Reading Brett Martin’s March 28 commentary “Millennials are angry and we need to listen” provides an important reminder that we need to listen to the millennials and strive for change but also cements the reality of how self-centered that generation is. I think it is important for Brett’s son and the rest of the millennials to comprehend some of what those that came before them have endured and done so that they may more appropriately know where we have been and where we could go.
I was born at the tail end of the baby boomers and can vouch for the fact that what we endured was certainly as bad and likely much more bleak than the issues Brett’s son is complaining about. For myself, I witnessed assassinations of President Kennedy, his brother Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr.. The Vietnam War was brought daily into our homes by television and created real consequences of families torn apart through death and politics. I witnessed the reality of race wars in Watts and groups like the Black Panthers. I endured gas outages and double digit inflation. I worried greatly when I had to register for the draft. The environment was also in a horrible condition with rivers catching on fire and air so horrible it killed people.
Rather than spending the rest of my life focusing on the bad, myself, and likely most “boomers” instead set about to make things better for themselves and their world. Over my lifetime the environment has improved greatly because of social changes like Earth Day as well as through policy and legal changes. The financial boom enjoyed by the boomers helped to build the schools and infrastructure that younger generations seem to take for granted. The technology created over the last six decades has expanded our lives and our universe in ways that are beyond comprehension by the younger generations.
Unfortunately, much of that good growth and social change now seems to be have been diminished as people forget what has been accomplished and look instead toward cheap solutions to maximize their own benefits and find scapegoats for problems of their own making.
Yes, we could and should continue to improve our environment; the rest of the world has committed to doing this but our federal government insists on rolling back the protections that took so long to put in place. Yes, we could continue to work toward affordable and universal health care yet the federal government has been actively dismantling the most important and successful health care reform that has happened in my lifetime. Yes, we could continue to work toward world peace but to do so will require that we build and maintain strong global alliances which our federal government is currently destroying while also partaking in saber rattling. And yes, we must return to a time when people were not judged, blamed, or persecuted because of the color of their skin, the faith they practiced, or the preference of those they love.
We are surviving in a time that is socially, morally, and environmentally greatly diminished from where it could be. The younger generations are growing in numbers and will within my lifetime have sufficient numbers to change the world in ways that could easily overtake the impact that the boomers had. If the current regime is smart, they will listen to the millennials to start the process of change but if the millennials are smart, they will take stock in what had been accomplished in the past and use it as a guide to place their own mark on history.