This Adult Apologizes…

This Adult Apologizes…

To America’s kids:

On behalf of America’s adults – particularly my fellow Baby Boomers (who are still mostly in charge of government & industry) – I want to apologize for the trauma you regularly experience from gun violence; we have failed you.

I apologize for the legislators who could protect your safety through common sense gun regulations that the vast majority of voters support, but instead place their own careers ahead of your lives.

adult apology

I apologize for the nation’s responsible gun owners who, rather than fight for your safety by standing up to the NRA (which represents gun manufacturers), stay silent.

I apologize for the adults who, out of an irrational fear of having their guns taken from them if arms are better regulated, put these groundless fears ahead of your real ones.

I apologize for the adults who would rather turn your schools into prison-like fortresses and compel you to endure active shooter drills than ban semi-automatic weapons.

adult apology 1

I apologize for those in governance who cite mental health as the problem, yet refuse to fund mental health services.

And finally, I apologize in advance for any who say I don’t speak for them, because by doing so, admit to being part of the problem.

It’s up to you, kids.  If/when you’re old enough, you must not just march, but vote; at any age you must not just cry, but continue to hold adults accountable.

Because we’re clearly not able to do it for you.


Boomers Make Poor Legislators…

The 70th anniversary of D-Day got me thinking about our parents’ “Greatest” generation, what they lived through, and how bad Congress has become.

The connection?

bob doleWhen they were in Congress, bi-partisan work got done, taking care of our needs seemed to more often trump taking care of their own careers, they were not quite so easily bought.  Nothing like making it through a great depression and a world war to build character…

In contrast, today’s Congress is made up of mostly Boomers… best at living up to our “me” generation moniker.  Now Congress gets john-boehnernothing of import done from a preference for over-the-top partisanship, takes care of their own careers rather than the country’s needs, and are quite easily bought.  For those of us who like our Social Security and Medicare, be grateful those programs were created during our parents’ tenure.

The conclusion: Boomers make poor national leaders.  In Florida, our children as leaders aren’t faring much better.

I’ve always believed that anyone wanting to run for Congress is most likely not a good candidate because the ego it takes to want such a thing will most likely outpace his/her ability to truly lead.  And the folks I’d like to see in Congress don’t want the job.

Ah for the Founders’ concept of “citizen legislators” – folks who had a life (other than politics), went to Washington for short periods (Jefferson envisioned terms of no more than 9 years, with Representatives rotating out every 3, similar to the current practices of Boards of Directors) to represent their constituents’ needs, then returned home to continue their real lives.  Here’s an example provided by Thomas Jefferson in 1797:

“All [reforms] can be… [achieved] peaceably by the people confining their choice of Representatives and Senators to persons attached to republican government and the principles of 1776; not office-hunters [stressor mine], but farmers [the main vocation of the day…notice he didn’t say lawyers and doctors, who make up most representatives today] whose interests are entirely agricultural [eg of their main profession]. Such men are the true representatives of the great American interest and are alone to be relied on for expressing the proper American sentiments.”

He also envisioned representatives be uncompensated, to ensure their motives were to serve, not to become enriched themselves:

“I have the consolation of having added nothing to my private fortune during my public service and of retiring with hands as clean as they are empty.”
Jefferson to Diodati, 1807.

Let’s find a bunch of the latter (true citizen legislators) and convince them to run, so we can eliminate the former (what we have now).

Some of them may even be Boomers.


Why are Boomers so Cranky?!

  • On a beautiful Florida day, at a spring training baseball game, I approached my row and apologized for inconveniencing everyone who had to stand to let me in.  The very large Boomer taking up the end seat responded: “If you want to get to your seat, why don’t you just say so!” and wouldn’t get up to let me in until I threatened to sit on his lap..
  • I placed an upbeat comment to a Huffington Post article about Boomers doing more volunteer work, to which a fellow Boomer responded “You’ve been hitting the bottle too much…”
  • Of all the age groups, from our kids to our parents, we seem to have the lowest threshold for civil discussions, particularly around issues facing the nation/politics; too many of us become quickly “enraged” “appalled” – blaming and unwilling to listen let alone speak calmly to anyone who doesn’t full agree with us.

angry boomerWow, what happened to us?  Are we really that unhappy, disenfranchised, pessimistic?


But this is not new.  Boomers were a pessimistic lot even in our “flower power” groovy youth.  It wasn’t optimism, but pessimism that drove our protests, sit-ins, and marches; we didn’t trust “the man” or anyone over 30 for that matter; we believed the earth was being polluted beyond repair; our young women were fed up with “male domination”…

Now, 40 years later, add the stressors of career, paying off the kids’ college loans, tanked 401K’s, and aching joints, and you have a bunch of over the top grouchiness.

Plus, extremism is one of our generational characteristics (think “latch-key” kids on the top of the age-range of Boomer parenting, “helicopter parenting” on the younger end – different approaches, both approaches extremes).  So when we do something, we take it to the max.  Our generational rebellion included extremes like:

  • refusing to “dress up” like our parents did so we became the first generation to go to church or out to dinner in jeans & t-shirts;
  • refusing to accept authority to the point of feeling justified in being rude;
  • living the “better life” our parents raised us to believe we were owed via spending beyond our means, procuring “McMansions” for a family of 3 and ever more “things” (including excessively expensive cars) to show our worth.

Put these two dynamics together, pessimism + extremism, and you get a volatile brew.

This matters greatly because, beyond our sheer numbers (we are 26% of the US population), we are this country’s leaders:

  • 58% of the US Senate & 79% of the US House of Representatives are Boomers,
  • 82% of US Governors are Boomers,
  • as are about 59% of Corporate America’s CEO’s.

This means that how we act determines social outcomes (as it did in our youth), what we feel dictates the mood of the nation.  Which at this juncture is…well, quite peevish, a tad intolerant, and reliant on extremes to:

solve what we perceive as social ills that are only ills because we no longer engage in them (a majority of those against medical use of marijuana or needle exchange programs to curb the spread of HIV, are Boomers who loved the snow and weed as youth);

balance budgets by decimating services we no longer need ourselves (“Support birth control clinics that prevent the spread of STD’s and unwanted pregnancies?  I don’t think so!  You go out and have unprotected sex, that’s your problem!” – we were the biggest users of these clinics, for those exact reasons, in our own youth) while preserving those that only we need (in a recent Pew poll, 63% of Boomers opposed raising the age at which we’d qualify for full SS benefits).

Ah…but there’s more.  Two extremely (had to say it…) essential elements that tie our testiness up in a beautiful bow of justification for bad behavior:

  1. we’re frightened, discouraged, disappointed – things aren’t turning out as we’d planned and we’re in trouble, particularly financially – at middle age that’s admittedly tough to handle, and perhaps too many of us don’t have the healthy coping skills to handle these feelings with even a modicum of grace;
  2. we’ve fallen into what numerous studies have shown to be an increasing tendency for Americans (and moreso older Americans) to refuse to fall prey to logic – even when faced with raw facts that dispute what we want to believe, we simply refuse to believe the facts so we can feel comfortable holding onto our position no matter how wrong it might be.

angry boomer manSo…. Must we be so irascible?  Can we possibly change our generational ways at this stage in our lives after so many decades of testiness gone wild?  Is our crankiness etched in indelible ink?

Well, as the old and very bad joke goes: How many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb?  None…it has to want to change…

Imagine how much better this country would be, how much calmer and enjoyable to live in, how much more we could get accomplished, if we as a generation decided to discontinue the vitriol, talk with instead of at each other, operated from “us” rather than “me”….

I believe we can do it.  Call me an optimist.

(here’s a link to a pew research/census gathering of statistics on “why Boomers are so Bummed…” posted on the show’s website)

Looking for Someone to Blame…

Talk to the handWe can all understand a national angst around a number of life-altering issues, from our woeful economy & jobs outlook, to food that makes us sick and a growing number of crazed individuals who want to see all of us blown to bits.

And when we get scared, or angry, or feel out of control, we want to pinpoint the source of the problem – we want someone or some entity to blame.

Is it Congress?  Is it one political party or the other?  How about the media, issuing  inflammatory stories, whether ultimately true or not, to keep their market share from falling?

Or, is it that we as a nation, and we Boomers as the current leaders of it, have lost our “moral compass” – that our society as a whole is disintegrating, causing much of what’s wrong with our nation today – as we hear more and more often these days?  How about our own unwillingness to make tough sacrifices thus keeping ourselves reliant on extremely unstable parts of the world?

It’s really tough to resist the natural temptation to look everywhere else but in the mirror for the root cause of our problems.  But here’s the cold truth of our distresses:

  • A bad Congress continues to be bad only because we let them get away with it…and I don’t mean just keep voting ’em out…I mean we don’t hold them accountable when they’re in.  Admittedly that takes time…to write them…let them know consistently what you want them to do – but that is the pesky part of a “representative government”
  • Sensationalism in the press continues because it works…we watch/listen/read it
  • Political parties respond to their loyal and most extreme base because they’re the most vocal; moderates are the least, which is the majority of Americans
  • The disconnect that is now the norm in our communities (our lack of involvement), our spread-all-over-the-world families, or our use of technology more often than face-to-face, makes life a tad surreal, moving ever closer to an imitation of it; this may make life easier, but it doesn’t make it better…
  • Companies that do bad things rely on us forgetting about their bad behavior in short time…and we do.  The best example of this over the past year has been the toxic food that’s made it’s way into our homes as a result of agribusinesses’ unsanitary conditions (being humane and clean takes too much out of the profit-margin).  They also know that we simply do not use our consumer clout to send them a clear message of discontent – refusing to buy from companies with poor track records is a tad inconvenient (shopping elsewhere…keeping track) and they rely on us being too busy, or apathetic, to do so

As the song puts it so well:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change

Here’s the link: Sing along with Michael Jackson, and perhaps we’ll finally take seriously the powerful message of this song from so many years ago, that is even more relevant today.

Restoring Honor…Boomer Style

This is an excerpt from a chapter of my soon to be released book Is That My Light at the End of the Tunnel? that speaks directly to what we Boomers can and must do to find our “lights” at the end of our “tunnels” – this one relating well to the notion of restoring what’s been lost:

Boomers, Unite!

Yeah, right….  We are about as single-minded on how to individually handle the important issues I’ve raised in our “tunnels” as are the Europeans on how to run their Union.

But, that said, there are some basic concepts which I believe the vast majority of us can comfortably get behind, and on which we can build our comeback.

These are the aspects of our Flower Power revolution (even without the LSD) that are a combination of common sense, common kindness, and the underpinnings of all the major world religions.  They are:

  • Living your beliefs while allowing others to live theirs (e.g. walk the talk…no finger pointing)
  • Being kind to our planet, and those less fortunate than ourselves
  • Actively rejecting any form of tyranny
  • Standing up against abuse and exploitation of other humans (which, according to Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel, was the correct reason for invading Iraq), and other species
  • Having one martini a night to get us through all of this (just checking to see if you were paying attention…)
  • Finding government and corporate deceit unacceptable
  • Believing in the power of love, from being non-judgmental of others’ lives to eschewing meanness

So, when it comes down to it, here’s the “honor” we must restore right now, associated with grinding issues we’re facing at this moment, based on the above ideals – we’ve lost track of them, and with our great influence/power must ensure we find again:

  • As the most educated generation alive today, start using our great brains to learn and work with the facts, whether we like those facts or not;
  • Remember and reclaim what we believed in our youth: love conquering hate, & equality for all (thus our fight for women’s/civil rights, eliminating discrimination in housing & hiring, etc.); to abandon those society-altering-for-the-better ideals with our Muslim neighbors because of their radical minority (hey, Christians have the KKK & Neo-Nazis) is beneath us;
  • Another reclamation from our youth: refusing to accept the poor behavior of “the man” we so reviled back then…which, by the way, is now us…we became “the man” (we are the ones in charge of most big corporations, and governments) – we can and must rise up against our own generations’ misdeeds, greediness, & complete lack of interest in the greater good.
  • Although history debates the motivation for our society-bettering deeds back then…was it out of pessimism or optimism? – I say it was a combination of both…pessimism about the direction our nation/world had taken, and optimism that if we fought hard enough we could change it.  In our age-related crankiness we have lost our optimism, settling comfortably into a world-view based too much on fear and self-protection.  Opening up our minds and hearts again is imperative if we hope to make changes that are for the better.

Do these things, and our honor – as the generation that historically made a greater impact on social change than any other in the history of our nation – will indeed be restored.