Krugman’s Boomer Cri de Coeur

Demography may indeed be destiny. I am one year older than Barack Obama. I’m in his post-boomer, cusp cohort, baby! I point this out because it informs the rest of this post.

So I’m sitting on the train yesterday morning, Handel on the i-pod (sonata for violin and harpsichord in D, really sublime stuff), reading the NYT. The life of a civilized commuter. I get to the back page, and after reading the op-ed by the guy who runs his car on leftover french fry oil, I read Krugman, and if not for the wonderful music, I might have begun to get annoyed. Do we really need another self-congratulatory column about how Obama’s nomination shows how much the country has changed for the better over the last twenty years? That’s a rhetorical question. But I kept my civilized equilibrium until I came to this passage:

By the way, it was during the heyday of the baby boom generation that crude racism became unacceptable. Mr. Obama, who has been dismissive of the boomers’ “psychodrama,” might want to give the generation that brought about this change, fought for civil rights and protested the Vietnam War a bit more credit.

Ah. At that moment, I could only wish that Mr. Krugman were sitting next to me. In a friendly manner, I would have placed a hand on his shoulder, and would have said, “Paul, do you know why Mr. Obama and others of our generation, the younger brothers and sisters of the boomers, don’t give them a bit more credit? First, we’re not all convinced that you deserve it. And second, ” — here I would have gripped both shoulders, and started to shake him violently — “BECAUSE YOU WON’T SHUT UP ABOUT IT! Really, Paul, there is nothing more annoying than a generation that won’t stop talking about what some of its members may or may not have done forty years ago, while whining about the ingratitude of us callow younguns. Come back after you storm Utah Beach or something, OK?”

And this is it. The Clintons’ disbelieving reaction to Hillary’s defeat, and Krugman’s petulance, are a preview of the inevitable decline of their generation. They will leave the stage, reluctantly, often gracelessly, wondering why the rest of us did not fully appreciate all they had to offer, and why we were so anxious to see them depart. The only antidote to self pity is self-knowledge, and the educated, middle class boomers were never really required to develop very much of it. It’s like that TV ad for Fidelity Investments, the one that features old guys surfing, says — “The generation that said it would never grow up, didn’t.” They say it like that’s a good thing.


6 Responses to Krugman’s Boomer Cri de Coeur

  1. laurabethnielsen says:

    There is a beach in Utah?

    The article was annoying and the whole tone of racism has now ended is getting on my nerves. Wake up people. Not the people here of course, but sheesh.

  2. chunque says:

    KING: “I gave you all.”

    REGAN: “And in good time you gave it.”

    King Lear, Act II, scene iii ll. 257-8.

    REGAN: “I pray you father, being weak, seem so.” (II, iii, 205).

    I leave it to you to sort out the analogy.

  3. laurabethnielsen says:

    Mom? I need help here and you are the Shakespearer expert. Explain.

  4. jeffaregularworkinglawyer says:

    “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” (Act I, Scene IV).

    But Obama and I are too old to be their children. We’re more like thankless younger siblings. And if there was ever a generation that was thankless of its parents, its those guys.

    Here’s more Lear, or Bill Clinton (the NYT says he’s got an enemies list):

    You see me here, you gods, a poor old man,
    As full of grief as age, wretched in both.
    If it be you that stir these daughters’ hearts
    Against their father, fool me not so much
    To bear it tamely; touch me with noble anger,
    And let not women’s weapons, water drops,
    Stain my man’s cheeks! No, you unnatural hags!
    I will have such revenges on you both
    That all the world shall—I will do such things—
    What they are, yet I know not; but they shall be
    The terrors of the earth. You think I’ll weep
    No, I’ll not weep. [Storm and tempest]
    I have full cause of weeping, but this heart
    Shall break into a hundred thousand flaws,
    Or ere I’ll weep. O Fool, I shall go mad!

  5. lbsmom says:

    I’ve done so much for you; don’t you appreciate that? Love with strings/conditions attached. Teach your kids to say what pleases you so they get what they want, but beware whenever you need something from them. That’s how Lear parented—-without meaning, just words, a negative image of male authority. He tried to control his daughters, so Regan & Goneril became monsters, and Cordelia, who refused to pander, dies in prison. Some lines this article brings to mind:

    The Fool says to Lear, “Thou shouldst not have been old till thou hadst been wise.” (1.5.44-45)

    Lear says to Knet, “I am a man more sinned against than sinning.” (2.2.58-59)

    A word from a 65 year old: Take this earth & its citizens to a higher plane. My generation tried, failed, tried, failed & hopefully, made some progress. It’s yours now–live, laugh, love, & lavish care on all.

  6. Mary Rose says:

    Oh, thank you, thank you, Jeff (regular working lawyer). My reaction exactly (mine would have been less eloquent, and I wouldn’t have been able to imagine squeezing Krugman’s shoulders really hard). I read that line and thought, “Hmmm, credit? For? Let’s see….Civil Rights Act (not passed by Boomers). Voting Rights Act (not passed by Boomers). Going crazy in places like Boston, MA and California over forced busing? (A lot of young Boomers). Cheney and Bush? (Boomers).” I just feel like this is a generation that wants only credit for what they did that was positive and no attention on foibles. It was a huge cohort – the law of large numbers says that there will be a lot of brave, noble people in it and, yes, a lot of idiots.

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