Thanksgiving is a time when family and friends of all generations gather. I look forward to this event; it is a time of joy and gratitude. But I’m also a little apprehensive. I remember past Thanksgivings when I was young. After the meal, discussions of serious issues sometimes turned into heated debate.
In preparation for our family celebration, I have been thinking about potential hot button issues, specifically: How I should respond if one of the younger members of our table should use the phrase that is growing in popularity to express their dissatisfaction with my generation.
What if someone pops off with, “OK boomer?”
I could respond:
I sense your frustration, but you might want to wait until your generation has actually solved some of the world’s problems before you make the flippant, condescending remark, “OK boomer.”
Or: You want to blame us for climate change, well, it was the baby-boomer generation that called for action to stop the destruction of natural habitats, endangered species, and air and water pollution. Just 50 years ago you couldn’t see the Hollywood sign because of air pollution and Lake Erie would catch on fire. The boomers cleaned that up — you’re welcome.
Or: You want to blame us for prejudice and inequality, well, it was the baby-boomer generation that solidified civil rights and equal opportunity for women. We can all agree that the job is not finished. But don’t discount the progress our generation made and the hard work it took to make it — again you’re welcome.
Or: You want to blame us for all the ills in government and society, well, baby boomers do more than just whine about it. As a percentage, boomers vote more and volunteer more than millennials or gen Z. It was the boomers who demonstrated in numbers and demanded the end of the Vietnam War, a war in which almost 60,000 of our generation gave their lives. You might want to thank us for eliminating polio and winning the Cold War, which could have escalated into world obliteration — again you’re welcome.
Or: You want to say we don’t do anything to fix the problem, well, put your money where your mouth is. Boomers give much more money to charity than your generation. This is even more significant when you consider that we are not borrowing to give, but giving after years of hard work from debt free net worth. Yeah, you’re welcome.
Before sneering at baby boomers’ contributions to society, you should stop playing on your cell phone and take a long hard look at your own level of maturity and responsibility. Perhaps you do that from your safe space after you’ve checked your trigger warnings. If you really want to make things better, instead of dismissing baby boomers you will find it much more productive to work with them. Oh wait, that requires “work” and too often you are busy indulging yourself because, well in the language of your tweeted philosophy: “YOLO.”
Despite some major, often difficult, disagreements with our predecessors, “The Greatest Generation,” most baby boomers acknowledge that our accomplishments and advancements were made while standing on the shoulders of those who went before. Nevertheless, the baby-boomer generation has its problems and we are far, far from perfect. You will inherit our flawed and unfinished work. While we haven’t given up yet, we must begin to pass the torch to those who follow. In doing so, we wish you all the best. Your generation will have its own unique set of world and societal problems. However, from experience that you don’t have yet, we can assure you that it’s going to take a lot more to address those serious issues than a smart-ass response like “OK boomer.”
Or I could smile and respond:
How would you like to join me in another piece of pumpkin pie? By the way, there is an interesting OpEd that I tore out of the paper. I’d like you to take it home to read. No wait, I’ll just text you the link.
Drew Bennett retired from U.S. Marine Corps as a colonel after 30 years and retired from Missouri State University-West Plains as chancellor after 11 years. This column was originally published by The Baltimore Sun.