Over the snowy weekend the Wife caught a few hours of the documentary Woodstock Revisited. I watched about as much of it as I could stomach given my feelings about hippies in general and the Baby Boom Generation in particular. Members of my Generation X, the generation that followed the Baby Boomers, have always lived in the shadow of their more numerous (and interesting at least according to the Media) elders – siblings and in many cases parents. While the Baby Boomers had The Graduate and Woodstock, Gen X’ers had John Hughes movies and Duran Duran. Yep we drew the short-stick pop culturally there.
The Woodstock Revisited movie ended with a crescendo, as if all along the purpose of the Baby Boomers was to do one thing: elect Barack Obama to the presidency. Those interviewed waxed poetically about the similarities between tripping on acid in the New York mud as teenagers and sipping lattes in the DC cold as AARP members. I’m serious, if you watch the documentary you would think that the culmination of the Hippie Ideals of the 1960s was to elect Barack Obama to the presidency. And here all these years I thought it was to fornicate freely, smoke dope and listen to 20 minute long drum solos.
That got me thinking. Was Students for a Democratic Society fighting to elect a black man president? I thought they were fighting to end capitalism and institute communism to join their brothers in the Soviet Union in creating an international workers paradise. The SDS despised liberal democrats like Barack Obama because they were part of “the System” and “the System” needed to be smashed. But Systems tend to be resilient, and in the 1970s the System had not been smashed, while the SDS discovered disco, cocaine, and in some cases, the warm, lucrative embrace of Academia.
Barack Obama isn’t a member of the Baby Boomers. At the time they were getting stoned and changing the world, he was playing with Legos in Indonesia. Obama was a nobody until 2000, so why had the Baby Boomers waited so long?
After all they had plenty of chances. Tom Hayden, a former SDS leader, was their man – yet the pinnacle of his career was marrying Hanoi Jane. Fonda herself never even attempted a career at politics after playing NVA ack-ack gunner in Hanoi. Abbie Hoffman? He got thrown off the stage at Woodstock by Pete Townsend in a brotherly display peace and love, that is if one’s brother is prone to stabbing one in the back with a guitar while shouting expletives. Jerry Brown? Ruined by his relationship with Linda Ronstadt or all the dope he smoked it’s difficult to say which. The closest the Boomers ever came to electing one of their own was John Kerry in 2004, and we all know how well that turned out.
So how could the Boomers claim credit for Obama? Because for the past 60 years everything has always been about them. Vietnam? About them. Civil Rights? Ditto. Disco? Yep. Reagan’s America? Wait… Clinton’s stained dresses? Well…
So maybe Obamacare’s death panels and medicare cuts for the care of the elderly isn’t such a bad idea after all. Hell, maybe the Democrats should institute a form of Logan’s Run: Hold another Woodstock for 60 year olds and spike the brown windowpane viagra and boniva with strychnine. That will hold down medical costs and provide jobs burying the dead.——-
The only thing more annoying than the Baby Boomer generation is the myth that there is such a thing as a generational voice. I have sisters who are Boomers and were hippie-types, and their politics varies from the neo-socialism of liberation theology to Ayn Rand’s free market ideal. The whole idea that a group of people can agree on something simply because they happened to be born within a few years of each other in the same country isn’t borne out by history. The same generation that claims credit for electing Obama today placed Reagan in office not once but twice starting 29 years ago. The age profiles of the political parties are roughly the same. From a 2004 study:
In addition to its lead among older Americans (those age 65 and older), the Democratic party holds a clear edge among the early Baby Boomers people in their middle 40s to late 50s. But younger Baby Boomers and those in Generation X (roughly ages 30-44) are somewhat more Republican… The parties are virtually even among the youngest cohort of citizens today.
The very idea of generational similarity was created by marketing departments and journalists looking to create stereotypes and oversimplifications so that they could sell stuff to and stories about millions of people. But the theory breaks down as soon as you look at the data; people are just more complicated than that.
So while I may treasure my 80’s music while my son listens to the crap that passes for music today on his iPod, the truth is that this concept of generations has been overblown – especially when it comes to politics. The elderly hippies from Woodstock Revisited might be patting themselves on the back for electing Obama, but my youngest sister, the Randian who went through her hippie phase that same year, is cursing them.