There’s a rather useless effort to categorize people into generations these days.
True, it is interesting how many different terms there can be for each generation. Generation X, for example, is the “latchkey generation.” Generation Z is an “iGen” compromised of “Zoomers.”
Then there’s my new favorite: “echo boomers.”
If you guessed that this term applies to millennials, good for you. I was surprised by it. I realized as I thought about it, not without some amusement, that “echo boomer” probably fits me better than millennial does.
I despise the “OK Boomer” meme as needlessly dismissive. I dislike the cocksure attitude of many young people who think they know how everything ought to be run. I love capitalism, the Catholic Church, and traditional family values. I want to own a home, pay for my own health insurance, and be independent of both my parents and the state.
Most of all, I have a deep-seated hatred of avocado toast! That should dispel some stereotypes of millennials, right?
Stereotypes exist for a reason, but most of my friends are far from that homogenous stereotype of woke do-nothings. My wife and I joke that we belong in the 1950s, so perhaps we’re more “echo silent,” if such a contradiction in terms can exist.
But here’s the thing: Trying to lump people together by generation is a ridiculously useless exercise. It’s as useless and wrongheaded as trying to group people by race, or gender, or even religion.
Consider the boomers. Many may tend to be more conservative, but that’s far from a hard and fast rule. They came of age between 1964 and 1982. Elder boomers experienced a lot of critical American history that younger boomers are lacking. Their formative experiences range from the space race and moon landing to President Kennedy’s assassination. Younger boomers turning 18 in 1982 would have little to no memory of the Civil Rights movement or Woodstock, events that would be vivid to those boomers who turned 18 roughly two decades earlier.
The same is true of “echo boomers” like myself. We came of age between 1999 and 2014. My older brother was 17 when 9/11 happened, I was just six. The way we experienced that event was entirely different, even if it had a lasting impact on both of us.
Meanwhile, the first Gulf War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union entirely predate me. People born in 1981 would have had these experienced these events, as well as President Clinton’s impeachment, the Columbine shooting, and the 2000 presidential election, in entirely different ways.
These comparisons also ignore the differences in circumstance that people with exact birthdays have from each other. The West Virginia coal miner’s daughter lives a far different life than Chelsea Clinton.
Identity politics based on age is just as toxic, ill-founded, and divisive as identity politics based on race, gender, or religion. This brand of fascination with categorization is just one more way in which politicians, and average Americans, divide people into “us” vs. “them.”
Be it boomers talking down to millennials, or millennials dismissing boomers as old and out of touch, nothing positive is being accomplished.
Instead we need to focus on the ways we are similar, the ways we echo one another in shared values, worldviews, and the respect we ought to hold for our fellow human beings.
It’s a long journey from our current political climate, but it’s one that needs be started, and hopefully one day completed.
[Image Credit: Pixabay]