For quite a while now, I’ve been honestly dumbfounded by the state of politics here in the U.S. And as if we aren’t screwing things up enough, now Britain up and face-plants in front of the whole world.
People, seriously: WTF?
I get how frustrated and angry people are right now—I’m right there, too. But in the past 72-ish hours, I’ve heard more than one fed-up person blaming older voters for most of the current fuckery. It’s had me thinking—a lot. And as a mid-generation Baby Boomer, I’m going to have to represent. I learned how when I was 11; it was 1968, and things were pretty messed up then, too.
Because of the social upheaval and politically turbulent activism of the 1960s, boomers get characterized as an overwhelmingly liberal group, but even during the most radical upheaval of the era, there were a vast number of conservatives among that generation, too. Based on trends that appear to hold true for all age groups, it’s probable that boomers who started out conservative stayed conservative, and those who identified as staunchly liberal have largely remained so.
While some polls indicate that all generations tend to identify as slightly more conservative with age, other stats point to a pretty fluid mix of liberal and conservative identification within every age group.
To primarily blame any older generation for the divisive #Brexit referendum—not to mention the radically conservative and exclusionary political stances reflected in the Tea Party movement and the current surge of Donald Trump supporters—is to fall into the very fallacy that creates this kind of mess in the first place: Let’s find someone to blame! It’s the fault of immigrants! It’s the fault of welfare mothers! It’s those damned hungry kids on the free lunch program! It’s the AARP assholes!
Laying the outcome of shit politics off on our elders (whoever they might be) is a wobbly argument anyway. Gallup stats indicate that “millennials are evenly divided between liberals and conservatives,” and a great many polls find that Gen X-ers may be one of the most conservative generations voting. In the couple of days since Britain voted to exit the EU, I’ve seen a whole lot of videos and photo ops of cheering #Brexit supporters who are clearly well under the age of 40.
In fact, the current chasm in politics has only a little to do with voter age and a whole lot to do with world view, education, and perception of disempowerment and disenfranchisement—a genuine wound that is endlessly salted by those for whom the status quo is crucial. As long as a potentially powerful voting bloc can be kept busy finding a scapegoat to hate and a witch to burn, the 21st century robber baron segment can rest easy.
Fellow author Hugh Howey, rightfully pissed off about #Brexit, made a couple of broad-brush statements that got me revved up enough to put fingers to keyboard in response. I admire Hugh’s intelligence and audacity—and I’m still going to call him out for writing that “progress happens one funeral at a time” Even though the idea was invoked (I think) somewhat tongue-in-cheek*, it’s a sentiment that’s not only vague and inaccurate—it’s divisive at a time when further fragmentation of society is the last thing we need.
In order for progressive politics and forward-thinking mindset to thrive, progressive thinkers of every generation need to work together. One reason the Bernie Sanders campaign gained such a fierce and loyal momentum was that a legion of young voters rose up in unity with an older but nevertheless likeminded cohort.
With the broad energy and passion of youth harnessed to the deep experience and perspective of age, there can be a solidarity of like minds. Such cohesion not only opens a space for progress and positive change, but it allows for a vibrant, inclusive, and diverse society--one that can embrace and nurture rather than fear, reject, and exclude.
*None of us is getting any younger. If we’re lucky and manage to stay above ground, we all achieve senior status. And it always feels like a long way off--until the morning you wake up and it’s YOU with the wrinkles and gray hair.
Implying, even in jest, that the simplest solution for any societal problem is for one’s perceived roadblock to DIE is an idea best left buried under Auschwitz and the World Trade Center, thanks. With all due respect, some ideas just don’t play well, even as humor. Or maybe I’m just old and cranky…