February 4, 2008
Booming the Torch (Bob Franken)
@ 2:59 pm
Just for the record: Barack Obama is just 14 years younger than Hillary Clinton. That is not a “generation” (except maybe in some Southern states), and not enough time to have created a brand-new way of thinking. This constant talk about passing the torch from the boomers as they head to that great Woodstock in the sky is mighty damned premature. We’re still fighting the same old battles against racism, sexism and economic exploitation.
We parents of today have a hell of a lot more in common with our children than we do with our parents. We share the culture of sex drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Television, the pill, the anti-war movement — all had their beginnings in the ’50s and really took hold in the ’60s. They opened our minds to rebellion and skepticism. That hasn’t changed all that much.
It USED to be true that youth was wasted on the young, but now, through the magic of medicine and technology, we can cling to our immaturity much much longer than we used to. No longer do we go from productive to shuffleboard at the age of 60. A big chunk of us are still roaring along, sill motivated by vanity. So those who write about changing the guard are relying on an obsolete way of thinking. What so many in media and marketing accept as reality is really fiction.
Yes, the kids are slimmer and naturally healthier — those who don’t smoke or overeat, anyway — but their parents aren’t about to pack it in. Why should we? Not only do we still work out, but apparently the hormones are still racing. The grownups can look ahead to 30, 40, 50 years of vitality. Combine that with the lessons from the previous 30-plus years and you have a boomer generation that is finally getting past its self-indulgences and just getting ready to lead. Finally.
Barack Obama is certainly old enough to lead. His degree of experience is a matter of debate, of course. For that matter, so is Hillary Clinton’s. When it comes to the generations, they don’t represent anything.
Is John McCain, who would be 80 if he finished two terms, too aged for the intense demands of the office? It might be a fair question, although it also may be that his uncommon life uniquely prepares him for our country’s battles ahead. But those who are 10 or 20 younger than him are certainly not ready to be put out to be pasture. They/we are still running the race, at full speed.
Where we used to have two age groups, young and old, we now have at least three: In the middle is the biggest group, the robust demographic that only really starts to grasp the concept of adulthood at about age 40. Maybe. Let’s call us the “post-puberty” generation. And just because a few prominent members of our group have been insufferable boors on occasion, let’s remember that our generation was not only noted for its narcissism but also its demand for change. Demand for change? Gee, that sounds familiar.