On Sunday, July 26, 2009 the Boston Globe Magazine carried the cover headline “THE BOOMERS ISSUE.” Ok. I’m a boomer. Not the first of my generation, but definitely a boomer. My husband was at Woodstock, even if I wasn’t. So I expected a run of predictable boomer articles in the issue, assuming I’d read a little, but not much of it.
A great color cartoon caught my eye on page 8 over the title “The Immortalists.” The subheading read “The age-defying boomers are still going strong. Too strong.” That struck a nasty note. I thought, from the cartoon, that the article was going to be lighthearted and amusing. I did read it, continuing to hope the (obviously young) writer would find a way to turn the piece into something amusing. She never did. What a piece of (1) bad writing and (2) offensive crap. Coming on the immediate heels of the Harvard Professor Gates brouhaha over the possible dissing of a black man by the Cambridge police (a media generated frenzy), this piece is really in poor taste. The piece is currently online at http://tinyurl.com/ng4n9q if you would like to read it before reading my rant about it. (The Globe has the cover of the magazine online but not this cartoon. You can see why it might be intriging. And if The Globe wants me to delete it from this entry, I shall…)
The theme of the piece is that the boomer generation will be the first to “actually live too long.” If you have read the piece, you will recall expecting an endorsement of suicide booths available as a public service for everyone born before 1964. Following a general complaint about the average life expectancy in the United States, the writer goes on to increasingly specific complaints about a generation. Due to our current poor healthcare system, by the way, the US life expectancy is not as long as it is in other developed countries. She should check that out.
Somehow the boomers are a “threat to the social order” by not dying within a “reasonable number of years.” I’m sure glad this isn’t my kid, by the way. Some parents somewhere have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. So the boomers are physically and mentally fit, which infuriates this writer. They are driving, working, being entrepreneurs, and fulfilling their “bucket list” such as it might be. Hey, I don’t care if George Bush, Sr. went parachuting at an advanced age. More power to him. Not my thing, but what the heck. It does set this kid off, though.
She goes on to complain that lifelong marriage is somehow ok if you die at age 40 but not if you’re going to die at 110. Gee, not only would I not like to be related by birth to this kid, but heaven help the man who (temporarily) marries her. And she doesn’t like the fact that by living longer boomers are really – yes, REALLY – spending their kids’ and grandkids’ inheritance. She doesn’t find that amusing at all. Hey, tough. I agree with Warren Buffet… we should give our children a good start in life and then they should make it on their own. But then the boomer generation was raised by parents who were more influenced by the Great Depression than this writer. Most of the early boomers did not expect to be given much, and we weren’t. As time went by and the US economy improved, the younger children in families were typically able to be given more. And Gen X and Y have been given more still. Maybe that was a mistake. They were given material goods instead of the attention of their (both) working parents.
Not done yet by any means, the freelancer bemoans that boomers continue to hold their jobs and live in their homes. How inconsiderate not to get out of the way so that others can benefit from what you spent a lifetime building. Humpf. Those who are actually in the home used to raise a family would LOVE to downsize, by the way, but we can’t find buyers at the moment. If she’d like to mow my lawn, clean my gutters, and maintain my property, be my guest. I’d love to move. Maybe even to — guess what? — a condo requiring a lot less upkeep.
The greatest calamity, supposedly, is that boomers will break the US Social Security system. The writing at this point veers off into nutcake land with assertions about all boomers beginning to collect Social Security benefits at age 62 and a statement that conspiracy theorists claim free flue vaccines are given to senior citizens to increase the death rate.
Reality check: as the boomers know altogether too well, they are able to collect their “full” Social Security benefits at a later age than their parents. And the incentive to put off collecting as long as possible is still there, as it was for those before us. Financial advisors, however, point out that one might as well start collecting on SS as soon as possible because IF YOU ARE GOING TO LIVE A LONG TIME you will probably collect more over the long term by taking a smaller payment for a longer time rather than a larger payment for a shorter time. That is a decision everyone needs to make on their own or with that spouse with whom you’ve shared an obscene number of years.
There’s quite a focus on death in this piece. Not funny. Really.
The poor scribbler goes on: “So, what good are old boomers, anyway?” After complaining about botox, Jimmy Buffet and Led Zeppelin, she yammers that the boomers should be babysitting for her, dispensing presumably ignorable wisdom, and baking for their extended families. But they won’t be doing that, curse them. She would appreciate it if the whole generation would “just die and reduce the surplus population.” Maybe she doesn’t understand that reducing the surplus population is part of the reason people have abortions, or shall we say “take a pro-choice position”? She concludes that boomers should “hit the trans fat” and Twinkies and hasten their own deaths. Pity her mother didn’t have access to a family planning clinic.
Oh, and by the way, the brief author description in italics at the end claims the writer “is a boomer in the suburbs of Boston.” No. I don’t think so. There is always the possibility that she thought the piece was funny. It isn’t. It’s 11:30 am on Sunday morning and already 22 comments on the Globe website have overwhelmingly found the article wrongheaded and in poor taste. So there.