February 17, 2016 § 7 Comments
Perhaps we, the Boomers are finally coming into our own.
We are not The Greatest Generation.
We never had their terrible opportunity to fight on the right side of history.
But that hard-won victory is where we began.
We are our parents’ response to the end of that good war, a loud shout proclaiming, “Happy days are here again!”
Growing up we enjoyed bland but safe suburbs, summer camps, relatively stable families.
We lived the glory years of the middle class and assumed upward mobility was guaranteed. Work hard and you’ll get somewhere!
Then the world went gray.
We were dealt a war that was shameful and senseless. Raised with security and privilege, we cried foul. We protested. Demanded. Rebelled.
We were loud and we were righteous and we were stoned and we were as interested in how our hair looked as we were in social justice.
And then we moved on.
We lost the beads and the general anger as we scrambled to build adult lives. We struggled to get jobs, become good parents, always navigating paths less-well marked than the ones our parents walked.
Women’s equality, partially delivered, had the unhappy side effect of demanding two salaries instead of one to support a family and gave neither partner time to care for the babies.
Prejudice, driven underground by the force of law, continued to simmer.
Threats to security took to wearing explosive belts or stealing the clicks on a glowing screen. Fear became diffuse and ever-present.
And that is the world in which we are growing old.
Our hair, once worn proud and long, is not what it used to be. Our bodies either. But maybe the time between raising our fists in solidarity and burning incense and the now of prescription medicines and fitful sleep is more than a calculus of loss and compromise.
We are not The Greatest Generation, but we are the largest. Our sheer number makes us a force, a burden, and a hope.
In retirement we are raising grandchildren, volunteering for the environment, becoming politically active again, this time without burning flags or other gestures that can only shock and infuriate, not affect change.
Our sheer numbers give us the power to move nearly any mountain we choose. Our lever is long, but will only work if the fulcrum of intent is strong. It is time to become, once again, a movement for change.
And this time I hope we will be more thoughtful than loud, more selfless than selfish, more wise than spontaneous.
If we live up to our potential, who knows, perhaps we can redefine old age itself, make it a time when we return to the place we began as agents of change, not some dimly lit waiting room in which time is passed thumbing through old magazines, Fox News droning from a TV in the background.