During the past two and a half years, Garry and I have logged endless hours watching the current political nightmare unfold. I can’t count the number of hours spent analyzing “millennials,” folks approximately my granddaughter’s age. How disaffected they are. How they aren’t going to vote because “this has nothing to do with me” — a direct quote from my granddaughter.
I love my granddaughter with all my heart, but that just pissed me off to a fare-thee-well.
The world into which the now oft-dismissed “baby boomers” were raised — despite maudlin memes on Facebook — was very far from a perfect world. Classified advertisements for jobs were divided into “Help Wanted: Male” and “Help Wanted: Female.” It was legal and enforced. As for people of color and immigrants, their help wasn’t wanted on any page.
Jim Crow laws were legal. Inter-marriage between races was illegal in all southern states and many northern ones. There was no Medicare. No Medicaid. If you lost your job, or your job didn’t offer medical benefits — and employers were not obligated to provide benefits — you were out of luck.
People reminisce about the 1950s and early 1960s as if they were perfect days for everyone. A world in which jobs lasted forever. Spanking kids was totally cool. No one was hungry. True-ish — but only if you were triple white.
Triple white = White collar. White skin. White picket fence.
If you were anything else, you lived a very different reality.
Did I mention that abortion was illegal? Illegal abortions were frequently fatal and effective birth control hadn’t been invented. It’s not that we didn’t have sex outside of marriage. Of course we did. Hormones, boys, girls, love, and passion were never different than now, but acting on these urges was far more dangerous. The ramifications of “getting caught” were perilous and possibly illegal, so we were sneaky. We had sex in cars, not beds.
We hid our social lives from “the grownups” who were also “the enemy.” Child abuse was not illegal. It was ignored or absolutely approved of. Beating your kids was “discipline.” Which is why I get enraged every time I read one of those Facebook “nostalgia” posts about how great it was to be able to hit your kids.
Hitting kids doesn’t make them better people. It just informs them it’s okay for bigger, stronger people to hit smaller, weaker ones.
My generation — we old people — were out there manning the barricades. Marching for justice.
We changed the world. Not as much as we hoped, but some. We certainly tried. We fought racial and gender discrimination. While waiting for the law to change, we hid our homosexuality or trans-gender identities. Not doing so might do us in. We never gave up the fight, but time has had its way. We got old and most of us have put down the signs and stopped marching.
It’s your turn.
The world got so much better and now it’s getting so much worse again. Looks like the stuff we fought for is going down the tubes. I know you feel the world has failed to live up to its promises to you. Life is hard. Good jobs are scarce.
The truth is that life — real life — has always been hard. Good jobs were always hard to find. No one told me life would be easy. Did someone tell you that? If they did, they lied.
It’s time for your generation to step up to the plate. Put down your phone. Go fix stuff. Fight for a better life and a better world. Vote! That’s how change happens. If you don’t care enough to stand up for yourselves and your future, no one else will care. All the work we did will vanish. It will be the real 1950s all over again. I don’t think you will like it.
Then, as my mom used to say, you’ll really have something to cry about.