Boomer. What exactly does this word mean? It could be someone who makes loud booming noises, or a person born in the years just after World War II. This was known as the Baby Boom, as those that had grown up during the Great Depression and survived the war were looking forward to a brighter future and having children to share that future with.
Lately there have been commenters who post in response to news articles or on social media who seem to think there is something about this generation that make them not worth listening to or of any value to today’s society. An example can be found in comments to another Sun writer’s column of April 1, on the subject of this generation. “Narcissistic boomers go away.”
Based on our age, most of us will indeed go away in the next 10 to 20 years. But, I am wondering just how much those younger than us “Boomers” really know about our life and times.
We are the children of those who lived through the Great Depression and World War II. Our parents gave us a glimpse of an almost apocalypse. My mother’s family wealth disappeared overnight, leaving her extended Sicilian family to take lodgers in their large Victorian house in Brooklyn, New York and bringing home piece work from garment factories, so that they would not lose their home. My father was shaped by spending his childhood in the Minnesota State Home for Abandoned and Neglected Children and as a teenager as an indentured servant on a farm. Then he was a combat medic in Algeria, in Italy, and on hospital ships being pursued by German U boats.
My parents reminded me constantly that I should be thankful for what I had, even though we were always broke and there was no safety net. When my father had a heart attack at the age of 52, the State of Minnesota paid the mortgage or we would have lost our house.
As I came of age, it was a time of change. Progressive high school teachers had the freedom to give us a wide world view. I became aware of and active in the women’s and civil rights movements. Then the war in Vietnam began. My classmates in our blue collar, working class neighborhood were being drafted. No college deferments, when you do not have the money to pay for college.
So much for being narcissistic or privileged, as some seem to think everyone from our generation is. At demonstrations, I was dragged, tear gassed, and thrown in jail a few times. Some of my friends went to Vietnam, some died, and some came back horribly damaged, physically or mentally.
We were shaped by our times and that is why many of us are adamant about all human rights, protecting our planet, and knowing that wars only bring death and suffering. As we learned from our parents, maybe it is time to learn from the “Boomers.”