While the fact that Baby Boomers are living longer is a triumph of modern medicine and better living conditions, it’s creating retirement challenges.
Goodbye boomers, it’s time to hand over the gavel and leave the podium. If not now, soon.
Your days are numbered. What goes around comes around. You’ve ruled the roost since you were teenagers in the ’60s and ’70s. You changed the nation’s (world’s?) sexual mores, musical tastes, political persuasions, fashions and lingo.
Then, as the new millennium dawned, all 78 million of you started to turn gray and made age the rage and youth uncouth. (How’s that for irony?!)
Today, you still control more than half of this country’s assets and discretionary income. Some 86 percent of you are registered to vote, and 74 percent do so (for better or for worse!). You’re still a force to be reckoned with, but time is not on your side.
As The Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia famously said, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”
You boomers did a lot of good things while in charge: You championed civil rights and created Silicon Valley, birthplace of the PC, the internet, smartphones, the progenitors of the social media phenomenon. It remains to be seen if your electronic innovations will produce more good than bad (see below). And let’s not forget you were at the forefront of protesting the Vietnam fiasco.
Where would the LGBT community be without your advocacy? Certainly black and brown people are better off today than in the ’50s, though we seem to be sliding backward of late. You didn’t trust anyone older than 30 and probably for good reason.
You were pot-stirrers par excellence.
It should come as no surprise, however, that after those decades of raising hell you quieted down. Being a breadwinner, a homeowner and parent has that effect. But being quiet is one thing; becoming reactionary is another! Too many of you seem only interested in protecting your gains, devil take the hindmost. Truth is, you are being relegated to the sidelines and in another 10 years or so you’ll be an historical footnote.
Now there’s the matter of your legacy to consider. You’re leaving behind quite a mess. I’m not suggesting it is all of your making. Recently, you’ve had a lot of help from the voting patterns of younger white men living between the coasts, and evangelicals, along with no-show young people and apathetic minorities, Latinos especially. Whether those following you will be willing or able to undo what has recently been done remains to be seen.
I believe the social media (abetted by the ubiquitous smartphone) have made politics extremely tribal and difficult to deal with. The commonweal is no longer in play and compromise has become a dirty word. Certainly Donald Trump would still be residing in his tower had he not had Twitter to distribute his rants and cant. But that genie is out of the bottle running riot over what used to be our self-moderating institutions.
If anyone can manage that electronic monster, it’s the millennial generation. They’ll soon be at the controls of Spaceship Earth as it flies through the 21st Century.
With so much to gain or lose, let us hope they change our present course. We’re in for a ride that will make Garcia’s trip a walk in the park.
Wish I could end on a happier note, but I foresee nothing to be sanguine about. Tell me I’m wrong.
Samm Coombs of Palm Desert is a retired adman, publisher and author. Email him at [email protected]
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