I will now present my complex psychological theory that has no basis in data or scientific study, but which I am positive is true—hey, at least I’m honest when I’m just guessing.
In any case, here is my theory:
The Cold War lasted 40 years. During that time, nuclear Armageddon was a constant worry. Yes, Baby Boomers had the Cuban Missile Crisis, but Gen Xers had Reagan joking about bombing Russia. In both cases, an entire generation of Americans grew up with the threat of nuclear war and the possibility that the world would end in an instant.
It’s conceivable that this existentialist dread fucked people up and made them bitter and apocalyptic for the rest of their lives. And that’s why today we have Boomers indifferent to climate change, and Gen Xers storming the capitol. Hey, why not? Everything is going to shit anyway, right?
Again, I can’t prove any of this. But if some of you readers in grad school are looking for an honors thesis, feel free to run with this hypothesis.
And you’re welcome.
Now, you might be asking, what about the Millennials?
And while it’s true that “Millennials will probably end up somewhat more conservative in the future than they are now,” it’s also true that “their politically formative years have largely already passed,” meaning that they are unlikely to hit middle age and suddenly proclaim, “Hey, Trump was right all along.” No, that won’t be happening, because there are myriad “cultural, economic, and demographic factors that make it unlikely that we will see a large rightward shift among Millennials.”
So the future belongs to progressives, right?
Well, sort of. First, there is the problem that conservatives are rigging the system so thoroughly that they could destroy democracy. That would be just a bit of a monkey wrench.
But even if we can overcome the right-wing power grab, there is another issue. You see, while Millennials talk a good game, they are not the best at delivering.
For example, when it comes to racial equality, White Millennials “are roughly as wealthy now as young White families were a few decades ago,” and Black Millennials “are poorer, on average, their collective net worths trailing by half.” This lack of progress has caused many to point out that “this is a generation committed to racial equality, but not one manifesting it.”
More worrisome is the fact that both White supremacy and anti-Semitism are resurgent on college campuses. And let’s not dwell on those loathsome Millennials who are the faces of youthful racism and peppy bigotry. It’s fascism, but for a whole new generation!
Of course, I’m Gen X. So not only am I getting too old to care, but my lifelong cynicism prevents me from embracing full-throated optimism about the future. Oh, I definitely think better days are ahead. It’s just that I believe the definition of these glorious years to come will consist of, “This isn’t nearly as terrible as 2020.”
Hey you Millennials, prove me wrong.
In closing, let me paraphrase the writer Jeff Gordinier, who created a one-question test that determines what generation you belong to.
The sole question on this test is the following: “Do you want to change the world?”
The Baby Boomer will sneer and say that it’s impossible to change the world, so just grab what’s yours and horde it until you die.
The Millennial will say yes, we will change the world, we absolutely will, and the future will be brighter than we can imagine.
And the Gen Xer? He will just shake his head and say, “Dude, I cannot believe you asked me such a fucking cheesy question.”