Gen Xers going maudlin decide less "Heathers" and more "Forrest Gump"
Edwin Lyngar, at Salon.com, recently wrote this:
Old, white, wrinkled and angry, they are slipping from polite society in alarming numbers. We’re losing much of a generation. They often sport hats or other clothing, some marking their status as veterans, Tea Partyers or “patriots” of some kind or another. They have yellow flags, bumper stickers and an unquenchable rage. They used to be the brave men and women who took on America’s challenges, tackling the ’60s, the Cold War and the Reagan years — but now many are terrified by the idea of slightly more affordable healthcare and a very moderate Democrat in the White House.
We’re losing people like my father to the despair of Fox News, and it’s all by design.
My dad is 67 years old, a full year younger than the average Fox viewer, who is 68, according to an analysis in New York magazine by columnist Frank Rich. I’ve read accounts of people my age — 40 or so — losing parents to cancer or Alzheimer’s, but just as big a tragedy are the crops of grandmothers and grandfathers debilitated by Fox News-induced hysteria.
I enjoyed Fox News for many years, as a libertarian and frequent Republican voter. I used to share many, though not all, of my father’s values, but something happened over the past few years. As I drifted left, the white, Republican right veered into incalculable levels of conservative rage, arriving at their inevitable destination with the creation of the Tea Party movement.
When I finally pulled the handle for Obama in 2012, my father could not believe how far I’d fallen. I have avoided talking politics with him as much as possible ever since. Last week, I invited him to my house for dinner with the express purpose of talking about politics and most especially his Fox News addiction. Since he retired, he only watches Fox. As we started chatting up politics, I repeated one mantra over and over: “Please, please, consume another source of information.” I repeated my plea a dozen times. He defended with stridency his choices, citing his favorites, like Stuart Varney, “The Five” and the great Charles Krauthammer. When it came to any other source of information he was emphatic.
“I don’t care to see any more of that liberal bullshit,” he said in one form or another all night.
I’m overeducated in the humanities, so I’m an imperfect ambassador for science. I respect scholarship, peer review and the scientific method. When I tell my dad he should believe the experts in climate science, he gets really mad.
“Global warming is your religion,” he says. Because I’m an atheist, calling me religious is the worst insult he can summon, so he uses it often.
I do not blame or condemn my father for his opinions. If you consumed a daily diet of right-wing fury, erroneously labeled “news,” you could very likely end up in the same place. Again, this is all by design. Let’s call it the Fox News effect. Take sweet, kindly senior citizens and feed them a steady stream of demagoguery and repetition, all wrapped in the laughable slogan of “fair and balanced.” Even watching the commercials on Fox, one is treated to sales pitches for gold and emergency food rations, the product cornerstones of the paranoid. To some people the idea of retirees yelling at the television all day may seem funny, but this isn’t a joke. We’re losing the nation’s grandparents, and it’s an American tragedy.
My cohort, Generation X, is stuck between two generations of suffering Americans. The millennial generation is losing job opportunities and income as the nation stagnates. They put off marriage and buying homes. While white, Fox News-addicted baby boomers have lost their sense of hope. They’ve been passed over by shifting attitudes about gay marriage, the role of government and a host of issues. They still think of themselves as the “silent majority,” when in reality they are a wounded and thrashing legacy of white hegemony. My parents’ generation is becoming fragile antiques, relics by choice, reassured by Fox News that they are still the only voice that matters.
Every generation is in revolt against their fathers. Would it have killed you to admit to some glee? -- "walked through you now didn't I asshole?!" The "not blaming your father" is the worst. Faux empathy, that many of us will collude with. In it you feel narrative guile doing the job of sidelining him in a way that leaves you feeling guilt-free, beneficent -- even as you just really left him seeming hapless.
Personally I wonder if you were republican and libertarian -- like your father -- when it was convenient for you. A lot of guys start that way young to put some kind of block against their mother's influence / domain -- who's the person we all spent way more time around than we did our fathers, and it can prove smothering -- and are able to drop it when they feel more established in the outside world. It can be something like joining a frat once just in college.
"I'm overeducated in the humanities" … faux shoulder shrug everybody!
Here's another thing it might be useful to acknowledge. The idea of the once-strong father who's lost his tethers in old age is something of a romantic trope in American culture. It suggests something of a good man, without perhaps much scope, who was only ever going to be able to understand his world one way. Too much expectation that he change or modify, and in defence he'd route even more to the familiar, become the old man on the sea, whom everyone first shrugs at and then forgets. Visually you imagine him as essentially alone and unreachable, and like in the film "Nebraska," it communicates something actually of manly resonance about him -- he stayed true to what he knew.
I'm pondering this because I don't always sense when we hoist our fathers into this trope that we're necessarily sidelining them permanently. They might be recovered yet, if we change our mood and for some reason want to champion what remains dogged and stubborn and traditional is us, about our culture. I don't know how many children of parents possessed of the emotional resonance that they could ever find Republican culture appealing, are going to be able to keep up with progressive change forever themselves. For now, they're doing so; but if for example with this writer, this PhD, if change ends up meaning de-schooling and the termination of grades and scrapping peer review, if universities and science lose their sense of authority -- not to more primitive institutions but to something more hippie spiritual, less presuming and less elitist -- would he be locking himself in a room agreeing non-stop with old folk at the Times Literary Supplement that the young have lost all respect? How dare they treat with such disconcern institutions that keep our liberal society … that keep our country strong? Anti peer review, indeed! We'll be a laughing stock, and slide to last place!
Would he call his dad over, this time to commensurate?
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Gex Xers believed that the baby boomers would never get out the way. They were going to be a generation that was never going to get its time. Here in this article we're sensing that holes are going to start appearing in the baby boomer phalanx, for some of them not being able to -- Alec Baldwin-like -- say things that'll depose them, regardless of the status they've accrued, or even if they're adamant they're actually as liberal as you can get. If you were a gen x academic, wondering if some of the baby boomers who're hogging the best posts might be deposed early, I think you'd be guessing that they're not being entirely natural to this Obama era might have them try and affirm themselves better with you -- who definitely are /is. And this "sucking up," a sure tell that a king earns immediately being deposed, would lend you to be more aggressive in establishing that you ought to be the one taking control now.
Gen Xers are sensing, with their baby boomer parents and baby boomer icons either going crazy or damningly, irrecoverably slipping up, that the next 30 years might be theirs to pomp themselves out and be totally alpha -- what they, again, had never suspected would accrue to them. I think part of the reason they're -- a generation that prides itself on its familiarity with all the nuances of resentment -- maintaining this inanely simple cant -- "I love my father; I bleed to make him better and I'm really sorry to pass him by" -- is because it steadies them while they take accession. Cloaking themselves in accepted narratives -- the kind of idiotic "Forrest Gump" sap they've always despised, puked at -- will help steady them as they embrace baby boomer-like largesse, as well as all the self-condemnation that comes with that, that they've heretofore avoided by being obviously forever damned to second class.
Boomer here, and I'd argue that my generation was in the vanguard of warning against, then vilifying Rupert Murdoch and his media aspirations even in the mid-1970s when he first took over New York Magazine and set his eye on America's broadcast television networks.
My father, a much-loved and long-retired retired physician, is of the "Greatest" Generation, and in my experience it is HIS cohort that is glued to their sets sucking up this idiotic bile, not ours. Do not underestimate the latent discontent of the sixties radical. We are starting to retire now, and with all that time on our hands, all ideological hell is about to break loose.
@ahansen The sixties radical would be too white and affluent to have much influence today. Younger generations would be easily pointing out how intrinsically sexist and racist they (ostensibly) remain. Someone from the 60s would love how "Dead Poet's Society" celebrates personal authenticity -- you're take, not your approved forefather's -- foremost, while the younger gens would be occupying themselves pointing out its vile racist, sexist assumptions, as well as its loathsome bloated boomer"MEism."
You'll be tripped up all over the place, and will soon be left simply seeking sanctuary, just as many white feminists are from feminist forums they used to be wildy active on, for not being able to disprove they don't intrinsically view black women as their lackeys.