There is this idea that America has somehow lost some of its magic.
There is this idea out there, put out by both sides of the political spectrum, that our country is headed in the wrong direction. You’ve probably heard it. Maybe you’ve been on the receiving of a well-meaning lecture from your parents or grandparents about what’s wrong with the world today. They often add that things just aren’t what they used to be. And if you don’t hear a similar berating from older family members, you need look no further than your local politician or pundit. Most of them make a living telling you what is wrong with the country.
Yet it is our parents and their parents and our politicians that have been and continue to steer this country. It was not our generation that made the decision to launch (and continue to fund) two wars, or outsource jobs overseas. We don’t even know what hedge fund investments are. And as awesome as we are at all things technical, we didn’t start that either.
No, those items are on the tab of the older generation that has been running this country. That generation, loosely defined as baby boomers, characterizes those born from around 1946 to 1964. That generation, led by those on Capitol Hill, has taken this country to the place it is now, stricken with political polarization and an almost complete lack of civility. When you consider the average age of Congress, about 57, you really start to visualize that the generation that is complaining is the generation that is maintaining.
The most tragic part is that our generation is being held hostage by the stigma and past actions of the older generation. Although we can acknowledge the issues and events that plagued them, we’ve moved on. Many of the things they fight over so vigorously are not even on the radar of our generation.
For instance, as the issue of race has been brought up repeatedly since President Obama’s election, there has been sustained conversation about how the way things used to be and whether we’ve come far enough in our effort to fix the problems of the past. Race is no longer an issue for our generation, however. Sure, there are some fringe folks who might disagree, but for the most part our generation sees race as inconsequential.
The older generation can remember a time where the color of their skin meant social inequality and injustice, but they don’t seem to realize that all of their hard work has paid off. Our generation does hold the phrase “all men are created equal” as true and self-evident. To make matters worse, the older generation’s continual bickering over the matter has a way of smudging our generation’s rose-colored glasses.
Speaking of equality, another example of a generational difference is equal rights for the gay and lesbian community. Although this debate is a hot issue for the older generations, for us it is not. Polls and research studies have consistently shown that 18 to 29 year olds support gay marriage more than they oppose it. And the difference of support between generations accounts for at least ten percent across the polls. There are different reasons that may be true, but the simplest is that our generation has been much more exposed to homosexuality, much of that exposure void of any negative connotations.
A final example one might see comes from the military. The older generation lived through the Vietnam War, some as kids and many old enough to be eligible for the draft. The Vietnam War had many tragic consequences, one of which was a stigma on the military that those on Capitol Hill still remember. Whatever their feelings for the military are, what is more interesting is when, just every once and a while, they throw out the word draft. It’s almost laughable if you consider that recruitment rates have been at or above the needs of the military for the last decade. And, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center, more than 50 percent of each branch’s population is under 30 with the average age of the entire military coming in at 28. Our generation has taken the call to serve very seriously.
In the end, the older generation continues to argue and fight about issues that our generation considers almost non-issues. We’ve moved on. And it would be nice if they joined us.