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Monday, July 29, 2013

Blame It All on the Baby Boomers

I fully agree with Tom Brokaw that my parents' generation, the so-called G.I. Generation, was "The Greatest Generation." They endured the Great Depression, fought for our freedom in World War II, and rebuilt America into a superpower. The Greatest generation were tough, never-say-die individuals who defined American courage, selflessness, and determination. They were "special" and "one of a kind."

Contrary to the thoughts of young readers, I am not old enough to be a member of "The Greatest Generation." Instead, being born in 1951, I am a Baby Boomer. The G.I. Generation are our mothers and fathers, and, believe it or not, they taught us to be "different" from them in some very important respects.

Why are we known as Boomers? For a little background, let me explain.

Almost exactly nine months after World War II ended, “the cry of the baby was heard across the land,” as historian Landon Jones later described the trend. More babies were born in 1946 than ever before: 3.4 million, 20 percent more than in 1945. This was the beginning of the so-called “baby boom.” In 1947, another 3.8 million babies were born; 3.9 million were born in 1952; and more than 4 million were born every year from 1954 until 1964, when the boom finally tapered off. By then, there were 76.4 million “baby boomers” in the United States. They made up almost 40 percent of the nation’s population.

My generation, the Baby Boomers, is most often cast as a counterculture of spoiled children who are totally selfish, self absorbed, and self-indulgent. We are blamed for introducing mainstream America to the drug culture, rampant criminal violence, political instability, ungodliness, and the proliferation of unchecked materialistic greed. So, with great regrets, we Boomers must accept much of the criticism, unable to deny the reality of the majority of some unfortunate history.

Yet, with all the faults attributed to Baby Boomers, my generation still deserves much credit. We, the most influential group in the social history of the United States have often been perceived by unkind critics as "problem children." Yet, undoubtedly, my generation produced some earth-shaking accomplishments. Our parents taught us the need for freedom and the power of expression. With their help, we instituted large-scale change and gave the nation a much-needed conscience and a broader mind.

Much of this progress is due to the fact that more of us young adult Boomers pursued higher education in our youth. In the shadow of the Cold War, we realized the need for strong minds and stronger wills. The space race with the USSR fueled the dawn of space exploration, accessible long-distance travel, and the birth of the computer age. We were taught to compete or die at the hands of our enemy -- the Communists. At that time, many of our brave young men took up arms to defend our nation, and almost of us developed useful strategies to overcome oppression.

No generation before or after the Boomers has been more youth-oriented. Revolution was in the air, and we Boomers knew a new America began with cultivating better philosophies. Many Baby Boomers fought and died in Vietnam in the cause of freedom. Although they were political pawns in an unpopular war, many of the veterans returned to attend institutes of higher education. Of course, universities were also home to protesters. The cradle of maturation in a new world was the college campus. Most of us, soldiers and civilians, became activists united in the quest for peace.

The universities led an era of greater mind expansion and self-exploration -- we students, although considered by many to be rowdy upstarts, began to think for ourselves and support causes and important social issues. The events of the times -- such as racial tensions, the emergence of the Vietnam War, and inequity suffered by women -- spurred my generation to seek dramatic shifts in educational, economic and social opportunities. We learned there was strength in numbers, and we began the effective use of the 20th century tool of mass media to educate the public and to encourage change.

Our Baby Boomer Generation witnessed and participated in some of the greatest social changes in the country’s history during the 1960s and 1970s. Our protests and other means of social and political pressure brought dramatic, needed change in Civil Rights, in unpopular war, in Gender Rights, in sexual freedom, and in cronie-controlled American politics.

We Boomers grew up in an era of reform with the dream and the belief that we could change the world. Yes, many of us were idealistic with pipe dreams of rainbow solutions in a world largely playing by black-and-white rules; however, never has creativity spurred the imaginations of so many. And, never has the young American vision for peace, love, and happiness been greater.

Realizing the problems with pursuing a hippie lifestyle in an extreme counterculture, we Baby Boomers soon began to equate work and position with self-worth, and, in doing so, we found that our resourcefulness led to great success. Adaptability became key. Thanks to pressure, the actual face of the workplace began evolving from a fairly racially homogenous, paternalistic environment to one of increased racial and gender diversity.

Our generation brought great prosperity to many college-educated Americans and instilled a determined sense of competition. In want of a better future, we eventually became career-oriented and achievement-oriented individuals. Boomers had always questioned established authority systems and challenged the status quo. Therefore, in the legal workplace, we were not afraid of confrontation, and we did not hesitate to challenge established practices we deemed detrimental to our survival.

The workplace of the Boomer slowly began to reflect the rapid political and social changes of the nation. My generation coined terms such as the “glass ceiling” and the “equal opportunity workplace” and began using personality profiles to build awareness of how to get along with all co-workers.

So, despite all the charges of being shortsighted and unconcerned about the consequences, we Baby Boomers have accomplished many good things that will continue to have a lasting, positive impact on America. Before you all "kick us to the curb" just remember Grandpa and Grandma may not be the easily categorized "hawks" and "doves" of older days. I believe Boomers had proven their propensity to use equal parts "brawn" and "brain" to free a lot of people and to free a lot of minds.

What do you think? Here is a simple exercise to put yourself in the Baby Boomer mindset. How many songs today reflect social issues and call for change? Think about that as you read some lyrics the Boomers "know by heart."

Groovy, baby. Let's look at some popular tunes from Boomer days and see what was going through young ears those days:

The Animals "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"

In this dirty old part of the city,
Where the sun refuse to shine,
People tell me there ain't no use in tryin'.
Now my girl, you're so young and pretty,
And one thing I know is true,
You'll be dead before your time is due.
I know.

Watch my daddy in bed and tired,
Watch his hair been turnin' gray.
He's been workin' and slavin' his life away.
Oh yes, I know,
(Work) He's been workin' so hard.
(Work) I've been workin' too, baby.
(Work) Every night and day.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

We gotta get out of this place,
If it's the last thing we ever do.
We gotta get out of this place,
'Cause girl, there's a better life for me and you.

Sam Cooke "A Change Is Gonna Come"

I go to the movie
And I go down town
Somebody keeps telling me don't hang around
Its been along time coming
But I know a change is gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother
And I say brother help me please
But he winds up knocking me
Back down on my knees


There been times that I thought I couldn't last for long
But now I think I'm able to carry on
It's been a long, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will 

Barry McGuire "Eve of Destruction"

The eastern world it is explodin', violence flarin', bullets loadin'  
You're old enough to kill but not for votin'  
You don't believe in war, what's that gun you're totin'  
And even the Jordan river has bodies floatin'

But you tell me over and over and over again my friend 
Ah, you don't believe we're on the eve of destruction

Helen Reddy "I Am Woman"

You can bend but never break me
'Cause it only serves to make me
More determined to achieve my final goal
And I come back even stronger
Not a novice any longer
'Cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul

I am strong (strong)
I am invincible (invincible)
I am woman

Alice Cooper "Eighteen" >

I got a baby's brain and an old man's heart
Took eighteen years to get this far
Don't always know what I'm talkin' about
Feels like I'm livin in the middle of doubt

Cause I'm

I get confused every day
I just don't know what to say
I gotta get away

Country Joe and the Fish "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag"

Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late.
And you can be the first ones on your block
To have your boy come home in a box.

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die. 

Byrds "I Want to Grow Up to be a Politician"

I want to grow up to be a politician
And take over this beautiful land
I want to grow up to be a politician
And be the old U.S. of A.'s number one man

I'll always be tough but I'll never be scary
I want to shoot guns or butter my bread
I'll work in the towns or conservate the prairies 

And you can believe the future's ahead

I'll give the young the right to vote as soon as they mature
But spare the rod and spoil the child to help them feel secure
And if I win election day I might give you a job
I'll sign a bill to help the poor to show I'm not a snob

I'll open my door I'm charging no admission
And you can be sure I'll give you my hand
I want to grow up to be a politician
And take over this beautiful land

Led Zeppelin "Black Dog"

 Hey, hey, mama, said the way you move,
Gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove.

Ah, ah, child, way you shake that thing,
Gonna make you burn, gonna make you sting.

Hey, hey, baby, when you walk that way,
Watch your honey drip, can't keep away.

All I ask for, all I pray
Steady rolling woman gonna come my way.
Need a woman gonna hold my hand
Won't tell me no lies
Make me a happy man.

Ah-ahh ah-ah
Ah-ah ah-ah
Ah-ah ahhhhh

Temptations "Ball of Confusion"

Well, the only person talking about love thy brother is the preacher 
And it seems nobody's interested in learning but the teacher  
Segregation, determination, demonstration, integration  
Aggravation, humiliation, obligation to my nation

Ball of confusion  
Oh yeah, that's what the world is today  
Woo, hey, hey

Eve of destruction, tax deduction, city inspectors, bill collectors  

Mod clothes in demand, population out of hand, suicide, too many bills  
Hippies moving to the hills, people all over the world are shouting 'End the war' and the band played on

Great Googamooga!  
Can't you hear me talking to you?

It's a ball of confusion  
That's what the world is today, hey, hey

Rascals "People Got To Be Free"

If there's a man who is down and needs a helping hand 
 All it takes is you to understand and to put him through 
Seems to me, we got to solve it individually 
And I'll do unto you what you do to me

There'll be shoutin' from the mountains on out to sea 

No two ways about it, people have to be free 
Ask me my opinion, my opinion will be 
It's a natural situation for a man to be free

Oh, what a feelin's just come over me 

Enough to move a mountain, make a blind man see 
Everybody's dancin', come on, let's go see 
Peace in the valley, now they all can be free

The Beatles "The End"

Oh yeah, all right  
Are you gonna be in my dreams tonight?
Love you, love you Love you, love you  
Love you, love you
And in the end, the love you take 
Is equal to the love you make

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