« The Fence-Sitters Suck | Main | Credibility »

April 23, 2008

Comments

publius, I agree. Being somewhat older than you I remember the atmosphere of fear. Rev. Wright's anger is well justified but I expect for many it is a reminder of a time when they felt very unsafe.

I think Spike Lee's movie Do the Right Thing captures the feeling. If you haven't seen it take a look.

I do find it a bit amazing, though, that "Marxism" still packs any punch. By now it ought to be a joke.

This is why Obama appeals to so many under 55. We cannot relate to the 40 year old fights. the insults from the 60s like pinko.
this is why people like the Clintons are so annoying to younger voters. the old predictable fights about Vietnam and commie. blah blah.
They keep it going to 40 years. get over it.
And that is why government doesn't work and the parties have gone stale and stuck. Because they are all back in 1968.
The divisive and hateful screeds back and forth.
And that is why the gop and their old bag of tricks won't register as much this year. Because so many are just sick to death of the whole thing.
It's time to move on. Like by about 35 years.

It's almost enough to make you hope the baby boomers will hurry up and die off so that we can stop being burdened by the political baggage of the battles fought 40 years ago.

I mean, throughout this whole primary race it seems that I continually hear the comparisons being made between this years primary and the race of ’68. The choice between the party insider (Humphrey/Clinton) and the passionate voice representing the youth movement (RFK/Obama). The festering war being fought in Asia with no end in sight. The fear being marketed of the boogeyman that’s out to get everyone (Communists/terrorists).

Come on! 2008 is not 1968, no matter how hard so many people try to fit the square peg into the round hole. Look, there’s no civil unrest. There’s no threat of World War III (even if we bomb Iran−which is not to say that I think such an action would be anything but morally reprehensible and would set back American relations in the region two generations). Face it old folks: this is not the 60’s. Things have changed. Please check your hippie or anti-hippie baggage at the door when entering the modern political arena.

While I do understand that many of the boomers will invariably perceive things through the lens of their youth it doesn’t mean I have to sympathize with their backwards looking myopia. I sincerely hope that in 2043 I won’t be trying to force the label of “The new Howard Dean” on some hapless politician.

Back in *my* day.......what? Git behind me, Buck! Jump back, gipsy! COVERED WAGONS! COOOOONESTOGA WAGONS!

Where was I?

Canny post, pub. The stuff about Wright, as well as Establishment black leaders supposedly being 'threatened' if they don't support Obama, really does seem to set some of the older folks off. It's a shame, because it's not appropriate to this election or this time, but rather just emotionally pavlovian - like cheap music or television.

I'm 58, not 65, but I'm certainly a pre-post-Cold-War American, having been alive for 40 or so years by the time the Cold War ended. I don't think I'm carrying a lot of baggage related to "hippie/anti-hippie baggage," but I could be wrong -- it's happened once or twice before. I do know I like Obama a lot and am disappointed that this is breaking out so much along age lines. (It certainly wasn't at my caucus in February; nor gender lines either.)

But Zebra, I guarantee that you will see the world differently in 2043 from the way you see it now. You might even approach the 2043-vintage "modern political arena" with some mental habits that are being shaped right now. And I also suspect that you won't be ready to concede to people 20 or 30 years younger the right to appoint themselves gatekeepers of who gets to enter the 2043 "modern political arena" and who doesn't.

The political arena includes whoever's in it. That's all. You don't have to like it, but hey, I still have the vote.

god you're sexy, publius.

but Wright's statements about America deserving 9/11 as a kind of blowback cut straight to the debate me and my radicals friends in the seventies lost to Reagan's gunboat diplomacy.

We wanted to change the subversive way America related to other nations. And if it didn't, we predicted retailiation from any self-respecting nation.

And I'll bet that Wright was on our side.

but the Soviets, the Cubans, et al, kept locking individuals up without due process. Without ordinarary Americans knowing the ways in which the USG was incessantly tried to subvert those governments experimenting with socialism, they appeared as bad as Pinoche, the Dirty Wars, etc., the very governments we were arguing against.

And then Walter Mondale called Che despicable, and, sure enough, we were alienated from the Democratic Party.

So the real question is Are you guys going to keep running away from us? Are Dems going to keep talkin that annihilate-Iran-action-hero moral cowardice, or what?

Obama needs to stay on message: His is the campaign to get out of Iraq.

god you're sexy, publius

best comment ... ever. :)

Good post, publius.

I actually think the reaction to Wright was more about the "God damn America" statement in the post-9/11 world than it was about race. I could be wrong. If his remarks had been solely about civil rights, they would probably have been written off as the rantings of an out-of-touch old man.

That said, there does seem to be a difference between how pre- and post-cold war folks hear and respond to things.

It's almost enough to make you hope the baby boomers will hurry up and die off so that we can stop being burdened by the political baggage of the battles fought 40 years ago.

Sorry, not dead yet.

I plan to spend all your Social Security money before I go, too, so go get a job, will ya?

Rotten kids.

The political arena includes whoever's in it. That's all. You don't have to like it, but hey, I still have the vote.

Damned straight.

Thanks -

more about the "God damn America" statement in the post-9/11 world than it was about race. I could be wrong.

I think you're wrong-- John Hagee and Jerry Falwell think that God damns America, too. They just think He does so because we don't put gay people in jail or make Jewish kids pray to Jesus in public schools. And no conservative cares. The Rev. Wright flap is 100% about race. It's the new Southern strategy.

Also, an older fellow with some degree of governmental responsibility told me a few years ago that his son in Iraq was "killing a lot of communists." So, yeah, I think they might be kinda hung up on that whole thing. Good post, publius.

John Hagee and Jerry Falwell think that God damns America, too.

Yes, and people who don't want John McCain to be President make lots of political hay out of it. Just like folks who don't want Obama to be President make lots of hay out of Wright's comments.

And, to clarify, IMO Wright's comments have merit, while Hagee's do not.

No doubt race is an element. You can't swing a dead cat in this country without touching on some aspect of race. It's woven into the fabric of American life, and probably will be until the USA is a footnote in somebody's history book.

If Wright had not extended his comments beyond civil rights issues, however, I doubt anyone would have cared or even noticed.

People are tired of civil rights issues in this country. Plain old tired. Black folks are tired of the treatment they get, and white folks (and every other color folks) are tired of hearing about it. Nobody's really that interested in doing anything about it anymore. It's probably one of the more damning things I could say about us, but IMO it's true.

Compare the difference in the amount of play Wright's comments got with Michelle Obama's. His got days, hers got 15 minutes. And she was his *wife*, not his pastor.

She didn't say anything about blowback. He did.

That's my analysis. YMMV.

Thanks -

I really liked Obama's response to the wright thing, even the sillyness with Ayers. It was kind of comforting to know that he has at least listened to leftist (not liberal) criticism. Every one remembers that lost in the "god damn" quote was after the unfairness of the Drug War. Which has just been a disaster.

Finally, HRC's campaign has been a circus. It's all 'nobody could have anticipated a post-super tuesday stratigery' not to mention the silly games with MI and FL.

But at this point, for most of us, it is now just a giant stage play and events are beyond our control. We do live in interesting times.

"(From what I gather, though, each demonstration was accompanied by either Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower or the Doors’ Five to One)."

Well, no. We usually hummed a few bars of "The Internationale" (nobody knew the words), Country Joe & The Fish ("One, two, three four..."), or retreated to the bar to sing old Wobblies songs.

But you still see this crap. The other night Buchannan told Maddow to "can that marxist dialectic" as if that was supposed to be a real zinger.

What an idiot.

Poland, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Latvia, etc., might think that Reagan's "fearmongering" probably led them to be better off now than as Communist Soviet satellites.

Communism was and is a bad deal for people. Still is pretty bad in North Korea from what I can tell.

Al Qaeda, Iranian/Taliban style mullochracy, Baathism, those are pretty bad too. And dangerous. All are worse than our "God Damn" 'ed " America" in my opinion. But that's just my opinion.

publius,

I'm with russell on the Wright flap. More generally though, do you have any evidence that older white folk reacted to Wright specifically because it reminds them of their fear of blacks in the 60s-70s? This seems like a very difficult proposition to test for...

Wow, DaveC. Communism was bad? America's better than North Korea or Iran?

You're a brave, brave man. I hope you know the kind of controversy you're in for.

It takes true courage to compare your town or team or country or family with the absolute worst one in the whole world, and decline to criticize your own on those grounds.

do you have any evidence

there's that pre-9/11 thinking again. evidence, blah.

seriously, i don't. I just see that the post-65 numbers for obama have been bad. the rest is just speculation. to be honest, i don't know how you could test for it. it's not like they would say, "yes, i didn't like it b/c i hated blacks in 1971".

publius, thanks for answering. Opinions are fine and Lord knows I welcome any excuse to blame all problems in our society on the hated old folks.

The only way I could think of to test for it would be to run a poll where you asked people to rate how important the various crisis (busing, riots, etc) were in their lives and how strongly they felt at the time and then look for patterns based on age. This wouldn't be cheap, but it is the sort of thing I'd hope the Obama campaign would blow some cash on.

"Yes, and people who don't want John McCain to be President make lots of political hay out of it. Just like folks who don't want Obama to be President make lots of hay out of Wright's comments."

Sorry, I don't remember Hagee's comments absolutely dominating news coverage for several weeks. If you don't see a glaring double standard there, you're watching a different American media than I am.

And I am old enough to remember Republicans basically shutting down any discussion of sensible economic policy by claiming that any policy other than tax cuts was socialism. In fact, given Buchanan, Kristol and Lieberman's recent playing of the Marx card, I'm not convinced we've moved past it yet. I also fear we won't get our fiscal and regulatory house in order until we live through another Depression-level crisis. Those being ignorant of history condemned to repeat it and all that.

I think the Wright controversy may be partly over race, but also over nationalism. Sure, right-wingers think God is angry at us over our domestic policy, but when it comes to confrontation with a foreign country, He shuts up and salutes like any good American citizen. Wright doesn't.

I should add that Wright's approach can turn into a sort of anti-nationalism that is nothing but the mirror opposite of right-winger's nationalism. It can be the assumption that we are Great Satan and the tendancy to automatically root for whoever is against us.

Having to actually think out the merits of a confrontation and reach a decision on a case-by-case basis is so much more work than a simple knee-jerk reaction that not many people are willing to do it.

From what I gather, though, each demonstration was accompanied by ... Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower

Wait, what? The civil rights protesters were Cylons? And they had been all along?

*ducks*

Anyway, this post reads a lot like "a lot of our problems stem from the fact that baby boomers won't let go of the past," and that type of argument has caused pretty serious flames here in the past.

Thank you for your post.

I just heard a middle aged woman call into my local public radio station say that 'women might be more of a minority than black people.' (As someone who has spent the past 5+ years studying racial disparity in the US, I find this sort of opinion egregiously uninformed.)

As you suggest, some Clinton supporters conflate the civil rights movement with an erosion in middle class security. Ironically, this is exactly the sort of struggle among the working class that Marx & Engels wrote about. Their premise was that the basic structure of capitalism encourages those who don't OWN the wealth of society fight among each other about our small slice of the pie. imho, they got that right.

I look forward to this election focusing more on the issues and less on sound bites from various candidate supporters.

It's almost enough to make you hope the baby boomers will hurry up and die off so that we can stop being burdened by the political baggage of the battles fought 40 years ago.

http://www.theonion.com/content/node/29261

In all seriousness, I don't want them to die off (my parents are quintessential boomers, after all), but I do want them to acknowledge that the country just doesn't belong to them or their concerns alone anymore, something which many seem reluctant to do. I find this especially ironic given that many have made a living off of tsk-tsking Gen. X and the Millenials for being slackers and failing to take a leadership role in society.

The Vietnam and hippie/square divide complexes have been dominating our national political consciousness and dominating the tactical and political thinking of both major parties far too long, and frankly I couldn't care less about either. I don't care if Obama smoked pot or what Hillary said about stay-at-home moms or whether McCain's Vietnam service makes him more patriotic than his opponents, because frankly there are much, much more important issues facing our country than hashing out dorm room spats from the '60's. It seems like every argument about issues of the day gets filtered through some self-regarding Vietnam era prism by the boomer dominated national media and policy apparatuses. Going into Iraq was a chance to exercise the ghosts of Vietnam. Going into Iraq would be a debacle just like Vietnam. Islamic fundamentalism is the new Communism.
It seemed like nobody in a position of power (I know this is not true of people here or the blogosphere in general) ever stopped and said "actually, there's not much in common between Iraq and Vietnam", or "Islamic fundamentalism is actually a pretty different animal from communism". I know that people automatically try to understand new situations by analogizing them to those of their past experience, but if history's taught us anything, it should be that one must always be wary of fighting the last war.

Furthermore, I'm rather appalled by the selfishness many of the boomer generation have shown toward their children and grandchildren. Both the Bush administration's profligate deficit spending and myopia about long-term problems like climate change, and the Democrats' adamant refusal to do anything about unsustainable growth in entitlement programs for the elderly, are both going to land on my doorstep when I'm fifty and trying to put my own kids through college.

I think recent elections have also demonstrated that that the majority of America's racists, homophobes, and bigots are old people. Those remaining of the Greatest Generation are undoubtedly the worst in this regard, but I find even people like my mother, well-meaning ex-hippie that she is, are still burdened by prejudices forged in the different world of their youth (in her case, constantly expressing the hope that during my globetrotting phase I wouldn't marry someone from a different cultural background), and resistant to the social changes that someone like Obama represents.

None of which is to put my own generation on a pedestal - I'm sure when I'm old the young people will be doing something I find myself deeply uncomfortable with. I'm going to try to remember that the world will always change, though, and accomodate myself to that fact.

bobbyp, answering publius, began: "(From what I gather, though, each demonstration was accompanied by either Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower or the Doors’ Five to One)."

Well, no. We usually hummed a few bars of "The Internationale" (nobody knew the words), Country Joe & The Fish ("One, two, three four..."), or retreated to the bar to sing old Wobblies songs.

Just be glad you haven't had to argue with actual Wobblies. (Why, in my day...) In the mid-1970s, just out of college, I met one who was living in a cabin on the hippie homestead of a classmate's parents. It was barely possible for two of us hotshot kids to argue him to a standstill. You kids are lucky that the viewpoints of us boomers, which you see as black-and-white, are as nuanced as they are.

Seriously, the generational issue you raise has plenty of deja vu. I could not emotionally understand how the Great Depression impacted my parents' generation, born in the 1910's.

Just an additional two cents here, but:

From what I've seen of debates amongst older people and debates amongst those my age and younger, I'd have to say I think younger people tend to be less confrontational, or at least, the rules of debate amongst the younger allow for less direct confrontation. This is both a strength and a weakness, but either way it's a difference.

In class discussion, or conversations with friends, I almost never hear, "You're wrong," or "That's wrong," but rather something along the lines of, "Well, that's interesting, what you said, and it's a good point, but it makes me wonder though, because...." Admittedly, I wasn't around when the Boomers (Cylons again?) were undergrads, but it sounds to me from all I hear that a greater level of confrontation was both permitted and expected in disagreements.

At any rate, I'm not sure if I'm right about the above, but I have thought that I've seen it play out in this primary. Over and over again I hear older people talk about how Obama needs to "be tough", how he needs to "hit back" and I've really been mystified. Because usually amongst people my age, when someone starts yelling insults in an arguments, the other person basically wins by default - doesn't have to do anything other than remain polite. As far as I'm concerned, all HRC does by saying nasty things about Obama is hurt herself. He doesn't need to 'fire back' in my book.

Similarly, we heard a lot about how Edwards or Clinton would "fight" for us. I don't think this rhetoric plays well for younger people. We really prefer consensus building to epic struggles for The Good Side. But maybe this is one more reason why Obama has trouble with older people, who want to hear a more conflict-oriented platform?

Ultimately I think that millenials (and younger gen-x-ers too) are really a bit like kids who grew up in a household with their parents yelling at each other all the time. (My own never did, and were wonderful, as, I'm sure were tons of Boomer parents - I just mean this in a very broad generational sense.) We don't like hearing people yell at each other. We're sick of it. Even if we agree with everything the yelling people are saying.

Anyway, just my 2 c, and of course I welcome corrections.

Regards,
Beren

Beren said From what I've seen of debates amongst older people and debates amongst those my age and younger, I'd have to say I think younger people tend to be less confrontational, or at least, the rules of debate amongst the younger allow for less direct confrontation. This is both a strength and a weakness, but either way it's a difference.

I think you're being too nice to my lousy generation. While I agree that confrontational tactics don't make for decent intellectual discourse, their lack of arguing politics is because they are, in general, completely self-absorbed and, also, their "me-first!" attitude allows them, in their mind, to transcend the threads that bind us together in society. Can you tell I'm a little bitter?

Anoymous said "Wow, DaveC. Communism was bad? America's better than North Korea or Iran? You're a brave, brave man. I hope you know the kind of controversy you're in for."

In DaveC's defense, the modern left's rush to have the state employ programs for the "public good" arouses paranoia in me too. The fact that communism was responsible for the worst conditions imaginable and genocide in the 20th century, I feel, is something to take very seriously. Do I think the modern left wants to revert to genocide for us non-revolutionary malcontents? No. But allowing the government this type of absolute authority in our economic affairs arouses genuine concern.

In DaveC's defense, the modern left's rush to have the state employ programs for the "public good" arouses paranoia in me too.

By programs for the public good, do you mean the Department of Defense?

But allowing the government this type of absolute authority in our economic affairs arouses genuine concern.

One third of the discretionary budget is DOD. A tiny tiny slice of the federal government decides how to disburse one third of the budget with minimal review. We have entire industries that would collapse over night if DOD funding changed. Does any of this raise genuine concern for you? Or are you only concerned about unspecified programs proposed by "the left"?

We need some definitions here. What they had in the CCCP was called communism, but was really more of an oligarchy (rule for the benefit of a small group of people) that used some tenants of Marxism for inspiration (nominal worker ownership of means of production), but ended up functioning more like a bunch of old robber baron style monopolies with crappy products. Have you ever run into a soviet refrigerator (makes so much noise it's most practical to turn it on when you leave) or a East German car (body panels are made out of compressed cardboard, two cycle engine that burns oil by design -2-cycles are only found in weed wackers in the US)? There are real reasons that their economy collapsed that have nothing to do with Marxism and everything to do with a fat cat bureaucratic elite that didn't want to change anything because THEY were doing just fine, thank you (sound like Wall Street anyone?)

We need some definitions here. What they had in the CCCP was called communism, but was really more of an oligarchy (rule for the benefit of a small group of people) that used some tenants of Marxism for inspiration (nominal worker ownership of means of production), but ended up functioning more like a bunch of old robber baron style monopolies with crappy products. Have you ever run into a soviet refrigerator (makes so much noise it's most practical to turn it on when you leave) or a East German car (body panels are made out of compressed cardboard, two cycle engine that burns oil by design -2-cycles are only found in weed wackers in the US)? There are real reasons that their economy collapsed that have nothing to do with Marxism and everything to do with a fat cat bureaucratic elite that didn't want to change anything because THEY were doing just fine, thank you (sound like Wall Street anyone?)

There are real reasons that their economy collapsed that have nothing to do with Marxism and everything to do with a fat cat bureaucratic elite that didn't want to change anything because THEY were doing just fine, thank you

The argument against Marx being, of course, that there is no way to change the situation he described without it morphing into an oligarchy of some sort. Human beings are hierarchical by nature, and history would suggest the best that can be done is to smoothe out the equality curve so that that the people at the top of the hierarchy don't control ALL the capital and political power.

(sound like Wall Street anyone?)

I don't know if you're suggesting this, but Wall Street isn't to blame for the current economic situation. Investors are. It's investors who ultimately fuel market speculation - in the case of the current housing collapse, the banks acted irresponsibly, but would have been forced to do so even had they preferred not to. In an overheated market, no investment banker who prevents his or her clients from making profit by investing their money overcautiously is going to keep his or her job for long. The occasional speculation-fueled collapse is inevitable in a capitalist economy.

There are some obvious cases of corporate abuse (Enron et. al.) but the current economic slowdown is not one of them.

Xeynon said By programs for the public good, do you mean the Department of Defense?

I believe that defense and law enforcement are best left in the public domain and are a legitamate function of our government. I was thinking more along the lines of huge ponzi schemes like Social Security getting the proverbial heave-ho.

"Anti-communist fearmongering"; You write that like there was nothing to fear. Really, is it that we oldsters won't let go of the past, or that you youngsters won't learn from it?

the modern left's rush to have the state employ programs for the "public good" arouses paranoia in me too

Which people on the modern left? Which proposals, specifically, are you thinking of?

Yeah yeah – I had to walk to school – uphill both ways…

“anti-communist fearmongering”

Glad to know it was just fear-mongering and there was really nothing to it at all…

Look – I have no problem with Obama being elected – I’d really like to see it. But Wright's comments were offense. Ayers is a real problem. Some of his wife’s comments have been offensive to me. Some of his comments have been offensive to me. He’s had a bad couple of weeks and his inexperience is showing. I can say these things with no racism involved. I can point these things out and still hope he gets elected.

There’s a reason why Obama is getting killed among Democrats over 65. And that’s why we aren’t going to see the end of this whole radical, commie, black nationalist business.

We haven’t got to the general yet. But yes, let’s keep in mind that we are primarily talking about Democrats at this point. ;)

Lt Nixon,

Social Security is a well-funded, secure pension program. I don't see how the continuation of that wildly popular, seventy-year-old program is something that should "arouses paranoia in" you.

Please consider the possibility that your thinking on that point in your two posts might be a bit muddled. I appreciate your willingness to discuss these things with people with different views-- and, of course, we all respect your having served this country. I'm trying to avoid all snark in this post. I hope you hang around.

Brett Bellmore-- please be aware, that, even though Communism was a threat, the Army wasn't infiltrated with Communists, according to Eisenhower, contrary to what McCarty said. Just because something is bad doens't mean there can't be fear-mongering about it.

Plus, today, resistance to Communism is slightly less important than resistance to Naziism, or lynchings. Not that those things never happened, or that they were not terrible things, but people under 50 aren't really concerned that the Red Menace is one of the top 100 things to worry about in this election.

Also, what, OCSteve, is the importance of the fact that Ayers lives in the same neighborhood as Obama? Why do you prefer to focus on that than evaluate Obama on his voting record, his speeches, and his policy proposals?

We're losing in Afghanistan, drifting along in a hated occupation in Iraq, watching our economy teeter, and trying to reduce the mammoth debts that the past 7 years have wrought. We don't have the luxury of focusing on irrelevant, personality-based politics.

People who use the term "Ponzi scheme" to refer to Social Security clearly do not understand what either of those things are. Either that or they're using shorthand deliberately designed to confuse and mislead.

Brett, yes, in terms of the likelihood of the US ever becoming a Communist country, yes, it was fearmongering. And the arms race factor is orthagonal to the Communist factor.

"Social Security is a well-funded, secure pension program."

Social security is a whole 'nother topic, but long story short, the notion that it's "well funded and secure" is economic lunacy. It's a pay as you go system with no real assets, and will be demographically infeasible... before I retire, damn it. Which is why I keep my 401-k in foreign stocks.

OCSteve: Look – I have no problem with Obama being elected – I’d really like to see it. But Wright's comments were offense. Ayers is a real problem. Some of his wife’s comments have been offensive to me. Some of his comments have been offensive to me.

And back in 2004, you swallowed the Swiftboating of John Kerry hook, line, and sinker. It's not an identical campaign this time - very different candidate, very different media tactics. But you are swallowing it down with the same wide-open throat as you did the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Just as you swallowed down the lies the "military experts" told you.

If you feel conned, OCSteve, isn't it time you started taking a long hard look at the nice, fat, juicy worms that get dangled in front of you before you swallow?

From what I've seen of debates amongst older people and debates amongst those my age and younger, I'd have to say I think younger people tend to be less confrontational, or at least, the rules of debate amongst the younger allow for less direct confrontation.

That is a really good insight. Does this ring true with you other young'uns? It seems to make sense of some things for me. Thanks for that.

It also sounds like a welcome change. If that's how you guys are gonna run things, I, for one, welcome our new GenX overlords.

Furthermore, I'm rather appalled by the selfishness many of the boomer generation have shown toward their children and grandchildren.

This is kind of an old tune, and to be honest, you're welcome to it.

Just for perspective, when the 'boomers' came of age they inherited the cold war, Vietnam, and a remarkable sequence of political assassinations. De jure racial segregation was common in much of the country, de facto in most. Women could be housewives, nurses, or schoolteachers, pick one. Rivers caught fire due to industrial pollution. I could go on.

The boomers did their best. And, of course, by 'boomers' I really mean the half-generation before me, personally. It was the folks born between, say '45 and around '53 that people mean when they say 'boomers'.

I was born in '56. I experienced pretty much all of the turmoil of that period via the TV. All of the changes my older boomer siblings brought about didn't cost me a thing. So, they have my gratitude.

The dirty fncking hippies did well. They accomplished a lot. May you do as much.

Good luck!

Thanks -

As an official boomer (b. 1947) let me remind you that although we grew up with the Red scare and hiding under our school desks to avoid nuclear fallout, we also had the '60s, Vietnam, and Watergate. I also grew up in the deep South and experienced official segregation personally. When I hear voices like that of Jeremiah Wright, I know he is speaking the truth - I lived through some of the history he talks about. The tactics the right-wing noise machine uses against Obama today are merely updated versions of the tactics Nixon used to win his seat in Congress.

The "liberals" today remind me of Nixon. For example, Hillary Clinton's much-touted health care program is pretty much the same idea that Nixon brought out in 1971 to defeat the single-payer health plan being proposed by Ted Kennedy. Today's "far left" was our center right.

We also lived through the terror of the late sixties when the 3 most powerful voices for change were gunned down, no doubt by our own government. That's why you find so many boomers in the 911 Truth movement. We expect the government to lie, we have zero trust for anyone in leadership in Washington. We know that neither HRC nor BHO will bring meaningful change, that both will continue the sellout of our nation to corporate interests, but that either is preferable to electing a lying neocon asshole.

no doubt by our own government

Whee! Best get your doubter checked out.

That's why you find so many boomers in the 911 Truth movement.

Their doubters are evidently completely kaput.

Just for perspective, when the 'boomers' came of age they inherited the cold war, Vietnam, and a remarkable sequence of political assassinations. De jure racial segregation was common in much of the country, de facto in most. Women could be housewives, nurses, or schoolteachers, pick one. Rivers caught fire due to industrial pollution. I could go on.

I didn't mean to imply that the boomers haven't done a lot of good for American society as well. I actually think you guys (I'd call anyone born pre-1960 a boomer, even if they don't meet the technical sociological definition) are a bit too hard on yourselves sometimes - in many areas of American life, your generation did just as much to make the world better as the so-called "Greatest Generation" did.

All that said, time marches on. Things that were once defining struggles (e.g. feminism, civil rights) become the subject of history books. Battles that have been won define the terrain that shapes a new generation. To me, the ideas that the government could make laws prohibiting me from marrying someone of a different race, or ban someone with dark skin from eating at the same lunch counter as I do, is patently absurd. Not in the sense that I'm not aware that such realities were once commonplace, and still are some places in the world, but in the sense that I find them so unreasonable that I can't take them seriously. Most sociological indicators suggest that my attitude is pretty normal for my generation. Hence, to see the reaction to Obama's candidacy devolve into a hand-wringing bull session/shouting match about white guilt, African-American victimization, patriotism, and the Ghost of Black Panthers Past is mystifying and deeply irritating. As is seeing something like the Iraq War debated as a proxy pissing contest about who loves America more, Vietnam vets or peacenik draft dodgers, rather than as a policy question about what's in America's interest.

And longterm issues like climate change and the longterm fiscal soundness of the welfare state matter a lot to me. More than they seem to to a lot (though by no means all) people in the boomer cohort.

LTNixon: "In DaveC's defense, the modern left's rush to have the state employ programs for the "public good" arouses paranoia in me too. The fact that communism was responsible for the worst conditions imaginable and genocide in the 20th century, I feel, is something to take very seriously. Do I think the modern left wants to revert to genocide for us non-revolutionary malcontents? No. But allowing the government this type of absolute authority in our economic affairs arouses genuine concern."

The thing is, I can't see how wanting to have government programs for the public good translates into "absolute authority". That, for instance, WIC, which provides food vouchers to "low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five." I take it this is a clear example of a government program aimed at the public good. Does the fact that we adopted it imply anything at all about granting the government "absolute authority in our economic affairs"? I can't see how.

Lots and lots of countries adopt programs for the public good. Some of them were communist. Others are countries like Sweden and Norway, which have both robust democratic traditions and a historical commitment to the kinds of programs you mention. Some are centrist. Some are conservative. Some were fascist, or monarchist. These programs are ubiquitous.

The fact that Democrats advocate having some of them does not mean that we're on the slippery slope towards Marxism, any more than it means we're on the slippery slope towards becoming more like the UK, or Taiwan, or Pinochet's Chile, or Franco's Spain, all of which also have or had government programs aimed at the public good. Absent some evidence that Democrats favor the USSR variant of these programs, as opposed to the Swedish, or UK, or Chilean version, or even, astonishingly, our own variant of them, I can't see that bringing the USSR into things illuminates anything.

Also: as others have said, it is possible for there to be fear-mongering about something that is actually dangerous. The USSR was actually dangerous, as well as being abhorrent to its own people and its neighbors. But there was also fear-mongering: McCarthy going on about all the Communists he imagined existed throughout the government, LBJ and people on the right talking about a Communist Vietnam being a threat to our national security, etc., etc.

What makes it fear-mongering is that it involves citing dangers that do not exist (even if others do), and inflaming fears beyond reason. -- It would be slightly melodramatic to call those people who advertise antibacterial soaps by citing the dangers of bacteria on your countertops "fear-mongers", but they are people who are doing the sort of thing I'm talking about. Bacteria are, in fact, dangerous. But people who take basic hygiene seriously are not in danger from their countertops, and in fact the use of these soaps is not just unnecessary but counterproductive, since they help create resistant bacteria.

I can't speak for publius, but I think a fair amount of anti-Communism, as actually found in the US in the 60s and 70s, was like this, only writ very, very large.

Xeynon: To me, the ideas that the government could make laws prohibiting me from marrying someone of a different race, or ban someone with dark skin from eating at the same lunch counter as I do, is patently absurd. Not in the sense that I'm not aware that such realities were once commonplace, and still are some places in the world, but in the sense that I find them so unreasonable that I can't take them seriously.

The same kind of laws, passed by the same kind of people, are still being taken seriously in the US today, and are a commonplace reality for people in a majority of the states in America today. The federal government, and many state governments, has passed a law prohibiting you from marrying someone of the same gender. The laws that allow states to refuse to recognize a valid marriage carried out in another state of the Union, or that allows the State of Massachusetts to be difficult about allowing couples to marry who live in states where same-sex marriage is not legal, are the same laws written to prevent "interracial" couples from marrying.

It's unreasonable, yes: but if you are lesbian or gay in the US, you are compelled to take such unreasonable legislation seriously, along with the unreasonable legislators who enforce it.

Don’t forget, the North/South divide is still with us after a hundred-years plus. The 60’s were not like the Civil War; however they both had huge swaths of white folks feeling like they were stabbed in the back. And having a hard time getting over it.

anon: Also, what, OCSteve, is the importance of the fact that Ayers lives in the same neighborhood as Obama? Why do you prefer to focus on that than evaluate Obama on his voting record, his speeches, and his policy proposals?

I’m not sure why you would think I’m “focused” on it. You could search the archives here or the entire Internet for that matter and see that this is the very first time I’ve ever mentioned Ayers. But it’s much more than living in the same neighborhood. And it’s much more than Ayers doing some minor bad stuff back in the day when the big O was only 8. Ayers was part of a group that set off bombs. We call that terrorism. The bomb that killed 3 of those a-holes was meant for a dance at Ft. Dix. They killed police officers. The only reason he is walking around a free man is because of a government screw-up - not because he is innocent, and he is completely unrepentant about his actions.

Obama served on a foundation board with him, took contributions from him, and even held an event at the guy’s house. And when asked about it he did not even really try to distance himself from the guy, instead equating the relationship to his relationship with a Senator whom he has policy disagreements with. The best I can say about that is it is very poor judgment. That doesn’t mean it would keep me from voting for him – it means that I question his judgment on this particular relationship.

Jes – I’m going to have to pass on responding to your comment as it would likely invoke the wrath of the kitty.

The welfare state and leftist policies were OK for the average American before the Civil Rights movements. The War on Poverty was only given a decade to be a success...other white Protestant nations (Nordic/Scandinavian, Canada, Australia, Germany, the UK) gave their programs much longer to kick it and help society.

Shorter me – as I’ve seen it stated somewhere (I forget exactly where) substitute McCain for Obama and Eric Rudolf for Ayers and then tell me it doesn’t matter.

I, for one, welcome our new GenX overlords.

Classic.

We will slack you all to death.

"Just be glad you haven't had to argue with actual Wobblies."

Why would I argue with them? I still agree with a lot of what they stood for!

The same kind of laws, passed by the same kind of people, are still being taken seriously in the US today, and are a commonplace reality for people in a majority of the states in America today. [bunch of correct statements about gay rights]

None of what you said is wrong, Jes, but you entirely missed Xeynon's point, which aligns pretty well with my views. It's not that racism and homophobia don't share extremely similar underlying patterns of thinking and disenfranchisement, and aren't just as worthy of defeat. It's that the dog whistle politics that are specifically racist/red scare in nature and specifically so in ways that set off alarm bells in people of certain generations, largely produce puzzlement and eye-rolling from those who did not grow up in that era.

"Shorter me – as I’ve seen it stated somewhere (I forget exactly where) substitute McCain for Obama and Eric Rudolf for Ayers and then tell me it doesn’t matter."

One could come up with many such associations of public conservatives and 'way out there' racists, fascists,...etc., etc.

But they do not get much, if any, press. So I guess no, it doesn't matter.

OCSteve: Jes – I’m going to have to pass on responding to your comment as it would likely invoke the wrath of the kitty.

I do not believe the kitty will get mad at you for acknowledging that you've been gullible in the past and you're going to try to quit: as for example, not getting so offended about a black man getting really, really angry because the US isn't living up to the ideals it claims. (Jeremiah Wright was a Marine: but I guess, as with John Kerry, the words "thank you for your service" no longer apply when the serviceman is - or is supporting - a Democrat for President.)

The same kind of laws, passed by the same kind of people, are still being taken seriously in the US today, and are a commonplace reality for people in a majority of the states in America today.

I agree; I'm a supporter of marriage rights for same-sex couples. I don't think it's precisely analogous, however. Race is, on a physiological level, a pretty much meaningless concept - it's essentially an artificial social construct based on a few related genetic characterististics with very little scientific meaning. What Judith Butler thinks aside, that's not true of gender. For better or worse, opening marriage up to same sex couples is a fundamental definitional change in the basic legal conception of marriage as it's been defined in American legal thought since the beginning. As such, I think the argument against it, while still wrong both morally and practically in my view, has a tad more intellectual credibility.

It's unreasonable, yes: but if you are lesbian or gay in the US, you are compelled to take such unreasonable legislation seriously, along with the unreasonable legislators who enforce it.

Uh, with a handful of exceptions, this is true if you're gay or lesbian ANYWHERE. Even the vast majority of European countries don't recognize civil marriages between gay couples. Vermont passed a civil unions law a full five years before Britain did. So while the U.S. is not where I want it to be on this issue, it's hardly unique in this regard.

Catsy: It's that the dog whistle politics that are specifically racist/red scare in nature and specifically so in ways that set off alarm bells in people of certain generations, largely produce puzzlement and eye-rolling from those who did not grow up in that era.

Yes: and the racist attacks on Barack Obama have had to be much more subtle than the misogynist attacks on Hillary Clinton. But they still work - witness the number of perfectly decent white people who are getting really, really offended at Jeremiah Wright: how dare a black man be that angry? And how dare Obama presume to value that angry black man? Nothing brings out the latent racism so much as the discovery that those people with the wrong skin color whom you've been so very nice to are not quiet and gratefully appreciative of your niceness. Being openly angry is one of those things that people in minorities are not supposed to do.

My point was that dog whistle politics still work, and still work the same way - it's just gay marriage and "pro-life" dog whistles bring voters to heel.

Xeynon: I don't care if Obama smoked pot or what Hillary said about stay-at-home moms or whether McCain's Vietnam service makes him more patriotic than his opponents, because frankly there are much, much more important issues facing our country than hashing out dorm room spats from the '60's.

Well said. I'll drink to that.

But I think it goes further: it's not just the boomers who are continually refighting Vietnam (or the 60s in general), I think we of GenX/Y/Whatever often adopt that frame and import the old conflict into the new paradigms. [This is particularly true, IMO, on the neoconservative/pro-war side.] We're sort of glorifying the past, only we're not regarding the 60s with glory so much as we are as archetypal. Maybe it's because the battle lines were so clearly drawn -- squares v. hippies; Vietnam supporters v. Vietnam opponents; etc. -- that it gives a nostalgia-fuelled sense of moral clarity that is otherwise lacking in this messy post-modern age.

Or maybe I'm just full of crap. Wouldn't be the first time.

Beren: In class discussion, or conversations with friends, I almost never hear, "You're wrong," or "That's wrong," but rather something along the lines of, "Well, that's interesting, what you said, and it's a good point, but it makes me wonder though, because...."

That's true for particular demographics but it's by no means universal. I know plenty of younguns who'll cut you dead if you say something stupid, and I know plenty of older folks who will be exceedingly tactful in their dissent. The tolerance for those responses seems equally dispersed. Consider the obvious example, that Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly remain popular -- even with the younger generation, bless their tiny, tiny withered hearts -- despite their spittle-flecked jeremiads.

There's certainly something in what you say, mind, but I think the argument needs to be made a lot more precisely before I can agree with it.

Jes: I do not believe the kitty will get mad at you for acknowledging that you've been gullible in the past and you're going to try to quit:

I do, however, believe that the kitty will get mad when OCSteve reaches through the screen and strangles you for being a condescending prat. Not that I want to put words in his mouth or anything (:

OCSteve: On Ayers, I don't see it. As background to this, I think that Ayers was a terrorist, and have precisely no sympathy for him at all.

That said: Serving on a board with someone is not a big deal, I think: my impression is that the statement you make is that the organization whose board it is is one you feel comfortable with, not that the rest of the board members are. Certainly, the one time I ever sat on a board, I had no idea (beyond the rather cursory biographical blurbs we got) who my fellow board members were, and frankly, if none of them had any past associations that would make me uncomfortable, I would be very much surprised.

(I mean: it's a board I ended up quitting rather quietly, but on a matter of principle. (Quietly meaning: I did make my reasons known, but tried to be tactful rather than make a Big Stink. I did this mostly because I thought it would be more effective, and I believe my quitting might have had an effect.) Since I quit on principle, it would surprise me if not a single one of the individuals involved had associations implicating that same principle. But I didn't know any of this when I joined.)

Taking contributions: again, I think it's hard to hold people responsible for everyone who decides to contribute to them. I mean, I don't believe that the various political candidates I've contributed to have gone through any actual process that leads them to think: yep, we're comfortable taking hilzoy's money. I expect that if someone sat down with the contribution list of any candidate major enough to have gotten a lot of contributions, that person would probably find someone pretty objectionable.

The party: I'd need to know a lot more about how it was set up, what Obama knew, etc. But having this happen once in his life does not strike me as obviously damning. About what Obama knew: Ayers is not an uncommon name, and iirc being in the Weathermen is not obviously evidence of much more than terminal stupidity: without doing all the research I'd need to, I seem to recall that it had a bone-headed yet aboveboard phase, when it took over SDS, and only later turned into the underground bombers. It was violent throughout, but there is, at least to me, a difference between saying something like "it will be necessary to resist police brutality by violence", or even smashing a window, and setting bombs.

(It's not, of course, the difference between OK and not OK.)

The only reason I know the names of some of the Weather Underground leadership is because I watched the 2002 documentary about them. I'm a couple of years older than Obama, I think, and was probably more political than he was during the events in question, which is why I take me sense of what I would have known, and whether I would have recognized Ayers to be significant: I wouldn't have, and I would have been more likely to than Obama.

The Weathermen registered, for me, around 1970 and 1971 (when I was 11 and 12, and Obama would have been 9 and 10 and probably in Indonesia), but I pretty much forgot about them thereafter, and certainly didn't know their names. The relevance of this is: I wouldn't have known that Ayers was in their leadership, or that he had been one of the underground bombers as opposed to a hanger-on or a minor footsoldier who quit after the Days of Rage, or something, without the 2002 movie.

Which means that if he had offered to host a party in the mid-90s, I would probably not have figured out who he was. It might have been a good idea to check, but I hate expecting politicians to be androids like that.

(Naturally, I would take a completely different view of all this if I thought there was any reason at all to think that Obama was secretly sympathetic to the Weather Underground. But, um, I don't.)

That is a really good insight. Does this ring true with you other young'uns?

Missed this question earlier, but to give you my perspective:

My mom is an ex-hippie and solid liberal on most issues. My dad is a dyed-in-the-wool, Rush-Limbaugh listening conservative. Political disagreements having been a fairly large factor in their divorce, I'm not too keen on red-faced shouting matches about politics myself - I get my political debate fix almost entirely on the internet.

Even leaving that aside, though, I do think that growing up as basically a centrist between two ends of the spectrum and coming to understand both worldviews as well-meaning, but based on very different assumptions about people and society, has led me to try to prefer a less confrontational style of political discourse in my day-to-day life. I can't say that that's representative, though.

Anarch owes me a keyboard.

Jes, I'm not sure where you think I'm disagreeing with you. I don't think any of what you said is in conflict with anything I said: it can be simultaneously true that dog-whistle politics both produce eye-rolling from my generation and are also capable of hurting him in the general.

And Anarch: the kitty was annoyed, and particularly hoped that Jes would consider that this:

"Jeremiah Wright was a Marine: but I guess, as with John Kerry, the words "thank you for your service" no longer apply when the serviceman is - or is supporting - a Democrat for President."

might easily be taken, by OCSteve or anyone else, as being about his attitudes towards vets, not about e.g. the attitudes of other people who talk about Wright. And if I were OCSteve and took it that way, I'd be angry. As the hypothetical "me-as-OCSteve" is not the actual OCSteve, I have no idea whether it annoyed him, but the kitty hopes that you will avoid giving the impression of telling people who are vets how they feel about other vets, especially when they are vets who have more than earned a presumption of fair-mindedness and goodwill.

Hertzeberg on Ayers. He uses the word "McCarthyism." I find that entirely accurate.

Also: John McCain now knows, and probably has known for a while, that George W. Bush & his cabinet authorized waterboarding. McCain has said that waterboarding is torture, and a felony. This involves actual grotesque recent violence, not juvenile plans to engage in violence decades ago. McCain has certainly had more of a relationship with Bush than Obama has with Ayers. Why is this taken for granted & not worth mentioning by the press, but Obama's being on a board with Ayers & going to a party at his house & receiving a donation from him which he probably didn't even know about a "serious problem"? Because the press is engaged in McCarthy-level attacks on Obama's patriotism, that's why.

I was at a panel discussion with Dohrn in 2004, by the way. I had a vague idea that she had been in the Weather Underground & a fugitive at some point & her tenure at Northwestern had been controversial; I assumed that she had not been involved in trying to murder anyone (I think this is accurate, not sure) & had repented & renounced violence in so forth; apparently they are not so repentant but I did not fully vet her. So I am dangerously sympathetic to the Weathermen, you see; it's lucky I don't post here anymore or you would all be tainted too.

Not 2004, 2006.

And longterm issues like climate change and the longterm fiscal soundness of the welfare state matter a lot to me.

Yes, those are going to be two of the big nuts for your generation to crack. They will be hard, I wish you luck.

I'd add one more, which is figuring out where and how the US will fit in a really multi-polar world.

Boomers grew up with the US (good guys) and the USSR (bad guys). You guys will be living in something like US, EU, Russia, China, India, the middle east, central and southeast Asia, and maybe even Africa at some point, all contending as independent players for a place at the table, and with no real 'good guys' or 'bad guys' to point at.

Perhaps your non-confrontational, consensus building skills will be put to good use.

I really do wish you luck with it, because it will be a hard needle to thread.

Thanks -

What they had in the CCCP was called communism, but was really more of an oligarchy (rule for the benefit of a small group of people) that used some tenants of Marxism for inspiration (nominal worker ownership of means of production), but ended up functioning more like a bunch of old robber baron style monopolies with crappy products.

Oh so very true. But that makes it even more despicable how the boomers marched through the streets shouting "Ho Ho Ho Chi Min", put big Mao posters on their walls and told Eastern European dissidents: "that's terrible what happened to you, but now sit quietly in the corner and write your memoirs while we figure out how to put a happy face on socialism." And I could go on and on, and yes I'm bitter and generalizing unfairly, sorry, but it's time for these people to stfu.

Anarch: "That's true for particular demographics but it's by no means universal. I know plenty of younguns who'll cut you dead if you say something stupid, and I know plenty of older folks who will be exceedingly tactful in their dissent."

Thanks for your post, Anarch, and for inviting me to be more precise. I'm not by any means speaking universally, i.e. I'm not saying that the difference I claim to observe will be applicable to any particular two people, one older, one younger, that we might randomly select. Nor am I really talking about personal tact, exactly. A better way to put it might be that the rules of discourse amongst the younger often tend to have stricter (implicit) rules against polarizing or confrontational speech. This doesn't necessarily mean that a given young speaker is actually going to be less adversarial in arguing a point - just that if (s)he is confrontational, (s)he is more likely to lose the audience's sympathy and thus the argument, if the audience is also made up mostly of younger people.

So this isn't really a question of the personal goodwill of the speaker, but rather of the range of tactics available to a speaker trying to win an argument, either in front of an auditorium of thousands, or in a room of five. Righteous anger won't help you out as much in front of a younger audience, as it will in front of an older audience, or so it seems to me. And it's more likely to harm you, because there are fewer situations in which it's approved of (though, obviously, if you're arguing against someone who's advocating genocide or something, you're allowed to get angry).

I've seen people in an undergraduate context win an argument simply by being quiet and polite while their opponent showered them and their positions with a torrent of aggressive and (partly) uncalled-for attacks. They didn't need to hit back, and in fact it wouldn't have helped them to win the argument if they had hit back. To my 29-yr-old eyes, HRC's attacks upon BHO have looked like more of the same dynamic. Thus, I've been mystified to hear older pundits of all political stripes (and my father, a devoted Obama supporter) all say that Obama "has to hit back hard". Of course, he does have to explain himself on issues where there might be misunderstanding. But as for attacking Hillary in return, I think that by the rules of discourse amongst the younger generations, 'hitting back' is the last thing he needs to do.

Thanks again for pointing out my imprecision. Further disagreements/comments would be most welcome.

novakant: I have very little interest in defending the excesses of the late 1960s. But fwiw: at the time, no one had any idea what was actually going on in the PRC, other than very vague ideas about barefoot doctors, since practically no journalists were allowed in at all. Certainly what the cultural revolution actually meant was completely unknown.

This absolutely means that people who put up Mao posters were taking a rather large and stupid gamble, being pretty ignorant of what Chinese communism actually meant on the ground. But it does not mean that they approved of the actual PRC of the time, as we now know it.

I very much appreciate someotherdude's comments about the Civil War, because they bring into focus a distinctive characteristic about American society and politics: the pretense that history is over, that things that are happening are affected only by immediate circumstances.

Xeynon, your characterization of society-wide reactions to social change as "dorm-room spats" is inaccurate as well as offensive. As for Meditative Zebra's view that all these boring disputes will disappear when my generation finally dies: they won't.

The struggle between right and left on economic issues, the advance and retreat of legal and social equality and acceptance, the domestic and world consequence of the United States' imperial foreign policy... these have gone one for at least the last 150 years. They're not the particular obsessions of my generation, though they did converge in an especially intense way during our formative years.

The convergence was so intense for the same reason that the echoes of that particular convergence are louder than under-40 Americans would probably prefer: our g-g-generation is just so damned huge.

And, I don't regret to inform you, we aren't going to hurry up and die. Please refrain from publicly wishing that we would, because it makes it hard to hear anything else you're saying.

@novakant: Yes, you're clearly bitter, and generalizng wildly. Exactly which people should stfu?

"And I could go on and on, and yes I'm bitter and generalizing unfairly, sorry, but it's time for these people to stfu."

That was a self-refuting comment.

Anyway, people who did take pro-communist positions in the 60's can be found all over the political map now. And people who are spectacularly wrong on issue A are often spectacularly right on issue B. People change their positions and the same person who might look prescient at one time can look like a fool on a different issue.

It's my understanding that Vaclav Havel was for the Iraq invasion. So was Ramos-Horta (Nobel Peace Prize winner from East Timor). So I suppose I should never listen to them on anything.

And what Nell said, regarding the 150 year comment and everything else. To a lot of us (I'm a tail-end boomer, too young to have done anything in the 60's), Vietnam, Iraq, the Philippines, and US policy in numerous other places at many different times are all examples of American imperialism. I suspect a fair number of people will continue to see it that way after all the boomers die.

Where's my cane?!! hey what?? hey you Kids.. First, If you'd guys VOTE once and awhile we might take you more seriously. Second, In 10 years when I'm 62 our generation will be the largest over 60 generation the US has ever seen. We will overtake the under 30 class. And we vote! Suck on that for awhile..huh! what???

It's fair to generalize about generations with regard to the formative experiences they have in common ("greatest generation" experienced the Depression and then WWII, boomers experienced the civil rights era, Vietnam and Watergate). It is unfair to ascribe a common political outlook or opinion on some issue to that group. Yes, I am a "Boomer" -- born in 1948. No I didn't put Mao or Che posters on my walls. Various people I knew who did likely did so for some pretty different reasons. Some liked to be iconoclastic -- the posters were almost a fashion statement to them. Some were so repelled by the racism and injustice they learned about for the first time in college that they spent a lot of time reading books like Franz Fanon's "Wretched of the Earth" and other anti-colonialist, anti-racist writings. They felt so deceived by their childhood education that didn't address truthfully the bad as well as the good that was America that they rebounded in the opposite direction: instead of unalloyed boosterism of America, they became unalloyed critics.

But many "Boomers" from less privileged backgrounds than mine had to serve in Vietnam, or saw their brothers or lovers have to serve. Though some reacted by becoming anti-war, many became very angry at war protesters as denying the patriotism and service of the men who were drafted or otherwise served in that war. Others, like Rev. Wright, saw the deep contradictions between American jingoism that sent him to war yet denied him equality at home.

I'd like to give many boomers who underwent experiences like mine credit for seeing to it that the curricula of public schools improved in telling a less iconic and more nuanced story about America. I also think many Boomer parents have helped their children be less racially conscious than their parents were.

But our experiences still shape how we see the world, but yielding very different expectations and assumptions. Please don't make the kind of blanket statements that I've seen earlier in this thread. While those may have been thoughtless or for comic effect, it isn't helpful.

Publius,
You might be interested in this similar piece from "The Root". I blogged about your piece and that one this morning--it's dealing with some of the same issues you mentioned here.

hilzoy: If Obama had given a response anything close to yours I would have been happy with it. ;) I just would like to see him distance himself more from those two. HRC can’t really use this given that her husband pardoned two of the others, but Republicans will have a field day with this.

if I were OCSteve and took it that way, I'd be angry

Nah. Jes and I have done the Swift Boat Vets Tango more than once so I understood where she was coming from.

And Jes, I’ll thank McCain for his service but I strongly disagree with some of his positions and I don’t think he should be CiC. I’ll thank Wright for his service but I still think some of his remarks are repulsive. I’ll thank Kerry for his service but I still think he is a doody-head. Having served doesn’t make one immune from criticism. I mean, Charles Whitman was a marine…

OCSteve: ...but I still think he is a doody-head.

I've never seen it put so succinctly. Thanks for the laugh of the day. (So far. ;)

I’ll thank Kerry for his service but I still think he is a doody-head.

I remember reading a British commentator during the 2004 election who said that, to him, Kerry "sounded like a haunted tree".

I like Kerry well enough, and he certainly got my vote last time around, but ever since reading that I haven't been able to listen to him speak without breaking up in laughter.

Thanks -

OCSteve: Nah. Jes and I have done the Swift Boat Vets Tango more than once so I understood where she was coming from.

That's probably more gracious than I deserve... also, I am now wondering what the hell the Swift Boats Tango looks like. ;-)

And Jes, I’ll thank McCain for his service but I strongly disagree with some of his positions and I don’t think he should be CiC. I’ll thank Wright for his service but I still think some of his remarks are repulsive. I’ll thank Kerry for his service but I still think he is a doody-head. Having served doesn’t make one immune from criticism.

Heh.

but I still think some of his remarks are repulsive.

Which ones?

Wait...Kerry was in the armed services? How come no one told me?

OCSteve: the thing is, I don't think they're close enough that distancing is possible.

I read somewhere that John Kerry looked like an ent, which was so accurate that I never did manage to get it out of my head.

I guess not ignore, but doesn't it mean we have to you know, marginalize them?

OCSteve: I don't think you've yet realized that the "distancing himself" thing is, in fact, the entire game.

The whole POINT of the game is to make Obama distance himself. Because what thay says to the public is "Obama was once close to someone who was bad. Even Obama admits he's bad. Obama hangs out with bad people."

It's an old trick. The point isn't to prove that, say, Obama kicks dogs. The point is to make him deny it. To get the idea out there. To let it settle into the hindbrain of voters and let it fester.

That you keep falling for that game is probably Jes's peeve.

The rest of us are just finding the game really old, and frankly -- really stupid.

Wright's festering in your brain -- I've read the sermon in question, seen the whole thing in context. I don't find it terribly offensive at all -- I can certainly see where he's coming from. Why do YOU find it offensive?

What about Ayers? Why should Obama denounce a man whose crime (supposed or not -- I don't remember if he was ever tried) happened when Obama was 10, and whom he obviously knows only professionally -- and distantly at that?

I read somewhere that John Kerry looked like an ent, which was so accurate that I never did manage to get it out of my head.

Talked like one too.

Certainly what the cultural revolution actually meant was completely unknown.

I take your word for it, hilzoy, but I still wonder: what in the world were they thinking when they quoted from Mao's Little Red Book?

Exactly which people should stfu?

I thought it was clear within the context of the discussion, but to remove the possible misunderstanding that I was bashing all boomers:

Those who, whatever their current guise, are still fighting the battles of that time or draw their main inspiration from that time. This also includes those on the right, and those who have simply switched sides (the spectacular volte face is quite popular among the people I'm talking about).

Why?

Because it's ideological, it's counterproductive, won't solve our current problems, which are incredibly pressing, and is essentially a narcissist exercise. It's also hugely annoying.

People change their positions and the same person who might look prescient at one time can look like a fool on a different issue. (...) So I suppose I should never listen to them on anything.

It depends on what you mean by "listen to them" (and I'm making no presumptions here).
If it means "noting their opinion" - sure, why not. But if it means "giving special weight to their opinion" or even "following their lead" because they are famous politicians or public intellectuals, I think you would be on the wrong track:

Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-imposed immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one's understanding without guidance from another.

That doesn't mean one should figure it out all alone sitting in a dark room chewing pencils, but it does mean that putting faith in people's positions because of their status as opinion leaders is fundamentally wrong - and you cannot deny that a lot of that was going on in the period we are talking about.

novakant: whatever they quoted from the Little Red Book, they are responsible for. I just don't think they're responsible for knowing about what the PRC was actually like at the time. It was utterly closed until sometime around Nixon's trip.

Fwiw, I have very little brief for significant chunks of the far left in the late 60s. (E.g., for SDS.) (Needless to say, I don't have much use for most late 60s conservatives either.) It's just that part of the reason for that is that I think they were very careless about what they thought and did, and I have no wish to emulate them.

Brett: Really, is it that we oldsters won't let go of the past, or that you youngsters won't learn from it?

I can't believe it, I actually agree with Brett on something!

anon: Social Security is a well-funded, secure pension program.

Geez, you don't want to get us going again on the trust fund, do you? I find myself agreeing with Brett's 7:08AM. Twice in one post!

As a full-fledged baby boomer(b. 1946), my recollection of the 50's was the tremendous respect we had (and were taught) for the government, especially federal, and the confidence we had in science and technology. As time passed we soon discovered our trust in both had been badly misplaced. You can imagine the anger we felt in the 60's when we found out that our own government was lying through its teeth - especially about Vietnam. And one reason some of us seem to be so angry still is that we see it happening again, with a younger generation that just doesn't seem to care (present readership excepted, of course).

What I can't explain is why so many of my generation would support HRC over BO. It's like we haven't learned that divisiveness won't get us anywhere. But then, I never voted for her husband either, and am quite disappointed with the boomer presidents we've had so far.

"t depends on what you mean by "listen to them" (and I'm making no presumptions here).
If it means "noting their opinion" - sure, why not. But if it means "giving special weight to their opinion" or even "following their lead" because they are famous politicians or public intellectuals, I think you would be on the wrong track:"

Well, that's good advice, but it should be applied to everyone, and not just boomers or boomer politicians or intellectuals or even people who have had spectacularly wrong opinions on some important issues. I don't give special weight to Nelson Mandela's opinion on Castro (they're pals), though I have more respect for Nelson Mandela than any politician anywhere. I don't give special weight to Vaclav Havel's opinions on Iraq or the US (he flatters us too much), though he was, arguably, the Nelson Mandela of Eastern Europe. I haven't looked up their birthdates--are they boomers?

I respect hilzoy (though often disagreeing with her on some points), but she might go all goofy on us sometime. I'm continually on the lookout for that. (She's a boomer, I think.)

Obama served on a foundation board with him, took contributions from him, and even held an event at the guy’s house.

I think the "event" was his initial fund raiser and introduction to the local liberal elite
when he first ran for state office. Some auspicious beginning!

Which means that if he had offered to host a party in the mid-90s, I would probably not have figured out who he was.

But if it was your first fund raiser as you ran for political office?

I don't have my Obama time line in front of me, but Ayers was not exactly an unknown quantity to Obama. Michelle Obama put him on a panel with Obama. I think the problem is that Ayers is so well accepted in the liberal confines of Hyde Park that perhaps it didn't seem all that bad of an association at the time.

(Naturally, I would take a completely different view of all this if I thought there was any reason at all to think that Obama was secretly sympathetic to the Weather Underground. But, um, I don't.

What about his debate answer? Sure he calls Ayer's acts despicable, but he relegates them to history even when Ayers (as reported on 9/11 no less) that they didn't "do enough."

Ayers is anything but repentant for blowing up buildings and trying to blow up people. The U.S. is still a terrorist organization. Obama's "I was eight and that was 40 years ago" is a terrible response to his association with Ayers. He served with him on boards after 9/11.

but ended up functioning more like a bunch of old robber baron style monopolies with crappy products.

I really hope this is not how the left now looks at the USSR? Wow.

This absolutely means that people who put up Mao posters were taking a rather large and stupid gamble, being pretty ignorant of what Chinese communism actually meant on the ground. But it does not mean that they approved of the actual PRC of the time, as we now know it.

Huh? This is a defense of communist sympathizers? That they didn't know? That we really didn't know the details? That Mao and Stalin didn't get along and therefore Maoist China was somehow completely different?

The whole POINT of the game is to make Obama distance himself. Because what thay says to the public is "Obama was once close to someone who was bad. Even Obama admits he's bad. Obama hangs out with bad people."

Plus even if he does "distance himself" (whatever that means) it doesen't even end the matter. Nope he will be made to denounce again and again - remember "Oh he denounced Farahkann but he didn't reject him!!!"

Plus all distancing and denouncing is subject to review by the GOPniks to determine if the distancing was sufficient to set aside the very grave concerns of republicians. Hint - it usually isn't.

sorry about the italics.

bc: About the Mao posters: I think people absolutely knew about the USSR, the contents of Mao's red book, etc. I was making the very limited point, of no great importance, that there were a few things they did not know. Like the state of the PRC, what the Cultural Revolution actually was, and so on.

I'm not really trying to excuse anyone. Just to make an observation about the times. I recall when that stuff started to come out. People I knew -- and not Mao sympathizers; I'm thinking in particular of two people who were experts on various aspects of China, way more informed than your average student -- were genuinely surprised.

"She's a boomer, I think"

I always forget whether I am or not, technically. (Born 1959.) But I think of myself as being in the generation that came next. -- I mean, I think of Boomers as having actually had the opportunity to go to Woodstock. I had only recently turned ten.

for "people absolutely knew", please substitute "people absolutely should have known". Obviously, I have no idea what any actual person who put up all those posters actually knew about the USSR.

Hilzoy:

Technically, you're a boomer, even if you're not what most people think of when they think of boomers. Boomers were born 1946-1964. That seems like too broad a range to me, but that's the official definition.

Jes: Which ones?
Ah, we’ll bore everyone here. You know what I’ll say; I know what you’ll say…


hilzoy: the thing is, I don't think they're close enough that distancing is possible.

I could be wrong (shocking I know) but wasn’t it his campaign manager who confirmed they were friends? Just sayin’ – if there is a link or a bridge there it needs to be blown up now…

I read somewhere that John Kerry looked like an ent, which was so accurate that I never did manage to get it out of my head.

I think I recall that but it is fun to be reminded. When I combine that with russell’s “sounded like a haunted tree" it becomes “sounded like a haunted ent" and it cracks me up…


Morat20: Wright's festering in your brain -- I've read the sermon in question, seen the whole thing in context. I don't find it terribly offensive at all -- I can certainly see where he's coming from. Why do YOU find it offensive?

Actually I don’t give him any thought at all beyond when these conversations come up. I’ve watched it in context too – I find it offensive. That’s me.

Why should Obama denounce a man whose crime (supposed or not -- I don't remember if he was ever tried) happened when Obama was 10, and whom he obviously knows only professionally -- and distantly at that?

Ayers was never tried because the FBI spied illegally on them, never brought to trial due to prosecutorial misconduct. But he is pretty open about what he did and pretty proud of it to this day. There really is no question about his guilt. He admits it and is proud of what he did.

Did they cross paths a few times or are they closer is the question. Ayers is well known in Chicago politics. He helped launch Obama’s political career. He participated in a couple of forums with Obama at Michelle’s invitation. All that is meaningless – the GOP will kill him with this if he doesn’t literally nuke any bridges ASAP.

Xeynon, your characterization of society-wide reactions to social change as "dorm-room spats" is inaccurate as well as offensive. As for Meditative Zebra's view that all these boring disputes will disappear when my generation finally dies: they won't.

I didn't say that society-wide reactions to social changes were dorm-room spats. I said that continuing to fling insults about who did or didn't serve in Vietnam, go to Woodstock, burn their bra, etc. were. I don't see any particular relevance whatsoever to our current situation in these disputes (as opposed to, say, those that were taking part in the roaring 20's), other than that there are a lot more people who experienced them are still alive today.

The struggle between right and left on economic issues, the advance and retreat of legal and social equality and acceptance, the domestic and world consequence of the United States' imperial foreign policy... these have gone one for at least the last 150 years.

The struggle between right and left has been continually redefined as the economy has changed from an agrarian one to an industrial one to an information-based one. Economic policy of the 1930's, or even the 1960's, is not particularly relevant today. Social equality and acceptance are important, yes, but I don't think there has ever been a "retreat" on these issues - it's been one slow but steady march forward. The consequences of our foreign policy are important, yes, but again, the world we live in today and the problems we face are different. E.g., Iraq is not Vietnam, and to draw facile parallels between the two vastly oversimplifies the issues in a way that is not at all helpful.

And, I don't regret to inform you, we aren't going to hurry up and die. Please refrain from publicly wishing that we would, because it makes it hard to hear anything else you're saying.

I for one didn't say this (in fact I said precisely the opposite).

And what Nell said, regarding the 150 year comment and everything else. To a lot of us (I'm a tail-end boomer, too young to have done anything in the 60's), Vietnam, Iraq, the Philippines, and US policy in numerous other places at many different times are all examples of American imperialism. I suspect a fair number of people will continue to see it that way after all the boomers die.

Great. What does that really tell us, though? It's like saying they were all examples of wars or examples of disputes between the U.S. and foreign countries. As a label, it's so broad that it has little prescriptive value when it comes to policymaking. Our misadventure in the Philippines was undertaken at a very different time, when western attitudes toward the developing world were very different, for very different motives, using very different tactics. As offensive as many people find Bush today, it would be unthinkable for him to say that foreign invasions are justified because the white race is the vanguard of civilization and has a duty to conquer and civilize brown people, but that was a common view at the time of the Philippine War.

My point is that history is instructive, but only to a point. Saying that historical parallels have their limitations is not the same as ignoring history - and it seems to me many old people (not just boomers, nor by any means all boomers) see today's world as more analogous to that of their own formative experiences than it actually is.

Actually I don’t give him any thought at all beyond when these conversations come up. I’ve watched it in context too – I find it offensive. That’s me.

We've probably been through this before, but just to reiterate:

1. there is no state religion

2. because of (1), state invocations of God (see coinage, "God Bless America", presidential speeches, pledge of allegiance, etc) necessarily refer to MY God

3. you don't get to invoke MY God and demand his blessings without giving me the right to say "no, God does not bless America because of X, Y, and Z"

Now, we could have avoided this problem if the state kept its filthy snout out of my religion and if it consistently refused to misappropriate things it had no business dealing with. But thanks to theocratic republicans, it didn't. The bottom line: you don't get to tell me what my religion is or how it works or how it views the state. Telling me what my God will or will not damn is wrong.

Maybe people who have been following this issue, or who have time to follow all the links in comment threads, have seen this, but it seems that maybe OCSteve hasn't, and I certainly hadn't:

(from Wikipedia, FWIW:)

Ayers wrote a Letter to the Editor of the New York Times on September 15 [4 days after his memoir was published], describing the interview as: "This is not a question of being misunderstood or 'taken out of context', but of deliberate distortion." He has explained multiple times that by "no regrets" he meant that he didn't regret his efforts to oppose the Vietnam War, and that "we didn't do enough" meant that efforts to stop the war were obviously inadequate as it dragged on for a decade; the two statements were not intended to elide into a wish they had set more bombs.

For me, this reinforces what Morat20 wrote at 5:04. It appears not to be true that Ayers said he wished he had set off more bombs; in fact he appears to have explicitly and repeatedly "distanced himself" from that allegation.

If wishing he had set off more bombs is the heinous offense from which Obama is supposed to distance himself...then what? Does he have to distance himself from every imaginary friend his opponents invent for him? And by saying imaginary friend I'm not addressing the question of how close he is to Ayers (or not), but the fact that the Ayers you want him to distance himself from appears to be a figment.....

that's good advice, but it should be applied to everyone

Certainly, it's supposed to be universal, it's Kant ;). And maybe it's even in "trite but true" territory for people like us, but one wishes it was more commonly accepted.

The point as it relates to '68 was, that paradoxically or tellingly the initial impulse to question authority was quickly swept away by a desire for ideology and a cult of personality.

I would like to think we now live in less ideological times. This assumption could be supported by looking at current political activism and how it has become more pragmatic, humanistic and goal oriented. Of course there is still a lot of crazy ideological stuff going on, but I hope with Hegel that these are essentially ideas that have outlived their relevance, so that they will continually loose traction. Of course, I might be spectacularly wrong on this one.

Turb: I’m not religious in the least. So I’m not sure where you are going…


JanieM: seems that maybe OCSteve hasn't

I had actually:

But, Ayers writes on his blog, he has never escaped his past. Nor has he ever explicitly apologized, saying the times and his actions need a more nuanced rendering.

"I hear the demand for a general apology in the context of the media chorus as a howling mob with an impossibly broad demand, and on top of that I'm not sure what exactly I'm supposed to apologize for," he wrote. "The '68 Convention? The Days of Rage? The Pentagon? Every one of these can be unpacked and found to be a complicated mix of good and bad choices, noble and low motives."

"Some read my failure to apologize as arrogance, stupidity and recalcitrance, or worse," he wrote, "but I think, or I hope, that I'm holding on to a more complex, a truer read and memory of that history."

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not very good at the whole nuance thing.

Sorry – this guy is a terrorist, plain and simple. No more and no less than McVay. He has no regrets over what he did. He gloats about it. He relishes the fact that he got away with it because the FBI screwed up the case. The fact that he is now an accepted part of society, an advisor to the mayor of a major city, in a position to actively attempt to indoctrinate the youth of the country – that just all makes me ill.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad