Talkin’ ‘Bout My Generation

I turned 55 last week. If we break that down, I was born in April 1959. I was four when JFK was assassinated, ten when Neil Armstrong stepped foot on the moon. Thirteen during the fateful Munich Olympics. Fourteen at the discovery of Watergate break in. In graduated from High school in 1977. I was 20 when all those middle aged looking “college” students overtook the American embassy in Iran.

Chrome or Firefox can help you figure out the remaining milestones in my life.

Those helped me learn that More than 79 million children were born during the boom years between 1946 and 1964. And despite a definitive trailing off of stork deliveries between 1958 and 1964, babies were a bumper crop. As a side notes, I hardly EVER meet people my own age. Advances in birth control perhaps……more saltpeter in the diet.

Anyway.

Essentially, what this means is that I’m at the very tail end of the storied baby boomer generation, that post war period in which our fighting boys came home from the Pacific and European Theaters to a country of burgeoning prosperity, growth and massive randiness. Lots of babies were conceived to the dulcet tones of Harry James, The Ink Spots, Elvis, Patsy Cline, Puccini and countless others who performed all the many languages of love…..even the sweaty operettas that were the one white stands.

I’ve had many discussions with people born two years ahead of me and three years behind me. Most agree that our years under the boomer heading left us feeling undefined and lacking a purpose.

Those born in 1946 to 1954 got to be Hippies. Peace, love, dope were ways they “countered” the Vietnam war. Protests in front of the university’s administrative office and eventually taking it over was the order of the day. Tossing a Molotov cocktail in the ROTC building and watching it burn, baby burn. Getting gassed by the National Guard when a gathering for draft card burning became a bonfire. They defied their parents and grew out there hair, wore the weirdest clothes and attempt to live in their version of Utopia, no rules, just love…..and lots of it.

The problem is, perfect worlds take work and these communes needed money. Nature can sustain but it’s a helluva lot easier to buy the seeds and the equipment needed for everything to take root. An all for one and one for all mind set has it’s merits, but not in a practical across the board application, not in a working self sufficient commune. They ‘re still around I know, but would guess they number in the tens….if that much.

The basic structure of a fully functioning society currently and always will consist of leaders and followers and with any luck at all, the followers get to decide who these leaders are in office

And when they must leave said office

Then, suddenly with crows feet and receding hairlines comes insight and awareness.

We traded the tie/dye for Brooks Brothers and Ferragamo and thought to,ourselves, “Gee, there’s something to this capitalism stuff. This Madison Avenue gig sure beats helping Arlo and his old ladies, Moonbeam and Starlight slop hogs back at the commune. And yet, we’re still groovy people so communal living can work……but for a profit; as apartment complexes, but instead of working for the common good, tenants “pay”to live there”. They’re on their own for everything else.”

“Cool, no more mass feedings And guess what? This college degree thing is helping me make money!!!! That shit is more magic than mushrooms!!!

“And we need to make all of this happen with cars of our own. Our own stereo equipment, fabulous furnishings An the occasional four cocktail lunch at Trader Vic’s is nice. “

Growing our own food turned into trips to the supermarket and if we still felt compelled, climate permitting, all we needed was the occasional trellis of tomatoes growing on the balcony of the 24th floor two bedroom/2 bath apartment on the Upper Eastside.

We were entrapped by the trappings. We became the very thing we tried to convince ourselves we weren’t. The Establishment.

And so it goes.

I was too young to be a hippie. It might have been in the generation that gave birth to them, but I didn’t feel apart of the chaos, which really didn’t change things. I watched the Sixties unfold on the nightly news. President Johnson kept sending troops and the North Vietnamese kept sending them back to us in body bags. I got the fact that this war felt futile. I remember looking up where Vietnam on the map. Texas is bigger, I thought. And at the same time, I didn’t see civil disobedience helping the country return to peacetime any faster either.

I heard my father’s views on the the war, Commie Pinkos and damned grass smoking Hippies and crazy women who went braless; How LBJ looked like an opossum and Nixon seemed sleazy. And the more criticism I heard, the more I wanted to be one of these, cool, indignant, stand up people. In tried. At 12, I bought peace symbol,patches and black light posters and a cool mobile with the word, “moratorium” in neon letters hanging down.

Moratorium? Isn’t that stage thing at a school with seating?????

But as I said, my timing was off…..as were my verbal skills.

I entered High School in the fall of 1973.. Troop withdrawal from Vietnam happened in ’75. Nixon left office shortly after that, then came the American Bi-Centennial and after that, we welcomed in the insidious disco era and with that came THEE ugliest clothing style EVER.

By the time I graduated from HS, there weren’t any grandiose causes. Sure there was Save The Whales effort, the ecology, inflation, gas shortages, feminism struggled and while that worked to a degree, women still make less than men, but by God, Title 9 allowed us femmes to participate in sports. Strides were made but that which didn’t work, didn’t prompt mass protest.

Why?

A couple of years ago the Hipsters decided socialism was the order of the day so the Occupy movement began…..then ended. There was a fair degree of good ol’ 60’s style anarchy at the WTO protests in Seattle a few years ago and every once in a while you see protest marches, picket lines, union disputes rear their heads, but nothing like that which happened on a daily basis on college campuses and outside political conventions 45-49 years ago.

Why is that? Why do we no longer go all Abbie Hoffman and The Weather Underground over issues?

Protests do work. Women and African Americans can vote and are offered the same freedoms as everyone else thanks to the bravery and bloodshed of those who dared to take on the mysogenists and the bigots.

Union demands are met with walk outs by the members. Am organization can’t make money is no one is running the factory, but that only benefits the members. Very often the rest of us have to pick up the tab fir their pay increases. Unfair??? Only if you choose to look at it that way.

Your piece of the pie is out there, but please understand once and for all YOU have to bake the damn thing yourself. Baking a pie takes time and the right ingredients. It’s a labor of love. But as in life, work, effort the driving force to make it a pie rivaling anything Martha Stewart could create.

But I do believe what we learned from the Hippie era was valuable. They, like every other know-it-all generation eventually grew up. Being hip doesn’t help the new titanium one that you had to surgically inserted a few weeks ago feel any better. We’ve grown up. Time mellows us all. Logic infused by mature reality replaces ideals.

Now don’t get me wrong; to rise up for a Common Cause is great, but what do protests and huge rallies with placard holding hordes of people shouting rhyming insults en masse do today, other than make great headlines?

I appreciate everyone who devoted their time and in some cases, their lives to causes that brought about true change and forced a nation to stop, rethink and rewrite it’s Constitution.

I appreciate the Peaceniks and Pacifists. Change can come by a persistent belief in a cause through non violent means.

But this is America and still a Democracy when I last checked. We thrive in a free market system. Capitalism. Free speech, the right to assembly within limits. L-I-M-I-T-S. Everyone has the chance to grab the brass ring of his or her making. Individual “failure to launch” in its truest form, is the fault and the responsibility of the person.

Lots of things contribute to bad economic times. The fault lies everywhere; In big business, sure— corporate greed is real, but not destructively rampant. If so, there would be repeats of Enron and World Com happening every day. Do corporate giants play a role? Only to a degree. They get away with what they’re allowed to get away with. Wall Street isn’t entirely to blame for the whole magilla, neither is Big Oil or Big Pharma, Big Ag, Big Banking. All the problems start , as they have and always will—in Washington. The lawmakers there are the ones who allow tax breaks for corporations, these are the people who allow subsidies, who make the laws that work for some, while impeding others. Laws are the unfair way to keep us equal. And we as a citizenry put lawmakers in office, we actively chose the people, these professional politicians and their federal regulations. Washington is a mess. It’s in dire need of deep analysis and meds. Lots of meds. Thorazine drip time.

The next time you want to participate at a sit-in in a bank lobby or fire bomb a building or go out and fight the forces that were sent there to keep you from getting violent in the process of exercising your free speech, stop and think. Save for the glorious triumph of Civil Rights and certain other causes, protests—a la the Chicago 7—-don’t work. Not like they did or ver did, for that matter. These bloody, anger fueled rages didn’t bring US troops home any sooner. Whales are still being killed, the ecology is still gasping for clean air, as is the economy.

As Dorothy learned from Glenda, The Good Witch, you hadthe power the entire time.

The next time you want hope and change, vote…not only at the ballot, but with your wallet. Affect the bottom line if anyone or anything bothers you that much. In this day and age, refuse to buy a product because you disagree that its manufacturer has relocated its headquarters in a country ruled by tyrannical regime. Or they dont hire homosexuals or ban prayer from the classroom.

Then take it one step further by voting against then governmental tool who allowed the move and grant the tax break it guaranteed.

Vote people in and out of office, refuse to purchase certain things made by companies whose policies you despise…these things are the new Molotov cocktails. Do this and embrace your own version of a scorched policy.

Trust me, someone will get burned.

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