The Common Good
April 2007

Oh Sure, Blame the Problem!

by Ed Spivey Jr. | April 2007

We cannot rest on our laurel, once we find out what it is.

During a recent congressional hearing, Federal Reserve Chair Ben Bernanke blamed baby boomers for a looming fiscal crisis, declaring that future generations will be forced to "bear much of the cost" of Social Security and Medicare. Frankly, it's a mystery to me why future generations shouldn't be happy to pay for my anti-aging cream, but some people just insist on seeing the colander as half-empty.

Speaking as a member in good standing of the baby boom generation—as defined by my inability to listen to the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby" without sobbing uncontrollably—I take offense at the idea that people my age are "a problem." After all, we have been called the Greatest Generation, for surviving the Depression through sheer force of pluck, for beating back totalitarianism in World War II, and then returning home to forge the largest economic expansion in the 20th century.

Oops. Sorry. That was my parent's generation. MY generation pretty much just laid around and watched TV. (But it was color TV! Sweet.) And as far as pluck goes, we didn't do pluck. Wouldn't know it if it hit us upside the head. No, what we did was cute and precious—also undeserving, ungrateful, and entitled, especially entitled, since our parents were determined that their children have all the things they never did. And who were we to argue?

They spoiled us with the most modern technological advances—such as Cool Whip—and did all they could to protect us from the hardships they had endured, such as growing up without Cool Whip. (And speaking of hardships, not to complain, but my allowance payments dropped off precipitously several years ago. What's up with that?) The point is, Mr. Bernanke, should my generation be looked down on just because our principal accomplishment is ... uhm ... that we are the greatest living depository of television trivia in the known world? Go ahead, ask me a question, any question, as long as it's about Leave It To Beaver. (The answer is: False. Eddie Haskell did not appear until the seventh episode.)

Fortunately, that's not our only claim to fame. As children, we were the first in history to actually refuse food. Previous generations were grateful for any gruel-like substance placed in front of them, but not ours. I can still remember the day—a crisp October afternoon, a time when previous generations were proving themselves gruel-worthy by toting this and lifting that—and I was outside playing cowboys and mailman with my friends. (We all had cowboy clothes except this one kid, who liked to go house to house wearing blue and ... well ... never mind.) My father whistled me in for dinner, and I arrived at the table to see something red on my plate. To my mother's credit, the unfamiliar object had been julienned decoratively, and was almost the exact color of my beloved cranberry sauce (harvested, I always suspected, already in the cans). I took one bite, experiencing what could only have been the cruel joke of a spiteful god.

Since that fateful day, I have been unrelenting in my antagonism against all members of the beet species, and recently launched a campaign to take these vile roots out of the mouths of unsuspecting children and put them where they can do the most good: namely, in our gas tanks. Yes, I'm talking about Beetanol, the key to ending our dependence on foreign oil, which you also shouldn't eat.

"THE LONGER WE WAIT, the more severe, the more draconian the adjustments are going to be," Bernanke continued in his testimony, though what Dracula has to do with it I don't know. (Editors' note: Actually, "draconian" comes from the name "Draco," an Athenian law scribe who insisted that small offenses deserved heavy punishments. Modern-day examples would be long prison sentences for minor drug violations, or having to endure Katie Couric in your own home just because you innocently turned on the television at 6:30 Eastern, 5:30 Central.)

(Wait, here's another one: How about getting hit by a car when your only crime was to cross the street while talking on your cell phone and listening to your iPod? Now THAT'S draconian. PLEASE, people! Future civilizations are going to discover the skeletal remains of humans lying on ancient streets, and wonder if we were killed by the venomous bites of giant cicada-like objects attached to the sides of our heads. I'm just sayin' ....)

But we should heed Mr. Bernanke's warning, and be grateful for wisdom from any of the Bush administration's many independently wealthy officials. Yes, my generation should not rest on its laurel, once it finds that laurel. I personally have set an important goal for the coming years: I hope eventually to complete one of those Sudoku puzzles in less than the full week it usually takes me. (It looks easy, but those numbers make it hard to write in the crosswords. It's just part of the challenge, I guess.)

Ed Spivey Jr. is art director of Sojourners.

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