By David Glenn Cox
I’m the youngest in my family thirteen years between my oldest sibling and I. My father was also the youngest with twenty-two years difference between his oldest brother Orin. When Orin was young, he drove an Indian Chief motorcycle complete with a leather helmet and goggles. His girlfriend soon to be his wife liked to hustle suckers at the speakeasy playing cards. She ran the numbers for the Cleveland mob for extra money. Even into her seventies she still drove like a teenager, jack rabbit starts weaving in between lanes she was a wild woman. She loved to hunt and fish and play cards and drink whiskey. I told my father about the way she drove. He just laughed, “You should have seen her in a V8 Model A Ford with a four-speed!”
When I was a young man, the word of choice was Hoodlum. When you’re a jet, you’re a jet all the way from your first cigarette to your last dying day. Then there was punk, “what do you punks think you’re doing in my yard!” My cousin Danny was a greaser. He had his cigarettes rolled up in the sleeve of his white tee shirt. Danny told his mother that his D.A. haircut stood for district attorney. My cousin Jackie was a greaser too. He’d kick your ass for touching his car. He’d kick Fonzie’s ass just on general principle, “Pay the man for the juke box you punk!” Jackie was such a punk hoodlum he became a schoolteacher that taught inner city kids in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods for thirty years.
Why is it we feel compelled to slam every rising generation? Is it generational amnesia? Or generational envy? He’s a no-good dirty beatnik! He’s a no-good dirty Hippie! He’s a no good dirty long hair! Probably on drugs flying higher than a kite! Okay, you got me, but I turned out all right. As Hunter Thompson said, “Multiple felon perhaps but still a decent person.” Today it’s lazy no-good Millennial or Gen X er. I was a boomer and every house in the neighborhood had kids. We were raised at the Zenith of modern American prosperity where everyone had food to eat and a new bike.
We rebelled against the status quo and the conventional. We read Ginsburg and Kerouac “The best minds of my generation!” We thought we’d discovered truth’s no one else could see while discovering our navel. We were the Woodstock Generation and we grew up to vote for Ronald Reagan because we were concerned about our stock portfolio now that the company had done away with our pension plan. We as a generation don’t have much room to talk about Millennials, or Gen X er’s.
But they’re so lazy! So lazy, my son put thirty thousand dollars in the bank working on cars in high school. Our colleges and universities still turn out doctors and lawyers, scientists and engineers at an astounding rate but this generation has had it tougher and had to worker harder, just to get to the place where you and I started forty years ago. This is the generation that grew up as the economy was falling down. Their earliest memories are when mamma got laid off or when daddy lost the house. A Millennial friend told me he remembered as a kid he remembered loading a U-Haul in the dark of night because they couldn’t pay the rent.
I met a Millennial on a bus one night, he’d joined the National Guard to pay for college. Now after two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, he was going home. But his wife had divorced him, and he felt estranged from his children. Ten more years he could retire with a pension, but they’d screwed him. They’d stolen the life that could have been and made him kill people for a living.
These Millennials and Xer’s were raised with a level of fear and anxiety we cannot imagine. They’re older learning to drive and older getting their first car. The dream of going to college to them is like a dream of climbing the Himalayas and still they go. Only to be tangled in a loan shark web of debt for trying to improve themselves. My father left the service in 1946 and enrolled at Ohio State University with his high school diploma in one hand and his discharge papers in the other. The registrar gave him a voucher for the bookstore and all he had to pay for was food and housing. He paid back three times as much in taxes over the course of his life than his education cost.
This generation they say is the most liberal in modern history. Show of hands, anyone surprised by that? That a generation raised in the Second Great Depression and raised in perpetual war would collectively say, “We’re tired of all your Bullshit!” Surprising that generations which endured mass shootings, terrorism and colored threat level charts would say enough! I was watching men land on the moon they’re watching the finance company change the locks on the door.
They are no smarter than we were and no dumber, but they are I believe more pragmatic because they’ve had to be. They’ve been trampled by the Republican Elephant and they want what we had. Inexpensive health care and an education. They want the wars to stop! They want a climate they can live in. They want clean air and clean water and most of all they want what we used to have…opportunity. A chance for a middle-class lifestyle with security and the freedom from fear. That PTSD, that lingers in a child when the family has endured hard times.
They say Bernie Sanders has the youth vote locked up, anyone surprised by that? Surprised that a generation raised in economic distress would support a candidate advocating change? They say this generation supports Socialism more than any generation before. Kicked in the teeth by Capitalism I’m not surprised in fact I’m elated. The Millennial’s have eclipsed us boomers in numbers…good. Maybe they can do a better job of it. It leaves the DNC with a problem. The youth want Sanders and if they don’t get Sanders they’ll stay home, and we’ll get Trump.
Bernie Sanders is the name on the lectern, but it is the ideas which have excited this so-called lazy generation. In their enthusiasm a movement was created. You can’t fake enthusiasm because if you do it looks a lot like the Trump Administration. This generation knows which side is up and which side is down. This generation don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
I like these guys, this young generation. They’re clear eyed, they don’t care about Gay marriage, marry whoever you want! They don’t care about pot smokers, smoke whatever you want! They can’t be distracted by piffle and jingoism. For the most part they detest the Bible thumpers, they’ve heard enough about a better world waiting for them somewhere else and they’d like to see a decent one in the not to distant future! Right here! Right now!
The kids want Bernie. Bernie means turning this country around. The kids are all right.