I was four years old in 1962, when on a day in October my father came home early from work. My mother had been watching the TV and crying all day. I could not understand why, but they were both very afraid. Existentially afraid. A four-year old knows what fear feels like, and the fear of his parents goes right into his veins. Of course, this was the two weeks of sheer panic known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Many people, including my mother and father, thought it possible we would be blown to bits by nuclear missiles. Father stayed with me that first day while my mother went to the store. She came back with boxes of powdered milk and many cans of things, lots of extra loaves of bread and other things I didn’t understand. Though my father went back to work, we spent those weeks in sheer terror.
Throughout the 1960’s, we had air raid drills every week. The siren would grind up to speed every Friday morning at 10am. It was to test the siren and the system. In school, we would climb under our desks. We were told that when the bombs hit, the glass windows — an entire wall of each classroom, would be blown up and fly into the room and cut us. We were told the desks would keep us safe, but some of us cried anyway.
Throughout the 1970’s there were many cold war “incidents” that threatened to blow up into full scale nuclear war. We high school kids went on dates and necked in cars and played football and protested. Some of us went a little too far and joined groups like the Weathermen and the Symbionese Liberation Army and took protest to the level of violence. But for the most part, we buried the deep, existential fear we were raised with by taking drugs, trying to have “normal” lives, marrying and having children, or choosing a career, either for money or love, or some of us, to save the world. But nothing ever really made it all right that the nuclear weapons kept proliferating and could be loosed at any moment. But we all either had to live lives of growing adults, or not. The “not” being the Existentialist’s question — if you can’t live life your only option is suicide. Some chose that.
By the 1980’s many of us were convinced we were all going to die. The Cold War was going hot at any moment. As in the late 70’s, many of us just blotted it all out with drugs and fast, easy lifestyles, or poured ourselves into making massive amounts of money, and taking every shortcut we could to get ours while the getting was good. The warning signs kept coming but we kept on living, perhaps wrongly, but nonetheless, we had to either live the life we had available to us or kill ourselves. Those of us who did not kill ourselves did whatever we knew how to do — good, bad, or indifferent.
There were a great many of us who did good works as well. Some of us got it right, and a great many good things were created, and made available for more people every year. I won’t go into this because it is well known that much advancement was made for human lives in that time, and on into the 1990’s, and even after that. But I mention it only as introduction to the point:
You say to me: “it’s really terrifying to grow up in a world that is facing existential issues, and see that so many of the people in the generation that still holds political power are burying their heads in the sand” and I say, yes it is. I also say it is the common and evergreen conceit of the young to believe that elders never went through anything like what they are going through. We made the same mistake, and we condemned our parents and asked rhetorical questions about their sanity or fitness to live. What we did not have, however, was a communication platform in which every uttered word is given equal weight among all others. Those of us who advocated out and out war against the previous generations were fringe, and small, and had no platform.
You have that platform. On that platform, I have watched this message of “Get Rid of the Boomers” as a spark, then a tiny flame, now growing with every few hours of social media air that feeds the blaze. In another place and time, in the 1960’s, the youth of a large country revolted against their elders and tried them, imprisoned them, shamed them, beat them and killed them. As I said, it has happened before and can happen again.
Rhetoric that identifies an enemy group and paints them as less than human can, and often does, end in bloodshed. If you think a Boomer is dangerous to your future, and you believe they are not fully human, or at least not sufficiently fixing the problems they created, you will be more willing to dispense with them.
Don’t laugh. While a bit excessive in tone, this is not impossible. In fact, it is highly probable. Look at what is happening around the world with scapegoating. You may see patterns.
You asked me what my solution is. I don’t have one. But one suggestion might help lead to a solution, or a sheave of solutions: Don’t think for a moment that anyone you point your finger at is not deeply horrified, existentially fearful, and has never had the face of death right before their eyes every waking moment because of the world their parents created. If you do, you will make our mistake, and every mistake of the modern era, if not further back.
No solution will come of believing someone is less than you who deserves sanction, ostracism, death, and by doing these things, you will somehow right the wrongs. If you approach someone in the certain knowledge that they face the same fears and problems you do, you may find a path to a solution.
TLDR: Be Kind. Everyone is fighting a difficult battle you know nothing about.
Thanks for the measured response. Hope I gave as good as I got.