Lately I’ve been reflecting on the long term viability of the generational awakening of social consciousness that many of us have observed. When I’ve discussed this with my parents and other boomers, they inevitably proclaim, with smugness, that we will harden and become selfish as we get old, “just like they did,” because they were supposedly the hippie and anti-war generation, and look what happened.
The thing is, those weren’t broadly shared experiences. Only the oldest boomers were adults during peak violence in Vietnam, and there was no generational consensus against the war. And the ones who did oppose the war often did it in a way that was utterly toxic. These are the people who literally spat on draft survivors when they disembarked from the freedom planes at SFO. Spat on their brothers who were victimized by the state just as the Vietnamese were.
That kind of thing would be unthinkable nowadays. The difference today is a widespread recognition of interconnectedness, and the emergence of empathy as a response. “We’re all in this together” is a common attitude among millennials, and it’s heartfelt.
I’m looking forward to a world where adults don’t feel compelled to display empty “support our troops” decals to compensate for decades of shameful behavior and a shitty life attitude in general.