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Meet the Fockers

May
8
2006

It was the Patrick Kennedy’s late night auto crash that made me realize that I will never, ever ever be free of the Baby Boom generation. Its children will always be with us. And that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Young Patrick – Congressman Kennedy if you live in Rhode Island – is a bit of a waste-o with a “substance” problem but that’s not the issue. He is, after, all a Kennedy. No, it’s because seeing another version of the same old tired story – a Kennedy stoned out of his mind crashing into something – is bringing home the point that we Boomer Trailers, the younger members of the post World War II birth rate surge, were just, as Shaun Cassidy once put it, Born Late.

This last dismal presidential election was between the Boomers’ two competing – and not necessarily uncomplimentary views – of themselves and their world. We had George Bush, frat boy, who thinks the world is his oyster and who could care less what anyone else, anywhere else, thinks. He embodies post-World War II America’s brash, we-are-the-world attitude that leads by power and then by example. And he’s pretty much happy to let Mom and Dad tell him what to do.



“Meet The Fockers”

Two years ago, Bush was campaigning against John Kerry but he was really running against Bill Clinton and Clinton’s view of the world: The U.S. as a moral leader, one charged with custody of the world and the goal of improving the lives of all its citizens. It leads by example – or likes to think it does – and only uses force reluctantly. And it has no use for the generation of its parents; it wants change. Now.

The differences, however, are cosmetic. Both men see this country as a moral and political guidepost; it is a position both of them – while president – embraced and endorsed. And if there was a failing in the Kerry campaign (Oh, where to begin….) his inability to articulate and reinforce Clinton’s message of leadership by example was tops on the list.

This, of course, leads to all sorts of political trouble; it’s a conversation about the past, not the future. And we badly need a conversation about the future. A nation whose economy is seriously weakened by its inability (Clinton) or unwillingness (Bush) to protect its citizens from the harsh reality of globalization, a nation whose Congress can’t decide how to treat the people who have all but become the backbone of its service economy, is not a country positioned to maintain its leadership role in world affairs.

But don’t tell the Boomers. They won’t believe you. Why do you think the Rolling Stones still tour and charge hundreds of dollars for their tickets? Boomers are rich. Many of them – the sons and daughters of the Greatest Generation – are going to inherit their parents’ savings. It won’t always be huge cash, of course. But it does mean Boomers, as a group, are protected from the economic storms that are going to increasingly divide the wealthy and the once-middle class in this country. More importantly, they think, as they have since they started popping up all over in 1945, everyone’s just like them.

Comfortable – and populous, the Greatest Generation spawned The Largest Generation – these folks are happy to revisit the same old, same old. That’s why the last election was about the Vietnam War, not the war on terror or the Iraq War. Only a few of these people have – to use a phrase they coined – moved on.

What’s worse? They’re going to be in charge for another generation. Having “invented” sex, drugs, rock’n'roll, getting rich in this lifetime, parenthood and over-the-top real estate acquisitions, they’re now going to “invent” old age. That’s why – as Spot-on’s Matthew Holt keeps pointing out – health care reform is fast becoming one of our nation’s most pressing political issues.

The signs are all around us. Right on time, Gail Sheehy has come out with a book about sex and older women (this is boomers “inventing” menopause). And you can’t help but think, listening to Bill Clinton talk about his health or watching George Bush on his bike outings, that this generation is bound and determined not to die. Hell, even once-hard drinking Sen. Ted Kennedy, is looking a lot better since he laid off the sauce; not so pinky and swollen. He keeps this up, he could make it to 90 – or beyond – just like his Mom!

Which is why the sight of Sen. Kennedy’s waste-o son is so annoying. It’s a follow-up to the careful grooming that the Gore family is giving Karenna Gore Schiff – in Vanity Fair and other pubs. It comes as we have to contemplate the second Clinton presidency which will surely bring Chelsea Clinton back to Washington with Mom and Dad to “run” some pet program or project (Hey, wasn’t she going to medical school?) setting her up for elected office.

In other words, even when the Boomers are done, they won’t be done. Their kids will be here and there and everywhere to carry out their grand plans. And if you think this generation of Boomers is self-absorbed, over-confident and a general pain in the butt, you should probably hold off the serious criticism until you meet their kids.

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