We love to put labels on things. Normal. Crazy. Right. Patriotic. You will get assigned many labels throughout your life, and none of them really have any bearing on your existence. But we adhere to them more than we ought to. One such label is one that gets assigned to a whole group depending on when we were born. If you were born between 1945 and 1964 you are a “Baby Boomer” because of the unprecedented birthrate in the US following World War II. People who grew up in America during WWI were often called the “Lost Generation” as the 1920’s were their coming-of-age decade. The “Boomers” started having kids in the late ’60s and through the 1970’s. Those children grew up with the moniker “X” emblazoned on our collective identity. We are a generation that lost our place in history. Nothing seems to define us – but we have our moments.
Occasionally you will find someone who was born in 1969 who you know is one of you. You can see it in their eyes. We might have some gray hair. We walk with imperceptible purpose. We have an inferiority complex because our parents owned the world and held onto it tenaciously. They had their heroes and defining moments, their Bob Dylans and Mick Jaggers. We had Beck and David Spade.
“They” labelled us “Generation X”. What’s that supposed to mean? X marks the spot. Out, damned spot! People who have no middle name sometimes get an “X”. It’s a place holder, a mark instead of a signature. It doesn’t say anything about our contributions or our place in the history of this place. The “Millennials” already have a name. The “Greatest Generation” have quite a haughty label; even the people who didn’t achieve greatness got to bear the honor. Fine.
Generation X seems to have been shuffled into the middle of the deck with nothing to distinguish us. Beck notwithstanding, we don’t have a lot that sets us apart. Sure, our generation witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War and Apartheid. But the work that brought about those changes was begun by our parents and grandparents, not by any of us. Naturally, we will not see the changes we hoped to create, not for a while. So it remains to be seen what accomplishments our generation has made.
I wonder who will be the first Gen. X US president. Will anyone in my generation bother to run? We might be inclined to ask, “what’s in it for me?” President Kennedy asked his generation and the “Boomers” to “ask not what your country can do for you…”
We’ll probably never see anything like the time of our birth. 1968 was an incredibly tumultuous year. So was 2017. So, also, was 2018. So far in 2019 things are looking a little scary, especially for US government employees. But generations before us had trouble. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression. Their generation saw so much change in the world I’m sure it was frightening to them. Their defining moments were the greatest economic crisis this country has ever known, followed by a war so catastrophic they didn’t know what to call until they had labelled the “Great War”, the one that was supposed to end all future wars. The term “World War” was not known before that generation.
Future generations will probably give us a pat on the back (condescending bastards!) and golf-clap our one achievement, once we have published the paper proving its existence.
Meanwhile, Mark Zuckerberg can afford to buy a label for his generation.