A reader writes:
I am intrigued by the Boomer’s lament. I also am a Boomer and supported Obama from the beginning in part because he was not one. I do not lament the passing of Boomer leadership, but it is not because one of our number was self-centered and the other was a frat boy. Boomers are caught in the battles that defined our lives. We cut our teeth on Vietnam, civil rights, the cold war, and the assassination of our icons, from Martin Luther King, to Bobby Kennedy to John Lennon. Our generation is defined by strife and deep despair. Regardless of which side one chose, we all knew there was an enemy. Virtually nothing unifying has happened in our lives, and we bear the scars of the times. The fractious battles that have ensued over the last sixteen years are nothing more than a continuation of the struggles we have fought our entire lives.
But we absolutely must get beyond those fracture lines.
As has been eloquently stated by many commentators in many places, Obama reflects the realization of those struggles. We are not the ones to lead us to the future, but our struggles have laid the foundation for the reality of a Barack Obama. We have been the warriors, and history will honor the effort. But the battles have left ruins in the wake, and its time for another generation with a different set of experiences to make take what is best from the effort and build a new future. I am excited by the prospect.
Many readers wrote to inform me that Obama is techically a boomer himself. I am well aware of this. From my article last fall:
Obama, simply by virtue of when he was born, is free of [Clinton's] defensiveness. Strictly speaking, he is at the tail end of the Boomer generation. But he is not of it.
“Partly because my mother, you know, was smack-dab in the middle of the Baby Boom generation,” he told me. “She was only 18 when she had me. So when I think of Baby Boomers, I think of my mother’s generation. And you know, I was too young for the formative period of the ’60scivil rights, sexual revolution, Vietnam War. Those all sort of passed me by.”
Obama’s mother was, in fact, born only five years earlier than Hillary Clinton. He did not politically come of age during the Vietnam era, and he is simply less afraid of the right wing than Clinton is, because he has emerged on the national stage during a period of conservative decadence and decline. And so, for example, he felt much freer than Clinton to say he was prepared to meet and hold talks with hostile world leaders in his first year in office. He has proposed sweeping middle-class tax cuts and opposed drastic reforms of Social Security, without being tarred as a fiscally reckless liberal. (Of course, such accusations are hard to make after the fiscal performance of today’s “conservatives.”) Even his more conservative positionslike his openness to bombing Pakistan, or his support for merit pay for public-school teachersdo not appear to emerge from a desire or need to credentialize himself with the right. He is among the first Democrats in a generation not to be afraid or ashamed of what they actually believe, which also gives them more freedom to move pragmatically to the right, if necessary. He does not smell, as Clinton does, of political fear.
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