Dissent Of The Day

A reader takes a stand:

There are a lot of great things about The Dish, and I was happy to be part of the initial subscription wave. But you just reminded me again why I refuse to re-subscribe. It is your persistent, deplorable habit of using terms like “Baby Boomer”, “Gen X”, and “Millennials”.  These terms are utter nonsense. They are preposterous, deeply-misleading sweeping generalizations, grotesque caricatures of reality. There is no such thing as a so-called “generation” except in the strictest biological/anthropological sense, within kinship lines. The use of such terms as social descriptors has been a disaster for our discourse. (One need only look at the wave of idiotic “generation” articles pouring out of Salon for confirmation of this.)

You say every issue is discussed on The Dish? This one evidently can’t be. I have never seen any discussion challenging the ludicrous concept of “generational traits”. That seems to be strictly off-limits.

These so-called “generations” you assert the existence of cannot be defined coherently.

Each “generation” is wildly diverse and contains tens of millions of individuals, saints, sinners, and everyone in between. Yet certain people seem to think – wrongly – that they “know all about” others because they know what year these people were born in!Moreover, each “generation” contains tens of millions of individuals with unique biographies. (And yes I do need to emphasize that.) These individuals have interacted with a whole host of other humans, very many of them of other so-called “generations”, in deeply complex patterns of reciprocity. These individuals have been shaped by the whole of the human biological and cultural inheritance. They did not grow up in some sort of generational isolation box. Please stop slapping labels on them, as if they were figures in a bad editorial cartoon.

As a former history teacher and (minor) historian, it almost makes me grimace when I see such terms used to explain the nature of human society. Nothing could be more misleading. It’s as if we asked a 10 year-old how we can explain human history and society and he replied, “Well, it all depends on what year you were born in. That’s what makes you what you are. People born in 1944 are WAY different than people born in 1946. People born in 1957 are WAY different than people born in 1965.” We’d smile at such childishness – and then watch as a lot of adults make exactly the same childish arguments. It’s time to put away this childish nonsense.

I guess since I was born in 1952 and am routinely lumped together with 76 million other Americans as a so-called “Baby Boomer” that I am more sensitive to this phenomenon. In Esquire magazine, Paul Begala called people like me “locusts”. (I’d like to see Begala call my 59-year-old wife, a woman who has borne inconceivable burdens in her life and shown heroism on many occasions, a locust to my face. He would regret it.) The Atlantic said that people like me “ruined everything”, thus casually negating the lives and careers of millions of dedicated individuals. (Let’s Dick Cheney, born in 1941, off the hook, too.)  Imagine such descriptions being made about a group other than the so-called “Baby Boomers”. What kind of speech would they be considered? (BTW, I’m sick and tired of insults, not by you, directed toward the so-called “Millennials”. A lot of my 20-something former students are my friends.)

I want to be judged for my own successes and failures. Please stop assuming you know me, Andrew: you don’t. Please stop assuming that I’m just like everyone else in some mythical, arbitrarily-defined group that supposedly encompasses everyone born between 1946 and 1964. I’m not. OK? When you’re ready to do that, I’ll be ready to come back.