Standard Deviations: As a boomer, feeling the love from the millennials
Anybody else think this whole tribalism thing is getting a little out of hand?
Republicans vs. Democrats. Liberals vs. Conservatives. Rich vs. Poor. The Religious Faithful vs. Godless Atheists. People of Color vs. … Colorless People?
I guess I’d say that the United States has turned into one great big angry blob of hate, but that would imply that we’re somehow all in this together — inextricably woven, our arms and legs and hearts and souls intertwined into an ugly tapestry of hatred.
Which is not at all what’s going on in this country these days. Because as it turns out, we’re actually two great big angry blobs of hate, separated by that giant chasm of the ultimate tribal designation — Us vs. Them.
And as if we didn’t need one more distinguishing feature to divide us, there’s another Us/Them label that’s pushed itself to the forefront in recent days. Namely, Millennials vs. Baby Boomers.
That’s right, we’re also self-segregating by the relative amounts of time we’ve spent on this planet.
Among the journalists at the Standard-Examiner, there’s a noticeable age difference among the reporters. Two of us in the newsroom are baby boomers, 60-something reporters with a combined 65 years of experience at the Standard-Examiner. The rest of the staff is quite a bit younger — a couple of Generation X-ers and a whole bunch of millennials.
At one point this past week, after I’d offered a little unsolicited advice to some of the younger reporters in the newsroom, one of them turned to me and deadpanned, “OK, Boomer.” Although the other millennials in the room began to laugh heartily, I didn’t get the joke and had to have them explain it to me.
Apparently, “OK, Boomer” is a relatively new phenomenon sweeping the nation, a phrase intended to dismissively discount the opinions of older people whose opinions millennials and other young whippersnappers deem irrelevant or uninformed.
Once I was in on their joke, I laughed too.
I mean, I get it. I’d be pretty fed up by the condescending “get-off-my-lawns” and “when-I-was-your-ages” if I were a millennial forced to listen to the constant shade being thrown by the offspring of The Greatest Generation. So the phrase “OK, Boomer” actually seems a reasonable response to folks my age complaining that these aren’t the Good Old Days anymore.
And then radio talk show host/columnist Bob Lonsberry had to go and compare “OK, Boomer” to the most vile word most of us can conceive. In a Nov. 4 tweet that has since been deleted, Lonsberry declared “boomer” the “n-word of ageism,” further complaining: “Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new.”
Plenty of people corrected Lonsberry on that one, including a tweet that quoted stand-up comedian John Mulaney saying: “If you’re comparing the badness of two words and you won’t even say one of them, that’s the worse word.”
And speaking of Twitter, “OK, Boomer” — which is quickly cementing itself as the go-to “Bye, Felicia” replacement — showed up in another hilarious exchange this past week. Sources tell me there is a reality television show called “Dancing with the Stars” that features quasi-celebrities in a ballroom-dance competition. These same sources tell me former White House press secretary Sean Spicer is one of the contestants, and that he’s a much worse dancer than he was a spokesman. Which is really saying something.
But apparently, despite his lack of dancing ability, Spicer hasn’t been voted off the show because his former boss has used the full weight of his office to encourage his supporters to call in and vote to keep Spicer hoofing.
And it’s worked. Die-hard “Dancing with the Stars” fans have been lamenting the fact that much better dancers — who’ve gotten much higher judges’ scores than Spicer — have been eliminated from the show because of Donald Trump’s election tampering.
Now, I don’t care about Sean Spicer’s ballroom career or reality TV shows. But for Democrats who are hoping to impeach the president? Heck, they don’t even have enough votes to get Sean Spicer booted off “Dancing with the Stars.”
In one of the many Twitter arguments about this dance-related travesty, on Wednesday someone named Billie E. tried to use the “OK, Boomer” insult on William Shatner — who is too old to be an official baby boomer. But the classy actor, who portrayed Capt. Kirk on the original “Star Trek,” replied: “Sweetheart, that’s a compliment for me.”
Doubling down, the commenter wrote: “I’m not really into pejoratives, but what’s the term for people when they can’t interpret a joke?”
Setting phasers to kill, Shatner fired back.