We can and must do more. America faces divisive crises, and older Americans, seasoned Americans, owe it to themselves and their children and grandchildren to propel the nation in a better direction. We are both in our 60s and hope, trust, that our civil rights, economic justice, and environmental sanity partners are ready to direct their life skills and resources toward the common good.
About 10,000 Americans a day turn 60 (that’s roughly the same number of Americans born each day), and each of us passing that mark will live, on average, an additional 23 years and 7 months. This is the child boomer cohort, and along with the older “quiet age,” we hold 70% of the country’s wealth. We vote — individuals in the 60 or more age bunch were around half bound to project a polling form in 2020 than those ages 18 to 29. In any case, we additionally watch around five hours of TV daily.
After all, in its first act, our cohort participated in or witnessed profound political and cultural changes for the better: we were shaped or shaped by – and benefitted from – the civil rights movement, the push for women’s equality, and the mass movement campaigns against the Vietnam War. If you’re in your 70s now, you were around 20 on the first Earth Day, which means there was a good chance you were on the street.
Of course, not all young people of those years can be called progressives. And among those who were, as our long second act progressed, the fervor seems to have faded. Perhaps we thought that we had really solved these problems that interested us, or perhaps we simply found ourselves behaving more like consumers than citizens. Many of us did the “right” things – we got jobs, we had families – and with the political shift to the right of the Reagan era, it was easier to put our heads down, go to work, and serve our families and communities.
But now we enter our later years with talents, wisdom, and often the money to put them to use. Our children and grandchildren should help us focus on the fact that if we don’t act now, we can leave the world in a worse place than we found it.
The conventional wisdom, of course, is that age alone makes people conservative. Certainly the right is working hard to make it look like this: The average age of Fox News viewers is 68. The Koch chain and the American Petroleum Institute, for example, helped fund the 60-Plus Association., who has opposed climate legislation and health care reform. And whatever your policy, you may be displaying an unsettling tendency toward smug oblivion. So, okay, boom.
Journalist Jill Filipovic, in her book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk,” noted that while those in our age group were good parents, they offered our own children “a nurturing foundation from which to grow” and encouraged them to ” chase yours. ” passions, “we didn’t do enough for society at large. Instead, we voted for tax cuts.
Bruce Gibney, in his book “A Generation of Sociopaths,” put it this way: Boomers have “destroyed a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to their fellow citizens. That spirit is gone and has been replaced by a cult of individualism. “
Generalities obscure as much as they illuminate: Women of color in the 60-plus demographic have worked harder than anyone to keep that sense of solidarity and optimism alive. But it is undeniable that many of us who were born towards the end of World War II could go to college and leave with little debt. If we weren’t on the suburban red line, we were early on the grand escalator of rising real estate values. We work hard (maybe too much; work-life balance was never our specialty), but more work needs to be done now. Here’s an example: Perhaps no legislation in the life of someone over 60 has been as transformative as the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Watching it erode in the face of new voter suppression laws should be more than painful for our cohort. We can help in that battle by joining existing campaigns against voter suppression at the state and national levels, and invoking our own memories of all the times voting really mattered, to help make sure no one takes it for granted.
Meanwhile, young people, including Greta Thunberg, have explicitly asked for help in tackling the climate crisis. Here you have an option: Join the demonstrations on October 4. 29 which will target giant financial institutions like Chase and Citibank, sponsors of the fossil fuel industry. Your executives may pay special attention if the people whose retirement accounts fill their vaults take up the cause. Leadership for progressive action comes primarily from young people, as in Black Lives Matter and the Sunrise Movement. But older people can also be catalysts for profound change. It is not fair to ask young people to save the world themselves, nor is it possible.
If enough of the 70 million of us who have passed the six decade mark join in, then we have a chance. We have done it before.
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