Hey, Boomer: Stop Bashing Millenials & GenY or Gen X or Whomever.

Memes and video clips applauding those who were raised from the 1950s to 1970s for “surviving” have been around since Netscape Navigator. These posts usually criticize regulations like lead paint mitigation and bike helmets, implying that obese children first appeared on earth during the Clinton administration.

But, those who didn’t “survive” aren’t able to post….

I understand that it’s a folksy attempt at revisiting a half-imagined golden age that never was. I have a sense of humor, but most of the arguments presented in memes like the one above are silly, disrespectful, and almost completely incorrect.

We all know that Child Protective Services does not knock on random doors and dictate how each of us “raises their kids” as some of the current memes making the rounds are stating. They protect children living in abusive settings, and manage the foster care processes, among dozens of other thankless responsibilities.

Every generation — and each individual within them — has its strengths and weaknesses, as well as its share of good and bad timing and circumstances.

No generation needs me to defend them, but recent generations of young people have drawn more than enough short straws. Currently, many of their educations and career plans are on hold because of the large number of people of all ages who refused to get the COVID vaccine or wear a mask for reasons that are incoherent and inconsistent.

Yes, they may seem quite mellow and have smartphones and Snapchat. They’ve also inherited a jumbo shit sandwich: Their early memories include watching 9/11 on television — or from their classroom windows. Most do not recall a time when our country was not at war, whether it affected them directly or not. There are the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in which many of them have served and continue to serve honorably. 2009 provided them an instant economics lesson with a housing crisis, bank bailout, and subsequent recession which required many of their parents to burn through the college savings and retirement accounts, allowing the young adults the privilege of piling up student loan debt for a degree, often with an indeterminate value. College graduates at the time faced a 10% unemployment rate in a nation with over one million vacant homes.

They’ve also watched countless numbers of their fellow citizens being murdered for having a blinker out, selling loose cigarettes (Too bad those smartphones weren’t around 50 years ago), or simply going to church. In the last decade or three, the 24-hour news cycle has provided them footage of hundreds and hundreds of other Americans slaughtered in mass shootings at elementary schools, office parks, and entertainment venues. All in 1080P!

Feel free to use this handy dandy reference guide <~ to clarify which generation was born into which decade.

Photo by David Veksler on Unsplash

Those born into Generation X and later are aware that most of the issues listed above are largely due to spineless elected leaders, an environment on the brink, a massive wealth gap, and an increasing poverty rate, for starters.

Millennials and GenY have often countered outdated approaches by refusing to fit in the square holes that previous generations marched into lock-step to “fit in.” Changing the landscape, they are (largely) principled and engaged while rejecting bigotry and allowing for some empathy to creep in. They think for themselves. They are entrepreneurial and more than willing to work hard. At the same time, many observed their parents’ experience of corporate loyalty evaporating throughout the ’90s, so they smartly are also asking “What’s in it for me?” before accepting job offers. The current lack of employees for many industries will help lead to these more candid job interview discussions becoming the norm.

If you’re labeling the generations born after you as lazy, coddled, and apathetic, I would ask: Weren’t you the ones who raised them and provided an example?

Generation X has had a huge positive impact on society. Their twenties and thirties were dominated by quickly emerging, ever-changing technologies, which they adapted to and steered to help change the way the world conducts business — and practically every other activity! Those born after 1965, and after 1980, include the FDNY firefighters and police officers who walked into the crumbling World Trade Center on 9/11, the 7,000 men and women of our military who lost their lives in Afghanistan and Ira.

In many ways, Generation X has stepped up. They’ve taken on senior leadership roles in industry, military, and government. Their resumes, “metrics,” and potential for success look far better than those born since the late-80’s, but I’ll have to take a deep dive into those born since the mid-’90s at another time.

Like our nation itself, over 60 million homes are now “multigenerational,” often with three or more generations under the same roof! This fact reminds us that many of the broad characterizations, including my own, are far from scientific. Likely, households like those see the challenges that each family member may face every day. Each generation has had its saints and its heroes. As Paul Simon once sang, “Every generation sends a hero up the Pop charts…

Later generations should not be belittling the past contributions of Boomers. Boomers should not be dismissing the lifestyles of those in Gen X, Y, Millenial, et al. It’s simply not productive.

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“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room.
— Socrates ( c. 470–399 B.C.)

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James M. Phelan

James M. Phelan

Daddy, exhausted empath/INFJ; Law Firm Investigator; Super Hero; John Lennon in a world of Pete Bests.