Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Baby Boomer Bias

Baby Boomers are getting a bad rap.

Although we're known for Woodstock, flower power and LSD, most of us weren't part of that scene at all. There's a gap in our generation that's creating a bias—nobody's telling our story. These were facts of life for baby boomers:
  1. Korean War: (1950-1953) 36,000 US soldiers were killed and over 8,000 went missing in action. (Just for comparison: about 3,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since 9/11.)
  2. Cold War: (1946-1991)
  3. Hydrogen bomb (1952)
  4. Nuclear Arms Race (throughout the Cold War)
  5. Gary Powers' U-2 plane shot down (1960)
  6. Civil Rights Struggles (1954-1968)
  7. Berlin Wall (1961-1989)
  8. Bay of Pigs (1961)
  9. Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)
  10. John F. Kennedy Assassination (Nov 1963)
  11. Martin Luther King Assassination (April 1968)
  12. Robert F. Kennedy Assassination (June 1968)
  13. Viet Nam War (1956-1975) and how to avoid being one of 58,183 soldiers killed in action.
  14. Vice President Spiro Agnew resigned because of criminal charges: fraud, bribery and conspiracy (Oct 1973.)
  15. Watergate
Are you a baby boomer with memories of these things? Did you have a bomb shelter? Do you remember the Democratic Convention in 1968 when Walter Cronkite cried? Where were you the night of the draft lottery? Our generation grew up thinking seriously about serious things. It was a scary time, and I bet I wasn't the only kid who worried that the Russians were going to bomb us any day. After all, we saw Khrushchev banging his shoe at the United Nations. Police were shown on TV beating teenagers who supported school integration, and we watched assassinations as they happened. How did it affect you?

"Crisis swirls around this sprawling generation as it hits its golden years," claims one critic. "The calamity of baby boomers reaching retirement threatens to bankrupt the country, with social security and medicare payments out of all proportion."

The criticism is what's out of proportion. This quote is from a writer born in 1982, with no mention of the investment boomers made in his future. (Dee and I figure we spent $1,500,000 raising kids who are now making positive contributions to society. The author's parents may have done something for him, too.)

It's time to tell our stories! History is biased unless it is balanced by the truth of those who lived it. Dee has spent 25 years writing the history of people and places, but this year's projects have been most exciting—they are the first he's written about true baby boomers.

Two unique biographies, both about men who raised families, grew businesses, had health and personal challenges that brought out their best qualities, and succeeded in the most important ways; the books of stories and photos will be treasured by kids and grandkids, and become even more valuable through time. Unfortunately, Dee wrote each biography without input from the main character. Baby boomers are not invincible.

So, write down what should not be forgotten; get out a tape recorder; start a blog; put your experiences in perspective with the times. Your life won't become a story unless somebody tells it, and the best person to tell it is you.

Avoid Baby Boomer Bias!

Homework: Choose a historical event from your lifetime and write about the way it affected you.

The clock radio woke me early and I listened to the news while I got ready for work. I was sitting on my bed tying my white nurse's shoes when I heard, "Bobby Kennedy has been shot and killed." Was the world ending?? Just six weeks before Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I had cheered for Bobby and Ethel at a BYU rally in March, thrilled that he included jokes about Mormons in his campaign speech. Now my throat constricted and tears started down my cheeks. June 6, 1968 started a long summer of political unrest in America.


Diane said...

I remember wanting Nixon to be innocent so badly. I argued with everyone that he was just getting bad press. I was crushed when it all came out in the open and he resigned.

All my high school civic papers were about events listed on your baby boomer list.

Grandma Cebe said...

Growing up in metropolitan Washington DC, I lived in the epicenter of many of these events. As I child and teenager, I remember being scared A LOT. We had regular air raid drills in elementary school because of the fear of an attack from the USSR. During the Cuban missile crisis, I was sure that Washington DC was going to be attacked. Because my father was an upper level government employee, on a regular basis, he would be gone overnight to an undisclosed location...a secure bunker set up so that the government could keep going in time of crisis. His absences were just drills. My mother didn't even know where he was. The day Kennedy was assassinated, I was a senior in high school. Kids were crying in the halls and classrooms as we listened to news broadcast over the PA system. School was dismissed early. The day of the funeral all local schools/businesses/government offices were closed.

Grandma Cebe said...

A couple of things missing from your list -

John Glenn's first flight in space (Feb 1962)

First Man on the Moon (July 1969)

I clearly remember both these events and where I was at the time.

The Grandmother Here said...

Growing up in Canada was more peaceful than growing up in the US apparently. Our one room school wasn't important enough to bomb.

Anonymous said...

I hate to be a critic, but you guys have a lot to answer for as far as the environment. Didn't you pretty much invent plastic? I'd like to hear a response on that.

Ben Butler

Travelin'Oma said...

So far no death by plastic. We were more worried about nuclear fallout and obliteration!

Christie said...

Um, pretty sure Oma didn't invent plastic. Otherwise, I'd definitely be living off THOSE billions and celebrating the destruction of the environment in style.

Grandma Cebe said...

So, Ben. How do you propose that the millions of baby boomers answer for the invention of plastic? Gather us all up and suspend us with plastic zip ties from the nearest tall building? I'm not a raving tree hugger, but I do try to be environmentally responsible.

VickiC said...

Have been working on my personal history, keeping it pretty personal-family, events that took place in my neighborhood, school.... Read over your list of events and remembered how they impacted me. Certainly they need to be included in a retelling of one's life in the 50s-70s
I'm sure just about everyone our age remembers that moment in class when the news of Pres. Kennedy's shooting was announced.
I remember, too, listening to the draft lottery numbers being read off and being relieved to hear my brother's birthdate put him near the end of the list. (He joined the army anyway.)
Am sure the most significant non-personal event that impacted me, however, was the trial of Adolf Eichmann. I would sneak into the house on Saturdays when it was televised for an hour or so. (My parents were working in the yard and never knew-or would have condoned- my watching.) But it was a huge thing. That and the Civil Rights Movement.
Whoa! we really did live through an extreme era.
PS I use paper.

polly said...

great post! every generation has remarkable history and ours has had a lot of events worth remembering. When I was little and saw an airplane flying low I would run inside fearing it was going to drop bombs. I was at lunch at Holladay Elementary when we heard that Pres. Kennedy had been shot. The September before mom had taken me to hear him speak when he was in SLC. I remember the Sunday that the astronauts landed on the moon. Dad let us stay home from church to watch! I think it was an uneasy time a time when innocence was lost. Very sad when you find out that leaders can no longer be trusted. It is important to write down how we felt during these historic times. thanks for the reminder.

polly said...

sorry, but I have to respond to Ben...I used cloth diapers, took all the bottles I ever drank soda out of back to the store, I got a few cents, they recycled them. I put my glass milk bottles out and the milkman came and got them and refilled them. I cleaned my babies rearends with wash cloths, not baby wipes. I used and still do use cloth napkins, wash and fold them. We only had two cars growing up, always walked to school (in two feet of snow). My husband and I only had one car - so he walked or rode his bike, or I strolled my babies wherever I went - not using as much gasoline. I did my did my dishes by hand for the first four years of our marriage - not using an electric dishwasher or an electric dryer. You used to hang things out in the sunshine to get dry. People do things in different ways to show they love the world we have been given. I have a garden. I nourish and take care of it and give thanks for the beauties around me. My recycle bin is full when they pick it up. I don't think our generation knew at the time that plastic was so horrible. I'm sure there is something equally horrible that your generation will have to pay for, there always is. We just do our best, and try not to be critical of what previous generations have gone through.

Grandma Cebe said...

Polly - Amen. I couldn't have said it better. Maybe what we need to do is find Ben and string him up with plastic zip ties. What an arrogant ...... (fill in the blank).

Susan Adcox said...

Great post! I remember lying on my lawn and watching Sputnik pass over. . . wondering why people were upset over nine polite and well-groomed teenagers who wanted to go to Little Rock's Central High. . .opening up my Weekly Reader and reading about the latest conflicts around the globe. I never used illegal drugs or attended a concert. By the time the 60s rolled around, I was too busy raising my family. I'm sure that's true of many boomers.

Heather Scott Partington said...

It's interesting that you bring up the label/bias thing--I think it ends up hitting many of us in different generations at different times. I can see exactly how the anti-Boomer bias is untrue and hurtful in the same way that the Millenial or Gen Y label can be.

I think you're right about putting a face on a group and tying it to actual experience. I don't have time to do the assignment just now, but I'll tuck it away for the future. Good post!