Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Boomers Gone Bust Come Back

Kent State University, May 4, 1970
Reading "The Age of Miracles: Embracing the New Midlife" (Hay House, 2009), Marianne Williamson's discourse on how our generation is handling mid-life, I was struck by what she had to say about why baby-boomers hadn't effected the kind of political change they'd so clamored for in the 60s and 70s.  I'm particularly struck by the fact that I happened to read it on the day when Barack Obama's team has submitted his intention to run in 2012. They wrote me (and about 20 million of my closest friends) to ask us if we're "in" for this campaign. I replied that I was, though with far less enthusiasm than in 2008.

In the interests of full disclosure, I'm part of the Boomer crowd known as the "Late Boomers" or "Barely Boomers". In fact, when I was in junior high school, anyone born after 1955 wasn't even considered an official "Baby Boomer".  In truth, I was only 12 when the sixties ended, and a naive and undercooked 17 when the last helicopter took off from that rooftop in Saigon.  I missed the tuning in, the turning on, the dropping out.  I don't listen nostalgically to Jefferson Airplane or The Doors. The music of my youth is The Eagles, Steely Dan and Linda Ronstadt on the one end, and Cindy Lauper and Pat Benatar on the other.

Here is what Williamson has to say on why the generation that gave us the messages of love and peace in the 60s did not follow through when they came of age and took the joint over:

With the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11, anyone who needed to grow up and basically hadn’t done it yet, did.  The prolonged post-adolescence of at least one generation ended at last. On that day, the music died…. It might have taken us 40 years, but we’ve finally matured to the point where we’re ready to manifest the dreams we embraced a long time ago.

What took us so long? Why 40 years? What stopped us?

More than anything, I think, murder stopped us.  The voices of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., along with the four students at Kent State University, were silenced violently and abruptly right in front of our eyes. Those bullets weren’t just for them; psychically, they were for all of us, and we knew it. The unspoken message of those assassinations could not have been louder. There would be no further protest. We were to go home now. We could do whatever we wanted to do in the private sector, but were to leave the public sector to whoever wanted it so much that they were willing to kill in order to control it.

And leave it alone we did. A generation with as much talent and privilege as any that has ever walked the earth poured the majority of our gifts into private concerns – mostly thing of ultimate irrelevance – while mostly leaving the political sphere to others. And for a few decades, that seemed to work. America can be likened to a house, in which many of us ran to the second floor (art, spirituality, careers, fun) and left the downstairs (traditional politics) to less inspired thinkers. We kidded ourselves that it was an okay arrangement, until those of us on the balcony began to smell the unmistakable odor of the house burning down.

Shouldn’t someone about now be yelling, “Fire”?

Collectively, our script has returned to us for a rewrite. We get another chance to determine the end. The first time around, we allowed ourselves to be silenced. It remains to be seen if we will be silenced now.

So, I'm in with this campaign, because not being in means leaving this country to what Williamson describes as "less inspired thinkers." (One of the things I love about Marianne Williamson is her gift for kind euphemism.)  She comes as close as anyone to describing what I see happening to this country.  We are being called by whatever higher power you care to name to contain our appetites, but unleash our loving compassion. We are being asked by the planet and the Universe to leave a smaller footprint, but extend the reach of our hearts. We're called to be enthusiastic, even if we don't fully feel it.

So, yes, I'm in.  I'm in.  I have no idea what being "in" looks like as yet.  But as E. L. Doctorow once said about writing a novel, "[it's] like driving at night. You can only see as far ahead of you as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way."

1 comment:

  1. I'm the same age as you and I always felt a bit on the outside of the whole boomer thing, kind of an in between generation. But I've always been very politically aware courtesy of my father, who brought his European sensibilities with him when he immigrated to Canada. Our household was always a place of lively political debate.
    Canada, like the U.S., is just as apathetic about politics. We're currently in the middle of an election campaign and most people could care less. Drives me nuts! So yeah, count me in, too. It's about time we all got back in the game, don't you think?

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