippy. Who was doing Manpower temp jobs and living with mom when I was the age Klein and Illing are now, and I am a sociopath who doesn’t care who he’s screwing out of a future.

Whatever. If playing Wall Street’s game of Blame The Other Guy We’re Screwing Too works for Vox, Klein, Illing et. al. then fine. Enjoy the cheap thrills of the blame game while I watch people who wish to bury the past, and people who’ve read all the books, keep on grimly repeating it. And…pay attention now…I don’t particularly care if people who don’t know me from Adam hate me for being something I can’t help being. I was fine with that even before I knew that I am gay. I learned how not to give a flying f*ck about that even before my grade school teachers told me I was a problem child because my mother was divorced. I learned how not to care long before all that, while being hated, or at best patronized, by members of my own family for being my father’s son. And I will not wear your goddamned labels, and I will not carry your goddamned baggage. Go to hell.

 

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