With the election of Barack Obama, we finally have a leader that crosses barriers. A man that unites two very separate aspects of the American Experience by firmly straddling a divide that has been the cause of acrimony and bitterness for a long, long time. His very existence causes both camps to claim him as their own even though he is really neither.
No, I’m not talking about Race, this is about something way more important. It’s about a generational divide. Baby Boomers versus the rest of us. A baton has been passed. Take this passage from Gail Collins of the New York Times.
Finally, on behalf of the baby-boom generation, I would like to hear a little round of applause before we cede the stage to the people who were too young to go to Woodstock and would appreciate not having to listen to the stories about it anymore. It looks as though we will be represented in history by only two presidents, one of whom is George W. Bush. Bummer.Despite their very different styles, both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were born in 1946 right at the start of the post-war baby boom. Clearly a milestone has been reached. We have gone beyond the most self-absorbed and self-important generation in our history. Those of us younger than these older boomers have had to live in the shadow of their accomplishments and experiences. Heather Havrilesky of Salon (who is so Gen-X she has turned being a couch potato into career) sees Obama’s election as vindication of Generation X.
Dear boomers: We're sorry for rolling our eyes at you all these years. We apologize for scoffing at your earnestness, your lack of self-deprecation, your tendency to take yourselves a little too seriously. We can go ahead and admit now that we grew tired of hearing about the '60s and the peace movement, as if you had to live through those times to understand anything at all.But isn’t Barack technically a baby boomer? He was born in 1961, well before the technical end of the baby boom which is usually pegged at 1964, the year I was born. I self-identify as many things including as Irish and red-headed and geeky, even though each of those is debatable. What I do not consider myself is a baby boomer. I have nothing in common with the typical stereotype of the drug-taking, free-loving, psychedelic hippie. I came of political age in the Reagan Era which cannot possibly be more different than the Summer of Love.
But when we watched Barack Obama's victory speech on Tuesday night, we looked into the eyes of a real leader, and decades of cynicism about politics and grass-roots movements and community melted away in a single moment. We heard the voice of a man who can inspire with his words, who's unashamed of his own intelligence, who's willing to treat the citizens of this country like smart, capable people, worthy of respect. For the first time in some of our lifetimes, we believed.
So what is Barack? If the defining moment of the Baby Boom was Woodstock, Obama, who was only eight at the time, has no claim to it. He was only two when Kennedy was assassinated (and I was in vitro). He never got to march for his civil rights, but instead had to fulfill the promise that those pioneers blazed. He didn’t have to fight to sit at a lunch counter, but he broke the final barrier. He never marched against a war, but now has to lead us out of one.
No, he is not a boomer. But he has the chance to finish everything they started.
BlatantCommentWhoring™: Is Barack a Boomer? If not, what is he (besides Muslim)?