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I have seen the best minds of my generation...

by anna at 11:04 AM on March 27, 2004

Mr. Blank mentions a possible generation gap between him and a gal 5 years older. Wouldn't they be of the same generation, I'm thinking. Then it dawns on me that since babies are being born every minute, no one can say for sure which generation they belong to. The whole concept dates back to when just about everyone could trace their roots to Abraham. For example, where is the precise cutoff point between Gen X and Gen Y?

I was born in 1959, which places me at the tail end of the Baby Boomer Generation. We're supposedly materialistic, selfish and vain. I am none of those things. I therefore respectfully reject the Boomer label. Likewise, many of you have been lumped into Gen X. You're supposedly apathetic, shrewd with money and somewhat conservative. From what I've seen you're not like that at all.

Assigning people to specific generations is an artifice designed to help us bring order to the chaos that is the space-time ccontinuum. It's the same way with decades. We want our eras in nice, neat ten-year packages. There was the complacent 50s and the turbulent 60s. Some called the 70s the Me Decade, whatever that means. The 80s were defined by Reagan-era politics, new wave music and awful haircuts. (There's a reason That 80s Show failed so miserably.) The 90s were all about money, stocks and the dot-com bubble that burst. Who knows what this one is all about? It doesn't even have a name as yet.

But like a Bloomin' Onion at Outback, it all falls apart on closer examination. The 50s stretched well into 1963, possibly ending when JFK got shot. You still had all that virginal Happy Days/American Graffiti crap going on. Homemade apple pies cooled on window sills. Girls combed their hair in rearview mirrors. People didn't wake up 1/1/60 and suddenly start donning fringed vests and love beads.

Although some would argue that 60s idealism died with the stabbing at Altamont (right on time) in 1969, it's more accurate to include 1970-72 in there. The 60s ended when our troops evacuated Saigon. While that's what protesters had sought all along, it still had a bittersweet quality to it.

The carefree, disco/punk rockin' 70s did end on time in 1980 with Reagan's innauguration. You had this sense that the adults were back in charge (kind of like now.) What had been good clean fun turned to nihilism. Don Henley summed up the zeitgeist in his classic End of the Innocence.

Then the Berlin Wall collapsed, followed by Clinton's 1992 innauguration. This marked the first time a Boomer had led our nation. Optimism abounded once again. The Internet was still in its infancy but already some sensed the limitless possiblities. Investors flocked to the new technology. The 90s was underway. See Tony Montana and his thugs lugging dufful bags of cash into that bank.

But then it all went kaput. $3 trillion disappeared. Terrorist put the ultimate explanation point on our collective malaise on Sept 11, 2001, the day the 90s ended in such an abrupt and jarring fashion.

Even the generalizations don't hold water. The 50s had its beatnicks. Not everyone was a radical flower child in the 60s. Indeed, more youths voted for Nixon than McGovern in '72. In '68, at the height of the psychedelic era, not everybody was grooving to the trippy likes of Jefferson Airplane. And let's not forget how those heady 90s also spawned the morose stylings of Nirvana and its grunge imitators.

comments (5)

The other part of this I didn't include in the body of the post is the nebulous nature of years and calendars. Turns out there are time-geeks who insist that the millenium didn't really end until 12/31/01! Or that some years somehow got lost along the way and so it really ended with no fanfare in 1996! But we know better than that.

by anna at March 28, 2004 9:50 AM

That's so true, Anna. How can we really reduce all the individual experiences of 200 million (or so) Americans into a phrase, like "Baby Boomer" or "Flower Child", after all. Although it's nice sometimes to have a yardstick to compare yourself to. Like I can say I was too young during the '80s to be a Reaganite, too much of a social outcast to be wearing the cutoff sweatshirts and sideways ponytails, and too much of a Goth to like grunge... much. The danger is when we believe the labels too much.

by jean at March 28, 2004 4:05 PM

Well, as awful as the 80s were (appreciate Jean's references) I must say that was my time. I was just out of college and the possibilities seemed endless. Possibilities has too many i's in it.

by anna at March 29, 2004 7:44 AM

I have nothing to add really, just wanted to say I enjoyed reading your post, Anna. You summed everything up in a nice clear way and it was interesting and enjoyable to read.

by AlterEgo at March 29, 2004 9:17 PM

Once in a while I get comments like that and it just warms my heart.

by anna at March 30, 2004 7:45 AM

comments are closed