Are Millennials a giant pain in the ass?
Hey, you...yah you fricken younger folks. Why can't you be more like me! I'm fun loving, hilarious, offensive, give more ulcers than I get (thanks JFK for that advice). Did I mention humble?
Millennials Are the Silencing Generation Baby boomers were carefree and exuberant; our children are dour and anxious.
By F.H Buckley Jan. 2, 2022 5:00 pm ET OK millennial, you don’t care for us baby boomers. You complain that we’ve taken all the food off the table and left you the crumbs. You say we cling to our jobs and won’t make room for you. And you especially resent how, throughout, we took ownership of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age.
In the 1960s we were a youth movement that demanded to be heard. We marched on the Pentagon and occupied college administration buildings. In the 1970s we mellowed, listened to the Band and the Eagles, and read Charles Reich’s “The Greening of America.” In the 1980s we rebounded as yuppies. We became investment bankers and lawyers, and the women among us wore suits with padded shoulders. Thereafter we ascended to political power—not always wisely, truth be told. But our music had lyrics and melodies, and our protest songs took on real injustices. We cemented a civil-rights revolution for women and minorities and left a mark on all succeeding generations.
So, of course you don’t like us. We were carefree and exuberant, while you are dour and anxious. We had Woodstock; you have safe spaces. You are Alfred de Musset’s enfants du siècle, living in the shadow of an earlier, more exciting generation and conscious of having missed out on all the fun.
What you’ve forgotten, however, is that it’s up to each generation to make its own mark. Defining yourself by your resentment of an earlier generation isn’t how to do it. So perhaps we still have something to teach you, ungrateful wretches that you are. What we find missing in your generation, more than anything, is laughter. We grew up on Mad magazine, which taught us to appreciate great literature (“By the shores of Gitche-Gumee / Out near Feldman’s Bagel Factory”) and prepared us for Watergate and the Clintons. When we were a little older, we subscribed to National Lampoon, a magazine that knew nothing is funny unless someone is offended, and the more they’re offended, the funnier it is. We laughed at “Blazing Saddles” and “Animal House,” films you aren’t permitted to see unless you download them when no one is looking.
The last time we saw anything funny on late-night television was Norm Macdonald’s news updates on “Saturday Night Live” in the 1990s. Now we’ll marvel at how anything resembling humor has been surgically removed from “SNL” and the talk shows. Sneering at people you despise isn’t an amusing diversion.
The generation before us used to be called the silent generation. But they weren’t silent. They invented rock ’n’ roll, the music of our time, but a genre you’ve permitted to die. And they didn’t try to cancel anyone the way you do. You are the silencing generation. The only thing we wanted to ban was banning itself. And if ever we seemed to have gone too far, if ever we had a momentary regret, we called for madder music and stronger wine.
That rubbed our elders the wrong way. We offended people. You are perpetually offended. We were John Belushi’s Bluto; you are Dean Wormer. Perhaps that’s why we could roll with Donald Trump’s offenses against taste (up to Jan. 6 anyway). Your generation, not ours, elected Joe Biden. He looked like one of Holden Caulfield’s phonies to us, and we decided we could tolerate Mr. Trump’s mean tweets. So if you want to vaunt your moral superiority, we’ll grant you Mr. Biden. Although possibly you’re having some second thoughts about that.
Frankly, when I look at your generation and realize that you’re our children, I wonder where we went wrong. Except that when I think of our excesses, I can’t be surprised that you decided to rebel in your turn. We had thought we had seen the promised land before us, but it bounded away as we approached it. And you saw us fail. And so we offer you our forgiveness, along with the wish that you’ll pardon our offenses. We’re bound together, across the generational divide that always separates parents and children, and over which we extend to you our love and hope for the future. One last word of advice: You won’t believe what your kids will say about you.
Mr. Buckley teaches at Scalia Law School and is author of “Progressive Conservatism: How Republicans Will Become America’s Natural Governing Party,” forthcoming in July.