Just a couple things…

Every day there are a couple things for which I’m grateful.  Well, that’s not true, there’s more than a couple.  Like pumpkin beer being back at Rock Bottom!  But that’s kind of an aside.  And probably a bit of stretch.  I’m not really thankful for pumpkin beer every single day.  That’s ridiculous.  Probably most days in the fall though…

FrankDonHowardMNFAnyway, better example?  Hmmm…Monday Night Football when it was a big deal with Frank, Howard and Dandy Don.  Literally the only good thing about Monday when I was a kid.  I mean what the hell else are you looking forward to on the Monday morning bus ride to school?  Eventually on Tuesdays we’d have The A-Team and Riptide making Tuesday somewhat tolerable.  For a couple years we had WKRP on Wednesdays and, of course, Thursdays we had Cheers and Magnum.  Which made Thursday the best day of week not named Friday or Saturday or Sunday.  But MNF was a big awesome deal.  In fact, if I could do anything over again, it would be to have Frank Gifford introduce Mom and I at our wedding reception to the theme from Monday Night Football.

Also grateful I was part of the generation which had Saturday morning cartoons in the 70’s and 80’s.  Our kids don’t have those.  I get up on Saturday morning now and the news is on.  The effing news.  And it’s a travesty.  A disgrace.  Where are the damn Superfriends!? Since Saturday morning cartoons went away, kids have been robbed of a valuable cultural lesson.  Commonality.  We all watched them.  Then we went outside and played together and talked about them.  Gen Xers had this cool period of time carved out of American culture that was ours.  And everybody knew it.  It was one of the reasons why the weekend was, well, the weekend.  For 3 or so hours every Saturday morning, we’d get Thundarr, Johnny Quest and Scooby.  And in between, we got Schoolhouse Rock.  Don’t really remember anything about kneeling for the anthem in Schoolhouse Rock

But Saturday morning cartoons were a cultural touchstone for all of us – then and now.  Kids don’t have that time today.  They have social media, which turns out, is the opposite of commonality.

Which brings me back to the couple of things for which I’m grateful for everyday:

1- I went to high school and college before the rise of social media.  Let’s face it Gen X, we’re the last of the old breed.  We could turn off the world.  We’d do something stupid and against the rules, providing our folks with solid reasons to ground us for a month and, if we made it home with only our fellow morons (friends) knowing, then that was it.  It was over.  We got away with it.  Nothing to see here, time to move on.

Not now.  Our kids can’t escape.  There’s no shelter.  Yet, we have somehow all decided that the yet to be fully developed teenager brain can fully process the pros and cons of permanent digital evidence of their bad decision making.  Which must only get worse in college.   Can you imagine high school and college with the hammer of shareable evidence hanging over your head?  Pics, videos, etc.  In the late 80’s and early 90’s there wasn’t any easily created or obtained proof.  Now there is digital verification within seconds.   You go back to some random weekend during my senior year in high school during the fall of ’87, and it would not have been to hard to get a pic of me holding a Stroh’s.  Or a video of me and my friends playing Chandeliers.  Which, if I remember correctly, wasn’t exactly within the confines of the legal drinking age.  Now I (arguably) have the wisdom that comes with experience.  Which teaches all of us not to drink Stroh’s.  I mean I’d rather listen to Stephen Colbert continue to be unfunny than drink a Stroh’s.  Wait, do they even still brew Stroh’s?  Or has it retired to the same crappy beer retirement community with Lowenbrau, Miller Genuine Draft and Blatz?

Now if somebody decides to scan and share a pic of me with actual hair in front of empty cans of Meisterbrau, it really isn’t proof of anything except teenagery.  And that the 80’s did, in fact, occur.

Anyway, any time I mention how happy I am I grew up without smartphones, I get this dumbfounded look from millennials and from my kids.  Same look I get when I argue that the mid-90’s were likely the worst period of music in the history of, well, music.  Yeah, grunge was and remains terrible.  Green Day sucks.  I don’t like Nirvana.  Yeah, I said it Xers.

2-I made it through college without any campus unrest.  Protests were sparse.  Violence from weird left wing black hooded anarchists wasn’t a thing.  When the Gulf War started in ’91, there were demonstrations in favor of the war.  Why?  Because like Rich Cohen wrote a couple months ago in Vanity Fair, Gen X is a revolt against the revolt.  Boomers revolted against power structures of America.  And, thank Christ, we’re not them.  I just finished watching Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War.  And, back me up here, I could not have been the only one who was crying like baby when they brought the POW’s home.  But what really struck me was the breadth of the insanity going down on college campuses.  I mean, let’s be honest, I went to college and the last people that should be deciding anything for anyone other than themselves are college students.  C’mon, if you’re willing to drink 9 Natural Lights and eat a half-thawed frozen pizza because you’re too impatient to wait the full 12 minutes for it to cook, you shouldn’t be trusted with determining items on the national agenda.

Now we have a Boomer president and a bunch millennial football players blaming each other in an argument so utterly devoid of reasonableness its dumbfounding.  We have Boomers running college campuses populated with Millennials and neither one has any respect or understanding for the First Amendment.  Instead, with no appreciation for karma, they are running headlong into some weird kind of smug totalitarian moralism.  It is exasperating that Gen X still cannot prevent Boomers and Millennials from deciding the national debate.  What we really need is the pragmatism, self sufficiency and natural problem solving of Xers to lead instead of allowing the naive and gullible idealism of Boomers and Millennials determine the issues.  Regardless of how you feel about Paul Ryan, you have to admire his Gen X stubbornness. While the President and millennial NFLers are yelling at each other about various issues, Ryan doggedly talks about health care, taxes and immigration.  Tell me again which generational leaders are serious?

Gen Xers, conservative and liberal, know how the story of socialism ends because it always ends the same way.  And, even though I don’t agree with some of Cohen’s takes, he makes a great Gen X point here, “we could not stand to hear the Utopian talk of the boomers as we cannot stand to hear the Utopian talk of the millennials.”  Or like Leslie Loftis wrote in a response to Cohen, “The Boomers lived richly and naively. They passed their idealistic ignorance on to their children, the Millennials.”

Thankfully, when Gen Xers were going through college we weren’t trying bring down LBJ or Nixon, we weren’t trying to burn the First Amendment in the name of social justice.  We watched Animal House, Up the Creek and Back to School.  We went to college because we wanted to party and make money when we were done.  Why?  So we could do whatever the hell it was we wanted to do.  Gen Xers are independent and self reliant.  It was, and remains, a simple clearly articulated plan of action.

Because, going back to Cohen one more time, “…even if you could tell other people what to say and what not to say, even if you could tell them how to live, even if you could enforce those rules through social pressure and public shaming, why would you want to? I mean, it’s just so uncool.”

Or to put a little differently like Loftis, “We will, like we always have, do whatever it is that needs doing.”

Because you can be damn sure the Boomers and Millennials will be doing something else.

 

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