I can remember being young (barely) and hearing others my age rant about how our parents’ generation had left us with a world of turmoil, deceit and danger. We, the idealistic Baby Boomers, were going to change all of that. We were going to make a better, freer, more just world.
Damn! No need to go on. You know how that particular story ends. Our parents are now enshrined as the Greatest Generation. In the meantime, our most recent Baby Boomer president has bequeathed us with a world far more dangerous and tumultuous than the one we were born into. Our economy’s shaky, the deficit has ballooned, the earth is warming, our country is widely loathed, and we’ve justly lost confidence in our nation’s inherent goodness.
This is the world we’re leaving for our children. Baby Boomers won’t live long enough to have to suffer through or clean up the mess we’ve made — the lack of commitment to alternative energy, continuing reliance on unstable parts of the world for oil, global warming, Iraq.
I don’t mean to dump on an entire generation. I think the world is far too complicated to blame or praise any particular age group. It’s just that we were at the helm when it happened.
But now, after Obama’s surprise victory in the Iowa caucuses — maybe we’re not at the helm any longer. I watched him on TV last night and felt exhilarated. His poise, passion and idealism reminded me of something we’ve lost. Wouldn’t it be great to believe in someone and something again? To think we could work to heal wounds and differences, instead of making them worse?
You don’t have to tell me the litany of objections: It’s too soon to say, the race is just beginning, attacks will be leveled, all kinds of flaws will be revealed. I know, I know, I know.
But I watched him and thought about the wonder of at least some progress in racial relations. That a generation my age that’s witnessed separate drinking fountains and bathrooms might have the opportunity to elect a candidate who’s black. And I thought about our own kids and how they deserve something better, more hopeful, less predictable and less cynical in this country’s leadership.
It would be nice to be inspired and challenged, for a change, instead of pandered to and manipulated. Yeah, it would be nice to believe we can do better. Last night, for at least an instant, it all seemed possible.
(Copyright 2008 by Ruth Pennebaker)