Vanity Fair: Opinion- Rich Cohen: Why Generation X Might Be Our Last, Best Hope

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Source: Vanity Affair

Source: This piece was originally posted at The Daily Review

To talk about Generation X (my generation born in 1975) it depends on how you define it. To put it simply we’re the generation that is now in our forties and fifties. The middle adult generation between the Boomers and the Millennial’s. Officially Baby Boomers are Americans born between 1946-64. So after World War II and during the civi rights movement of the mid 1960s. And I’m sure the U.S. Census Bureau does a lot of things very well, but defining generations is not really one of them. And as most Americans (who aren’t a Socialist) know government can get things wrong in this country.

Another way to look at Generation X are the people who went to school and grew up in post-segregated America. If you want to know why so many Americans are both color and race blind is because so many of us (Gen-Xers) went to public schools that were racially and ethnically diverse. So we went to school before we knew what race and ethnicity was. And got to see people as they were as people and not just how they looked. Why they had a certain complexion, why there hair looked a certain way, why they had certain names. Things that come with one’s ethnicity and race.

Which is why affirmative action has been losing support with my generation and in America broadly, because a lot of us now simply don’t judge Americans by their race or ethnicity and therefor don’t believe people should be rewarded or punished simply because of their race or ethnicity. I believe the more accurate way to define Generation X is Americans born between 1960 or 61 and 1979. And I believe a lot of Americans born in the early 1960s would agree with this since they have plenty in common as far as their own personal experiences with Americans born in the mid and late 1960s and even early 1970s, is Americans born between 1960 or 61, and 1979. Than they do with Boomer Americans born in the 1940s and 1950s and even in some cases late 1950s.

So everyone born in 1979 would be the last of the Gen-Xers. Which is what I’ll be talking about in this piece is Americans born in the 1960s and 1970s that are right between the two largest generations in at least modern American history. The Baby Boomers born in the 1940s and 1950s that are the parents of most Gen-Xers. And the Millennial’s born in the 1980s and 1990s who are the children of some Gen-Xers and a lot of Boomers. Even if you stretch out Generation X to let’s say 1961 or even 1960 to 1979, we’re still a small generation. Like North Korea surrounded by China and Russia.

Because a lot of Boomers especially men were vacationing in Vietnam in the 1960s (ha, ha) and the the economy was so depressing in the 1970s that a lot of Boomers weren’t having kids. They were too busy crying about the Vietnam War and the fact they couldn’t find a job, or at least a good job. But that is really for a different topic as far as why my generation is so damn small and we have to look up to the Boomers and Millennial’s as far as numbers.

The main reason why I still have some hope for America even with the oversensitive Millennial’s who can’t take a joke and want to outlaw everything they disagree with and view celebrity culture and new technology as need to know information and current affairs and public policy back page and unimportant, because it requires thinking and intelligence to understand, and history as so old school and yesterday and therefor not worth learning about and being interested in, is because what I laid out early in this article. Gen-Xers are the first post-segregation generation.

If you’re a Boomer or older chances are you went to a segregated school, especially if you grew up in the South or even rural small towns in the North. And therefor didn’t get to or have to socialize and learn with kids of different racial or ethnic backgrounds as yourself, until you probably graduated high school. And then maybe even in college you didn’t go to school with people of other racial and ethnic backgrounds. Unless you were an African-American who is in college on let’s say a scholarship. That is not a problem that most Gen-Xers had and the same thing for the Millennial’s.

So Gen-Xers have got to experience America at it’s best and what we’re supposed to be as this great vast liberal democracy where everyone can succeed if they’re simply just given the opportunity to and then take advantage of those opportunities. Regardless of their ethnicity, race, or gender. And we’ve gotten to learn about America at it’s worst and to some extent experience racial and ethnic bigotry ourselves, especially racial and ethnic minorities, but in most cases not to the same extent as our parents and grandparents.

We know what works about America which is our ability to be individuals and at the same time celebrate what we all share and love about America. Which is the ability for us to be ourselves and not have to fall in line and be some big collection of Americans that all think, talk and act alike. And we know what doesn’t which is denying Americans opportunity and access simply because of their racial or ethnic backgrounds, or their gender. And trying to lump groups of Americans into one group and think they must all think, talk, and act a certain way, because of the group that they’re a member of.

Another reason why I have hope for America is Generation X in most cases are the sons and daughters of the Baby Boomers. We’ve learned from them about individuality and learned from the so-called Me Generation and that Americans are better off being themselves and taking care of themselves. That we’re only as useful and can help others when we’re doing well ourselves. Which is why I believe Gen-X is an educated generation and successful generation.

We’ve gotten ourselves the tools to do well in America and then have passed our wealth and knowledge down to others and have become a large volunteering generation. And enjoy volunteering for others and helping people out, because we’ve made it in America in most cases. And aren’t drowning in student debt (unlike another generation) and are able to take care of ourselves for the most part. (Unlike another generation)

The last reason why I believe America still has hope and will still be a great country 20 years from now when I’m in my early 60s (knock on wood) is because Generation X is the middle generation. We’re in our 40s and 50s and just had our first President in Barack Obama. (Born in 1961) We’re going to be around and in charge for a long time. And because of that will have the ability to lead and teach others what we’ve know and have experienced.

And hopefully the Millennial’s will grow up and learn that just because they don’t like a joke or criticism, doesn’t necessarily make that joke and criticism bigoted.

Hopefully Millennial’s will learn that just because they don’t approve of this activity or another like what people eat and drink like soft drinks and junk food, or meat because they view eating meat as animal cruelty, doesn’t mean those things are so bad that government should prohibit them.

Hopefully Millennial’s will learn that just because celebrity culture and new technology or are so like totally awesome or whatever, that maybe those things really aren’t as important as how government is spending our tax dollars, or are we going to be at war, or are our civil rights, civil liberties, and constitutional rights, are now in jeopardy, because of some big government action or actions.

These are the reasons why I still have hope for America and my Generation X is a big part of that.

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Source: National Geographic- NBC Nightly News With Jane Pauley

National Geographic: NBC Nightly News With Jane Pauley- Birth of The Slacker

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About Kire Schneider

Blogs primarily about current affairs and history. But also blogs about sports, Hollywood and Hollywood history.
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