Sunday, February 26, 2006

Beyond Buried Boomers

The United States again marches in the middle of the humanity parade. For same-sex marriage and living liberty instead of mumbling support, we follow. Yes, the underdeveloped nations trail even us, as do the theocracies and dictatorships. Yet, shall we ever return to our origins and promises of leading the world in rights and freedoms?

...likely not until my generation is scattered on the beaches and ever so slowly decomposing in our embalmed, interred glories.

As one near the beginning of the Baby Boom, it is difficult for me to admit such an obvious failing of my peers. The disturbing truth is that, pix in your history book aside, most Americans from their late 40s to 60 are only a little more liberal than their parents. You see it in their attitudes towards gay-rights and SSM. The clear implication is that when the last of my generation is rotting, this nation will have a shot at catching up to other liberty-oriented democracies.

A fine analysis of this appeared in a Seattle Times opinion piece earlier this month. This "generational disconnect on homosexual rights...was on full display the past couple of weeks as gray-haired legislators and salt-and-pepper-bearded pastors tried to deny a law that granted gays and lesbians the rights heterosexuals and minorities have long enjoyed."

In Washington state, it was the Republican Gen-Xers who were the swing vote in passing the long-overdue gay-rights bill. We are likely to see that repeated and amplified. Fact is that in poll after poll, those in their 30s and 20s aren't threatened nearly as much by gays and don't see what the fuss is about SSM.

Unfortunately, Gen-X and Gen-Y folk in the main are not spiritually superior and enlightened. They simply don't carry the baggage that their parents and grandparents did and do. They grew up well after it was illegal to refuse to hire a Black American or to pay a women exactly half what a man would get for the same job. We still let churches, some non-profits and private organization be their old bigoted selves, of course.

The Settle Times piece includes:
What the defenders of virtue do not understand is the role marriage has played in the lives of younger generations. The "sanctity of marriage" has become a meaningless slogan when used to perpetuate morals in an age of divorce. We either grew up in a divorced family or had numerous friends whose parents' marriage habits were like those of dating, middle-school kids. Gays and lesbians certainly could do no worse.

Is the institution of marriage really going to suffer if gays and lesbians are allowed to make the decision to marry? Not a chance. Religious institutions, including the Roman Catholic Church, would not have to condone state-sanctioned marriage.

That is a level of common sense that is common in the younger of us, but not in the Boomer-dominated state and federal legislatures.

If you haven't noticed, sociologists can point out that the Boomers are really, for the first known time, a split generation. The standard measure was 20 years per generation, but those of us born within a decade of WWII's end differ from those who came later.

The 20s and 30s sorts may also not know that the things we were most famous for -- protests, drug use, open sex, acid rock -- were not universal. The vast majority of us never went to a protest, never dropped acid, dated traditionally, and in general never participated in the stereotype except as stunned observers. With the aid of theatrical memory, many early Boomers allude to these behaviors as though they did them. Cut them some slack, by cracky.

So that majority now makes our laws. These reflect our upbringing by the WWII folk, a strong, highly moral, unequivocal belief in a freedom-loving nation that does what is necessary to protect itself and spread its ideals. Unfortunately that brings the WWII prejudices and self-righteousness...and worst of all, that do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do hypocrisy .

We don't have to leave the Boston area to see and hear bigots and hate-mongers. Yet, I think of a family friend, a godmother to one of our sons, who was for years the sole woman Democratic Senator in Idaho. She fought the good fight as a Boomer.

Boise, the capital and seat of the big university, is a traffic island in an 8-lane highway of arch-conservatives. Betsy was like a zebra hitched to the Clydesdales. As a liberal, she did her job, but with difficulty. She stood out.

We don't have enough Betsys nationally or in our states. While the rest of the First World marches on by us, we'll get our reasonable majorities in those bodies, but likely not until the ground is tamped on more Boomers.

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