Saturday, January 17, 2009
THE BABY BOOMER LEGACY
Many have said that the election of Barack Obama represents the end of the era
of the baby-boomer generation. I beg to differ. In fact, the election of Obama is the fulfillment of the baby boomer generation.
As we pass the torch of power, boomers can feel a sense of redemption when Obama takes the oath of office. In truth, our moment in history will be recorded as the one that most altered the course of history. Arising from the ashes of World War II, boomers literally rocked the world in the 60's and 70's. Rejecting the ideology of those who came before us, we declared that LOVE' is the answer to all of our questions. We institutionalized our historic commitment to equality for all. From civil rights to gender rights, we broke the back of hatred and bigotry. We said 'no' to separate but equal' and proclaimed that no topic is sacred and beyond question. We raised
the 'red flag’ on environmental destruction. We 'caught a glimpse' of the true nature of our relationship to each other and the world in which we live; but, our failing was that we became consumed by consumption.
As the 'age of technology' took hold we were fascinated by all things new. Gadgets and gizmos, a speeding lifestyle, and life on the go with fast food and fast cars were as enticing to us as it was reported to be to the Atlanteans of ancient lore. We thought we could do both; conspicuously consume and erase our sin by pushing for bottle bills. Money flowed like water from a garden hose as we were enticed to buy more, toss away, and then buy some more. Gold cards, Platinum cards, and equity lines of credit enabled us to spend double, triple our wages. And so what, government was doing it, why not us? To fight rising prices we sent our production to foreign workers who received pennies a day in sweat shops. As long as the gadgets and the credit kept flowing, we could ignore the cries of child labor in remote places of the world. Our money was the standard for the world and our military kept it that way. Mess with us and the newest technology and super weapons would set you straight.
But, in the deep recesses of our memory, we felt the growing pains of the seeds that we planted in the 60’s and 70’s. Something was not quite right. We were haunted by the memories of ‘love-ins,’ the toppling of a president that had gotten out of control, civil rights marches and the recurring dream of Camelot. And even though the never really free market system continued its daily barrage on our senses to spend, spend, and spend – deep down inside – we began to question. What was with all of the new diseases? Why do our children not want to learn? What is happening to all of those species that once populated our lakes, forests and jungles? Why is the weather acting so strange? What is happening to our culture? Why are crime rates getting out of control? What is that spilled oil really doing to our environment? Are you sure those materials are safe? Who really did make that sweater? Where are all of the jobs going? Why is it getting more difficult to pay all of those credit cards?
Our peaceful but shaky world shattered on 9/11. Our attention and questioning was diverted and we rallied to fight the new enemy. But who where the enemy? We could not find them. In a state of fear and paranoia, we gave away freedoms, money and lives. And, as my good friend Marvin Wilson would say, Owen Fiddler came to town. It was time to pay the fiddler, the piper and the ferryman. Stretched beyond our means to a level that only the bankers knew and even encouraged, the money tree was chopped down. We all know the story; it plays out in the news every day. We, the “baby boomers,” brought ourselves to a state of collapse. We made thing so bad that only the most ignorant would say we could stay the course. Had all of this not happened, we would have awakened one morning to find that our ecosystem had collapsed and that there was nothing we could do to alter the continuation of the “Sixth Great Extinction” that would soon include the human species. By bringing our lifestyle to an abrupt halt, we had to take notice.
Barack Obama’s election was our crowning achievement. Not because he is some super human savior that will solve all of our problems, but because he represents the re-emergence and manifestation of the dreams of those aged ‘flower children.’ Because of our errors and our ignorance, we have allowed the Lady of the Lake to return Excalibur. Not to President Obama, but to us. But we are not yet finished. We must still lead our children to the Promised Land, even if many of us will not enter it. This is not in any religious sense, but rather in the sense that we must continue to teach and remind the new generations not to repeat our mistakes. This is our parting gift,our legacy; we have shown the world how not to live.