Unless you are enjoying the blessed respite of living beneath a rock, you may have heard that 2016 is the most important presidential election ever. It isn’t, though, because it never is. It’s never really Beelzebub versus the guy who invented auto-play videos locked in a battle for supremacy over the populace.
Regardless, this year is pretty brutal. We’re stuck watching two old candidates hit each other with canes, and coming to grips with the fact that we’re going to hear speeches and other bloviations emanating from one of them for the next four years. But there is hope. In the wings, there’s a fresher and younger generation watching, and getting ready to take over.
First, though, we have to set the scene. It starts with the fact that we hear this same tale of impending apocalypse every four years. There is always the possibility that eventually the little boy will be correct and the wolf (which isn’t to say The Wolf) will show up.
More likely, after one of these parasitic Baby Boomers is elected president, there will be much rending of cloth and gnashing of teeth. Then life will continue pretty much apace. Sure, the present shakeups of our communities and other little platoons will continue, as is their wont, but the republic will hold, if tenuously, as is her wont.
That doesn’t mean we can’t despair between now and forever, as is our wont. Existence is nothing without threats, so we find ourselves here, awaiting our destructor, just like in 2012. Also 2008 and 2004 and 2000 and, well, you get the idea. The only question is always which destructor we will choose.
We could rage against it and fight. We could lie back and think of England, wonder if she ever misses us, pretend to be Adele and call her 1,000 times. Fortunately for us, there’s a better way. It’s the one that the current situation demands. It’s right there in front of us, as Jules Winfield explained way back in 1995—the last time there was a Clinton in the White House.
First, Though, We Need to Chill
Scene: a diner, robbery in process, a man known only as Pumpkin and a woman known only as Honey Bunny. Pumpkin approaches Jules Winfield and demands his briefcase. Jules pretends to offer it, but grabs Pumpkin’s wrist and draws his own gun. Honey Bunny panics and trains her weapon on Jules. He retorts. After a brief exchange, in which we learn that Honey Bunny’s name is actually Yolanda, Jules tells her how it’s going to be.
“Nobody’s gonna hurt anybody. We’re gonna be like three Fonzies. And what’s Fonzie like?”
Yolanda, feeling rather like us in 2016, is unsure and unable to reply, but Jules persists. “C’mon Yolanda, what’s Fonzie like?” After stammering for a moment, she answers, “He’s cool?” Calmness begins replacing the chaos. That’s when Jules says to Yolanda, “Correct-amundo! And that’s what we’re gonna be—we’re gonna be cool.”
Now, we may not collectively be involved in an armed robbery (at least not one we can readily appreciate), but our situation is not so different. In the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, we are all Yolanda, and we need to chill.
We need to move to stage five of the Kübler-Ross model of grief and get on with the acceptance. This is true regardless of whether your biggest fear is a Beelzebub victory or a victory for AutoPlay video guy. No matter who wins, it marks the beginning of the end of the Baby Boomers’ reign of terror. As Martha Stewart would say, it’s a good thing.
Most of us cannot remember a time in which Boomers weren’t in command, even if our benighted leaders were not from amongst their ranks. Their predilections and policy preferences were the one ring to rule us all. From excessive spending to Social Security—but I repeat myself—to wars on things to the desire to yell at younger generations about how lazy we are as they retired early and put it on our tab, Boomers have set the direction of the country.
The Rise of the Millennials
Now the generation they nurtured and molded most closely in their own image is going to come of age. That’s right, it’s time for the millennials. Whereas previous generations did the things that defined them and then went on to do normal adult shit like generations before them, millennials are frozen in time, permanently locked into whatever preferences they express as 20-year-olds.
Houses? They’re not going to need them, because they love urban things, particularly urban gardens. Plus urban living means they can skip owning a car because bicycles and walking are the way of the future, particularly for those who live in warmer climates and like to work up a good sweat before heading into an open office.
Children? Please. They’ll never have children, because life most definitely never finds a way. They will raise their own livestock on rooftop pastures and grow fruits and vegetables in window boxes, because authenticity and locality are the most important qualities to them. Then, they will imagineer rainbows from, well, you get the idea.
Who knows? Maybe the prognosticators are correct and all these things about millennials are true. Much like the possibility of flaming death descending from the sky or one of the presidential candidates ending the republic, if ever there were a year, this is it. But it this overlooks an obstacle to millennials’ own reign of terror: Generation X.
It is only befitting that we’d overlook a generation defined by angst and latchkeys, by parents who just wanted to eat, pray, love were it not for those pesky kids. But guess what, we’re here and we’ve been at it for a little longer than the millennials have. If we are curt, it’s because time is a factor and we think fast, talk fast, and need you to act fast if you want to get out of our current predicament.
Sure, they’ve got us beaten on authenticity, but we’ve got them beaten on selling out, which also means we tend to hold a little more sway over society. We may be flattening as a nation, or whatever Thomas Friedman is blathering on about these days, but we’re not flat. In the generational hierarchy, we in Gen X are looking down at you, millennials.
Nothing Is Over Until We Say It Is
Some will protest that the structures are too set and the world has been too remade to Boomers’ specifications, that universities and the government and business models molded to their specifications will protect and perpetuate the culture millennials were bequeathed. Yet Boomers’ reign of terror is coming to a close and, oh right, remember who is taking over before millennials begin their reign.
My generation is not so touchy-feely and romantic about things. Being an overlooked bunch of latchkey kids tends to take that out of you. We may not be pure, cold utilitarians, but we also know that the times have changed and we’re not going back to the post-World War II boom that arose when we were making bank helping the world rebuild everything we’d helped destroy.
Those factory jobs? Gone. Welcome to the service economy. Sorry you have to learn some new skills; not sorry you don’t get exposed to caustic chemicals on the regular. Only working for one-third of your life? Yeah, we’re going to work all of ours just to try to get the bill back down to the break-even point. As such, just go ahead and disabuse yourselves of any notions about spending the last 40 years of your life traveling the globe writing sustainable poetry.
The Suggestion Box Is Located to Your Right
We’re not unreasonable, though. You can locavore all you want. Just make it profitable and don’t expect taxpayers to subsidize it. We are subsidizing one set of locusts—the Boomers—already and don’t need to help you fight the more traditional variety.
You can certainly spend a period living in the city and getting trashed every Tuesday night, but let’s not pretend that at 50 going to the club will still be your primary concern. If it is, know that you’re now that guy, the one you remember from your younger days. Keeping that truth in mind, let’s not redesign the entire world into a cluster of dense, walkable urban centers based around single people with no children.
Passion? Again, do whatever, but make sure it’s profitable. We’re not letting you rack up the bills just so you can try to live the life your Boomer makers led. The same holds true for various things you think can be free, but really are paid for with taxes—taxes you’re now paying, because, surprise, you’re wealthy as far as the tax man is concerned. And you don’t even have any deductions since you have no house or kids.
Maybe, just maybe, we can find the will to smash those deductions into one million itemized pieces, just as we may be able to destroy the perverse tax and regulatory structure that confuses big business with free enterprise. You think you hate capitalism, which you don’t, so let’s use that hatred for good. No, we won’t be incorporating many of Bernie Sanders’ ideas, as they would only exacerbate the problems, but he isn’t always wrong about what ails us.
As to university life, prepare to be triggered, discomfited, and generally discomforted. There are worse things than hurt feelings and ideas you disagree with, not to mention that advanced puppetry degrees are stupid. Maybe technical colleges can start offering puppetry programs or you could instead not try to turn an obscure hobby into a job. College is supposed to challenge and prepare you, break you down and give you an opportunity to pick yourself back up. You can cavort and take drugs without procuring tens of thousands and dollars in loans.
Then, once you have been broken down into one million pieces, we’ll build you back up. As raw material, you millennials have potential. You older ones aren’t even so bad, being closer in spirit to we Gen Xers. You younger ones, well, you’re alright, too. Even though we like to give you a hard time, it’s just because we enjoy giving people a hard time and you do make it somewhat easy.
Nevertheless, the world is now ours and if there’s one thing living through the past few decades has taught us, it’s that there are some lies that we’re not going to be able to continue living. No, we’re going to have to live our truth on spending, entitlements, foreign engagements, and education, and why we need government to stop pretending those things are free.
Don’t worry, we’ll gladly bring you along as we right-size things, even if it involves some kicking and screaming. You will get input, but you’re not getting full control just yet. For now, you will have to settle for making suggestions. The box is located to your right on the wall directly outside my office, just a hop, skip, and a jump from your cubicle.