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Dear Baby Boomers, Stop Attacking Millennials and Pining for the Good ‘Ole Days

things better in good old days
Recent Comment on Facebook by a Baby Boomer

Following in the footsteps of their parents and their grandparents before them, Baby Boomers have taken to criticizing the latest generation of American children. These snowflakes, as Millennials are disparagingly called, have it easy, according to their critics. Often, criticisms are followed with “back in the day” anecdotal stories meant to prove that teenagers and young adults are living on easy street compared to their parents and grandparents. If only our society would return to the good ‘ole days, Baby Boomers say, all would be well.

The recent Parkland, Florida school massacre has Baby Boomers in a tizzy.  Armed with selective memories or showing signs of Dementia/Alzheimer’s, these critics have posted to social media countless memes and comments about how better their youthful days were than today. What Baby Boomers don’t mention is the instrumental part they have played in making things the way they are today. Who are the people running the government? Who are the corporate CEOs and at the helm of media outlets? For the most part, Baby Boomers. Millennials don’t control much in this country. It’s their parents’ and grandparents’ generations that control everything. It’s not Millennials who elected Donald Trump. It’s not Millennials who are in charge of the American war machine. It’s not Millennials who have destroyed the working class and outsourced millions of American jobs. It’s not Millennials who have driven up healthcare costs. If Baby Boomers want to find who’s to blame for all these things (and more), they need only look in the mirror. And while they are gazing at their aged “sixty is the new thirty” faces in the mirror, they might want to ask the Greatest Generation to join them. Millennials are certainly not without fault, but to lay the blame for societal ills at their collective feet is not only laughable, it is also a denial of past history and present reality.

Millennials are the first generation to be born into the technology revolution. Their parents came of age in a world without most of the technology that drives our present age. My wife and I will celebrate forty years of marriage in July. Until the late 1980s, our life pretty much mirrored that of our parents. Outside of having 8-track/cassette players instead of record players and push button telephones instead of rotary dial phones, our day-to-day living wasn’t much different from the homes we grew up in. Certainly, societal mores were rapidly changing, but Polly and I were insulated from these changes thanks to our immersion in Evangelical Christianity.

In the 1990s, computers became affordable for most people. From that point until today, we have experienced non-stop technological advancement. We now live in world dominated by computers, smartphones — which are handheld computers with built in monitors — the worldwide web (www), and social media. In a matter of seconds, we can send text messages, photographs, and emails across the globe. We can talk via Skype to people continents away. Social media allows us to be friends with people that we would never have met had it not been for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like.

This is the world of Millennials. Should they be faulted for embracing the modern technological age? Who made all these wonders available to them? Who built the companies and products that play such an integral part in their lives? Better look in the mirror again, Baby Boomers. Sure, it’s primarily Millennials who invented social media, but without the work of aged men such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and countless other Baby Boomers, there wouldn’t be an internet, nor would there be smartphones and social media. Like it or not, Baby Boomers, the world as it is now was created and shaped by us.

I am sixty years old. Like many of my generation, I don’t like some of the behaviors I see coming from Millennials. But, I also know that my parents and grandparents thought the same about my generation. Being criticized by previous generations is a rite of passage. I am father to three Gen-Xers and three Millennials.  I have eleven grandchildren, one of whom will graduate from high school next year and two others who will enter middle school this fall. My older grandchildren are very much a part of the tech generation (as much as their parents will allow them to be, anyway). Are my children and grandchildren inferior/less hardy than my generation or that of their grandparents? Of course not. What they are is different. They were born into a world very different from the world I entered in 1957. Their experiences, in many ways, are different from those I had as a teen and young adult in the 1970s and 1980s. Yet, their wants, needs, and desires are not much different from what mine were years ago.

Over the past year, I have spent a good bit of time of around local high school students. I have watched their behavior and interaction with not only their fellow students, but with society at large. I have found, at a base level, kids are kids. Environments change, but kids remain the same. We oldsters do a great disservice to our society when we refuse to see the good in younger Americans; when we refuse to grant that maybe, just maybe, our children and grandchildren have much to offer the human race (despite being hamstrung by runaway government debt, lack of jobs, and astronomical education costs). Millennials are not without fault, but they certainly are not the people described by many of the memes and social media comments I have seen in the past few weeks. One Baby Boomer Facebook friend of mine posted a meme that blamed video games and rap music for school shootings. I shook my head and laughed as I read comment after comment from people agreeing with her. Never mind the fact that video games actually reduce male aggression and that children today are safer than they ever have been (except at school). And music lyrics? Really? Baby Boomers are the classic rock generation. Have they forgotten what the lyrics of their favorite rock songs actually say? Yes, the music loved by Millennials is more explicit, often using graphic words to describe sexual activity, but the music of yesteryear had its own language for sexual activities. In 1976, the Starland Vocal Band released a song titled Afternoon Delight. The lyrics went like this:

Gonna find my baby, gonna hold her tight
Gonna grab some afternoon delight
My motto’s always been “When it’s right, it’s right”
Why wait until the middle of a cold dark night
When everything’s a little clearer in the light of day
And we know the night is always gonna be here any way

Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up my appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together make the sparks ignite
And the thought of loving you is getting so exciting

Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight

Started out this morning feeling so polite
I always thought a fish could not be caught who didn’t bite
But you’ve got some bait a waitin’ and I think I might
Like nibblin’ in a little afternoon delight

Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight

Please’ be waiting for me baby when I come around
We could make a lot of lovin’ ‘fore the sun goes down

Thinkin’ of you’s workin’ up an appetite
Looking forward to a little afternoon delight
Rubbin’ sticks and stones together make the sparks ignite
And the thought of loving you is getting so exciting

Sky rockets in flight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight
Afternoon delight

Video Link

If this song were written today, I suspect its author would make ample use of the “F” word and other sexually explicit words. The reason these words weren’t used in the 1970s was because of the Greatest Generation’s puritanical view of certain words. Sexual meanings were hidden behind euphemisms and double entendres. In 1968, the song, “Why Don’t We Do it in The Road” was recorded for the White Album by the Beatles. The entire song was of Paul McCartney repeating:

Why don’t we do it in the road
Why don’t we do it in the road
Why don’t we do it in the road
Why don’t we do it in the road
No one will be watching us
Why don’t we do it in the road

Video Link

What exactly was IT that they were doing in the middle of the road?  If this song was written today, I suspect the word IT would be replaced by the word FUCK. Is one version any better or worse than the other? Of course not. Different, yes; bad/worse, no. One rendering requires reading between the lines, the other doesn’t.

Baby Boomers love to get all wound up about sexting and other ill-advised behavior by Millennials. These gray-haired “saints” forget that they are the ones who ushered in the sexual revolution, and that they used notes instead of texts to set up intimate liaisons. What I am saying is this: kids are kids, and their parents and grandparents need to lay off constantly judging them and criticizing their way of life. Have these oldsters forgotten how such attacks make someone feel? For Baby Boomers raised in the Evangelical church, we have oh so “fond” memories of sermons about the evils of premarital sex, rock music, smoking pot, miniskirts, and long hair on men. Surely, we can help instruct and guide our children and grandchildren without denigrating the things they value and consider important. If we can honestly remember our own youthful lives and indiscretions, perhaps we might not be so judgmental towards Millennials.

As a father and grandparent, I love and respect my children and grandchildren. They are far from perfect, and they can do things that drive me crazy, but I know from my own experiences that every generation has to find its own way. Millennials face challenges that their parents never had to face. We live in fast-paced world where things change overnight. Older Americans have the luxury of ignoring changes they don’t like. Millennials, on the other hand, must continue to change and adapt. Their world is fraught with dangers and challenges Baby Boomers never had to face. They need our help, not our judgment and derision.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 60, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 39 years. He and his wife have six grown children and eleven grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Bruce is a local photography business owner, operating Defiance County Photo out of his home. If you live in Northwest Ohio and would like to hire Bruce, please email him.

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  1. Avatar
    maura a hart

    is it just me or is it weird that we went to woodstock, sang peace train and stopped the viet nam war. but then we settled down, got married, a 401k and turned into our parents? hypocrite. poor baby probably had to walk uphill both ways to school, barefoot in the snow.

  2. Avatar

    Gilbert and Sullivan refer to this mentality in one of their wonderful parody songs (rather politically incorrect these days)

    “There’s the nigger serenader[1], and the others of his race,
    And the piano-organist — I’ve got him on the list!
    And the people who eat peppermint and puff it in your face,
    They never would be missed — they never would be missed!
    Then the idiot who praises, with enthusiastic tone,
    All centuries but this, and every country but his own;
    And the lady from the provinces, who dresses like a guy,
    And who “doesn’t think she dances, but would rather like to try”;
    And that singular anomaly, the lady novelist[2] —
    I don’t think she’d be missed — I’m sure she’d not be missed!”

    Actually looking at some of the words they’re pretty outlandish now…but the bit about how things were almost so much better in times gone by must be an attempt to fulfill some yearning.

  3. Avatar

    My favorite is the line “Duh. This is the same generation who last month was eating Tide Pods he-he!”.
    First of all, that was a few that did kt. My 18 year old niece that that was stupid of kids to do that.
    Secondly, many who say this come from the same generation (who are in power now) who dropped LSD and thought rolling around in the mud for 3 days at a corporate rock festival would change the world.

  4. Avatar
    Harry Hamid

    I was thinking the same thing as Monty (in the comment above) when I read this. I don’t know how many times in the past week I’ve read that the kids speaking up on guns were eating Tide pods two weeks ago.

    Those probably weren’t the same kids.

    Besides, the kids aren’t at an end point. They’re just getting started.

    I’ve always been careful NOT to sound like I’m moaning about “These kids today” and “Get off my lawn!” Time doesn’t gpo backwards, which is fine, because I have a lot of hope about the next generation.

  5. Avatar

    Excellent column Bruce. I know my 2 millennial sons have disadvantages in this life, both of them having disabilities in spite of being bright. And for some reason, no matter what I see on line or elsewhere, although you can find all kinds of feel-good stories about the disabled and how they MANAGED TO SUCCEED etc, doesn’t affect the vast majority. Instead, our workplaces chew up and spit out workers harder and faster than before. Sure, there are all kinds of laws to protect the disabled, but those work best if they are already working and become disabled. Union protection (as weak and as limited it is to only some companies and jobs) don’t protect NEW WORKERS in their first 90 days. Disabled people might get hired and I read of those success stories, not enough of which happen here in rural Ohio.

    And yet, my sons are thoughtful and intelligent and care. But those qualities don’t pay anything, really. My oldest son had troubles concentrating and isn’t convinced finishing college will help enough, especially with its high cost. He’s working now, and its a success for someone who is autistic to work in food customer service. But nowadays that isn’t good enough, his disability is discounted and others can look down on him. He has a very high IQ so everyone who meets him knows he’s brilliant. But since he’s working in a food place, he isn’t considered successful enough. Those people suck.

    My youngest son has long hair. I DON’T CARE, and people who do criticize him don’t know him. He’s sick every day of his life and will be lucky to ever (1) get married, (2) have kids, and (3) find anything he could make money doing. So I’m done with those who criticize his hair. In order of importance in his life, it pretty much comes dead last for me. Screw old people! (Yes I am one.)

    Sorry to rant but just last night, my son was talking about how millennials feel. I fear we, that is, the boomers have pretty much screwed them over. Makes me so sad. :'(

  6. Avatar

    It’s so true that each generation suddenly grows up and thinks they are the last true generation and that all others after them are lazy and somehow lesser. I grew up in a 4 generation household. My great-grandmother was born in 1895 and died in 1987. Here’s what she had to say about each generation after hers:

    Greatest Generation (her children):
    1) women were voting (which she thought was bad)
    2) women worked outside the home during the war but at least they went back after the men came home
    3) women were becoming “loose”
    4) immoral music and movies

    Baby Boomers (her grandchildren):
    1) women were working outside the home
    2) some women were going to college
    3) women were wearing pants in public
    4) women were “loose”
    5) women were overstepping their bounds demanding equal rights
    6) children were disrespectful and undisciplined
    7) men had long hair
    8) very immoral movies and music

    Generation X (her great-grandchildren – me):
    1) women and girls were wearing shorts in public
    2) a lot of girls were participating in sports
    3) girls were being educated to have careers
    4) children were disrespectful
    5) children were lazy
    6) “pornographic” music and movies

    She longed for the “good old days”. My thoughts about her “good old days”:
    1) no indoor plumbing in homes
    2) no electricity in homes
    3) most people were uneducated
    4) strict gender roles
    5) women/girls had to wear “Little House on the Prairie” clothes
    6) lack of medical care
    7) women were 2nd class citizens under their fathers’ or husbands’ rule
    8) women had no right to vote

    No thanks.

    I’m glad to see Millennials and Generation Z pushing back against status quo. They are navigating a fast-changing technologically driven society. They are adapting. (And my Gen Z kids say that the kids who are eating Tide pods are either doing it for attention or because they are really, really stupid).

    • Avatar

      Spot on. I also grew up with (and still have) relatives who complain constantly about Millennials. To quote directly from one said relative’s Facebook page, Millennials are all “Whiny brats who have been brainwashed by their liberal teachers to believe they are special little snowflakes who are entitled to free education, free health care, free housing, etc. Most of them are too lazy and stupid to actually work for those things, they would rather play with their phones or smoke dope and play video games all day. Among the few who do work, they never last because the minute you try to correct them for being late or playing on their phones, they start crying, or they whine that you’re discriminating against them for being black/gay/purple/whatever and they just quit.” Said relative yearns for the days when “Only sailors had tattoos, people respected the flag, gays and muslims didn’t exist, women stayed home and raised their children instead of aborting them or dumping them in daycare, and families stayed together and went to church and lived by good Christian values, instead of the garbage values of the Millennials. I miss the good old days.”

      Fortunately, not all of my relatives view the past with such rose-colored glasses. I have also heard plenty of stories about the “good old days (GOD for short…coincidence?) when my dad was jerked away from a drinking fountain because he was too little to read the “Colored” sign on it. The GOD when my mother lost four classmates in three months to polio, one of whom was her best friend. The GOD when my Mom’s gay older brother sought out sex with men in seedy parks and truck stop bathrooms, behind his wife’s back, and could not tell his best friend that he loved him. The GOD when my great-aunt performed an abortion on herself with a coat hanger (and died) because she was pregnant for the seventh time, and she already had six kids she could barely feed because her husband drank most of his wages. The same husband who would not let her work outside the home, and would not take “no” for an answer when he wanted sex, hence the seven pregnancies. The GOD back in 1956, when a classmate of my father’s stood up in their small town’s high school cafeteria, pulled a pistol out of his pants, and shot himself in the head, in front of 300 horrified classmates. (No, shootings at school are not a new thing, though they are deadlier now thanks to AR-15s and other slaughter machines.)

  7. Avatar
    That Other Jean

    I’m a decade older than you, Bruce, and hear about how lazy and incompetent kids are from a few of my contemporaries; but it’s conversation that’s been going on since Socrates: “The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise.” I find myself incredibly impressed by the survivors of the massacre in Florida. Bright, articulate, passionate, dedicated kids determined to make their lives safer. If they’re the future, we’re going to be OK.

  8. Avatar

    My daughter is a Millennial. No cell phone. Not a fan of shopping, unless it’s custom-made wares ordered from small merchants over the Internet. Self-employed. No debts. Substantial knowledge of botany. Damn fine cook, either alone or in a team (she’s currently doing up some pancakes from some batter I mixed earlier this evening).

    What I admire most about her attitude, and the Millennial mindset in general, is that they do not suffer fools gladly. It’s exactly what this planet needs right now.

  9. Avatar
    Davie from Glasgow

    Oh I dunno. We’ve been putting our hope in the next generation for decades. Centuries probably. But they all grow up and start looking inwards. Becoming more selfish and therefore conservative / right wing.
    Ultimately what did the supposed revolution of the hippy movement ever actually achieve for example? Nothing much.
    That’s what’s so amazing about Bruce’s story and why I’m so drawn to it. Through actually thinking, reading and growing – he became LESS selfish and MORE humane as he got older. It’s a light in what can otherwise be some pretty grim darkness. The opposite trajectory of the norm that we’ve seen from generation to generation.
    This site – including a lot of its commenters – gives me some hope that’s it’s hard (not impossible, but it’s hard) to find elsewhere.
    It’s why I keep coming back here!

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Bruce Gerencser