I’m a Boomer. This is How I Remember the Silent Generation and The Greatest Generation.
This morning I engaged in a brief online dispute with a much younger person, possibly a millennial, about the damage boomers have done to their world. Afterwards, my husband refreshed my memory about our own good old bad old days. Hey, thanks! For some reason or other, I had forgotten how nobody seemed to have our best interests in mind either.
Yeah, I’m a boomer. Not by choice, mind you, but by the sheer lottery of birth.
Granted, there are different definitions about who actually qualifies for the Boomer title. There is also conflicting opinions about which group our parents belonged to. As near as I can tell, most Baby Boomers are children of either the Greatest Generation or the Silent Generation, and are often parents of late Generation X or Millennial babies.
Both of my children are GenXers.
However, my parents and in-laws were most likely part of The Silent Generation, although they fell at the tail end of The Greatest Generation. Today, most surviving members of the Greatest Generation would be over 100 years old, or centenarians. My father-in-law would be almost 96 if he were still alive.
He fought in World War II.
Because the line of demarcation between generations seems to overlap, it’s hard to completely satisfy the definition of a particular group because the influence of the previous generation lingers producing an significant overlap.
However, the Boomers are a huge group to contend with today and our influence continues to be strong. Resentment has built up around the Boomer legacy as well as Boomer political control. I’m surprised that there aren’t more complaints written about the two former all-American groups, The Greatest Generation and The Silent Generation, however.
They seem to have gotten off scot free. Why is that?
After all, they sent Boomers to Vietnam. I guess they didn’t learn a damn thing from two world wars. Of course, my generation sent our kids to Iraq and left them in the middle east for several decades, so we don’t get a prize either. That’s how highly parents regard the lives of their offspring, I guess.
It’s becoming clearer by the day that history repeats itself because nobody can remember history, not even their own.
My perception of the contributions of The Greatest Generation is definitely not one of perfection, however. Don’t get me wrong. There’s no question in my mind that boomers have squandered a lot, too, but our parents generation take the prize in my opinion.
Or maybe we can share the prize, because little by little we chipped away at potentially the best 20 plus years in the history of America. Trust me, before that tiny sliver of idealism prevailed, there wasn’t much of a middle class.
The middle class became a force to be reckoned with after World War II, and it grew quickly.
When I think of my younger self, however, I picture a pretty hippie. Somewhere deep inside me an old hippie woman is still kicking, too. I miss the days of social awareness led by young people, my peer group, even though I really wasn’t part of the movement. I was married and had a kid in that very short period of social evolution. I was too busy with putting myself through college in order to dig my family out of poverty to get involved with my peers who were living on campus and leading the revolution.
Technically speaking, the hippie counter culture was an revolutionary lifestyle of upper middle class and middle class young adults.
They were rebelling against the cultural expectations of the 1950s. It was a very short-lived movement of less than a decade that eventually culminated with hippies selling out to hyper consumerism, more war, and trickle down economics.
Once again, I repeat …
It’s becoming clearer by the day that history repeats itself because nobody can remember history, not even their own.
This is a limitation peculiar to the human brain, one of many. The fact that we’re emotional rather than logical creatures strengthens the case that we’re eternally doomed as a species.
It’s one step forward two steps back and sometimes that second step back involves falling into a pit that we dug ten years ago and forgot about.
So my dispute with the millennial this morning over who might hold the title of worst generation resulted in my husband reminding me that we went through the “Savings and Loan scandal”.
Yippeeee to corporate hostile takeovers and subsequent terminations of anyone age 50 or older in decent company positions.
During that illustrious phase of American history, we began moving manufacturing out of the U.S. Good times!! But only for the upper class. I was in my early thirties at the time, working full time after putting myself through college.
Our parents were looking forward to retirement with a pension, recapturing their youth with a growing circle of peers, riding motorcycles, camping in RVs and not all that interested in babysitting for their grandkids while I was finishing my degree and doing my student teaching.
After all, they’d raised their kids, put a roof over our heads and fed and clothed us. Their job was done. FCR was the gold standard of childrearing in my parent’s day. Food, clothes and a roof.
Gee, thanks, but I was only three, MOM. I couldn’t feed and clothe myself yet.
Incidentally, my mother-in-law who wasn’t employed for a single day in her Greatest Generation life still collects her deceased husband’s pension from a job he held until retirement at age sixty-two years old. He only had a high school education, too.
My husband grew up in the midwest in a small town filled with manufacturing jobs.
His dad enjoyed decent wages due to strong unions, health insurance that actually covered things, and a lifelong pension. They had a three bedroom house, eventually an RV and a string of motorcycles. He loved his hobbies.
Eventually Reagan came along and established his economic policy known as Reaganomics. You know, give everything to the rich and the crumbs would trickle down. Reagan started the great Union bust as well with the firing of airline controllers.
BTW, Reagan was part of the generation commonly referred to as The Greatest Generation. Makes me scratch my head when I remember these things.
Yet, in spite of these deplorable shenanigans, The Greatest Generation enjoys a sterling reputation, giving them refuge from attacks on their character.
I really needed to refresh my memory this morning. Thanks to my husband for that.
By the way, in the early 1980s we took out a loan for a Dodge Colt that carried a 21% interest rate. Gas had more than doubled in price and my husband and I both commuted to work a considerable distance. Unlike my parents, we BOTH had to work full time to dig ourselves out of poverty.
Our parents enjoyed the a middle class lifestyle — a house, two cars, an occasional vacation, a few hobbies like an RV or golf —on a single income.
They were borrowing money more than their parents, however, because hyper consumerism, prepackaged foods, modern conveniences, and the Jetson, Madmen lifestyle was being promoted as the American Dream. In order to attain that lifestyle, however, Americans were going in debt. Want an RV, take out a loan. Want your kid to go to college, take out a loan.
Isn’t this a fascinating topic?
It really makes me wish that I was enrolled in a 20th century history class. Yeah, I know that I can teach myself everything I need to know about any topic in the world by conducting my own research online, but like the rest of the self educated, I’m lazy.
Plus I realized some time ago that there really is a difference between a scholar and a layperson.
I do, however, know just enough to realize that the 20th century was an unprecedented time period. Innovation, technological development, and even social evolution took place at a startling speed. Anyone born at the beginning of the 20th century who managed to live until the end of the century witnessed colossal change.
One thing is pretty clear to me, building a great society is a constant struggle against the flawed and limited capabilities of our big brains. Not even our own parents can be depended upon to look after our future well being.
They’ll sell us to the highest bidder, often due to greed or ignorance or both.
The Greatest Generation was pretty selfish and certainly didn’t safeguard The New Deal nor pass on an improved pathway with fewer barriers to a growing middle class. They had no advice to give their kids except get out there and make your own way like we did. So, we tried.
In the meantime, they partied and spent their middle class incomes on themselves rather than saving money for thier children. Remember the stickers they put on their cars that read …
I’m spending my child’s inheritance.
The women from the Jetson era in my opinion were possibly the most useless group of females ever. The gold standard for my mother’s female peers was to marry a man who would earn a living sufficient to give her the house, car, vacations etc. she expected while she sat at home growing bored and neurotic.
I mean even cooking wasn’t necessarily done from scratch any longer like my grandmother’s generation.
Oh, and raising a big garden, canning and preserving food, washing your clothes in a wringer washer, hanging things on the line, were female jobs that had been replaced with washers and dryers, boxes of kraft macaroni and cheese, canned tomato soup, white bread, and vacuum cleaners.
My generation took on full time jobs. My grandmother’s generation were unpaid housekeepers that were continuing the domestic practices of past generations. My mom was told to aspire to be June Cleaver.
My generation often retired only to help raise their grandchildren while mom and dad worked. Sometimes, we take in our grown children again after a divorce or after losing jobs. I took care of my granddaughter several days a week until she started school. The price of childcare is exorbitant and our daughters are likely to be carrying on the tradition of working moms that we modeled for them.
At least we can relate to our daughter’s stressful lives.
Our moms often had no clue. They either thought we were being selfish by leaving our children to go to work or that our jobs were mere hobbies, so we could pick and choose how often to report to work on any given day.
I know. I know. It wasn’t all bad.
It rarely is, but the fact of the matter is even I can be persuaded that the past, my own past, wasn’t what it was. If the propaganda of the day pushes a narrative that isn’t based on facts, and repeats it regularly, it can easily become my point of view. My past experiences will be twisted and turned into someone else’s version of my life and nothing I can say or do will change public perception.
We’re stuck in a quagmire of misinformation that serves someone else’s purpose.
History is important, but easily forgotten. I won’t pretend that I got everything correct in my above interpretation of my own history. I tried. I’m not a historian. My life experiences are unique to me, so I can’t possibly represent everyone through telling my personal stories.
What I can do is dispel a few myths, fairy tales, misconceptions, and deliberate lies.
I’m not a fan of any generation if truth be told. Everyone seems to pass on a legacy of pain to their children. We can’t seem to stop ourselves. If there’s a generation that I always support, it’s the youngest generation. They hold the future in their hands. I always root for the youngest generation. Traditionally, the older generation hates on the younger generation and accuses them of being shiftless and selfish.
I will defend them with my life if need be. After all, they’re are only hope.
Who knows? Maybe they’ll change the course of humankind by breaking the traditions of every generation that came before. Traditions and preceptions based on a way of life that’s no longer relevant rather than fight to preserve their legacy. Doubtful. Even the hippies sold out. Still, I can hope.
Now THAT would be a day worth celebrating.
Teresa Roberts is a retired educator, author, world traveler, and professional myt h buster. You can find her books on Amazon.