Monday, November 10

Dear Heather,

Heather Havrilesky, "An open apology to Boomers everywhere". November 7

I WAS pacing the house Saturday morning, trying to get my knees and back to achieve the same semi-alert status as the rest of me, and my Poor Wife had one of those morning "news" shows on, and Sarah Palin Fights Back stopped me dead in my tracks. I was sorta kinda vaguely aware of the supposed explosion over the supposedly shocking revelations that Palin was even dumber than she sounded; I was also aware those had turned up after the election, on FAUX, so 1) how'm I supposed to hear it, and 2) who gives a fuck, anyway? But the story, and the title graphic--with Palin it really should be "Former Beauty Queen Uncorks Pop Gun" shouldn't it? She doesn't really "fight back" so much as whine about the unfairness of being found out--led me to the internets for more of the story.

Which wound up reminding me of that Zen saying from somewhere: Before I was enlightened trees were just trees and mountains were just mountains. Now that I am enlightened trees are just trees and mountains are just mountains. And Sarah Palin is still who gives a fuck, only more so. She, or the Malkinseses, are free to combat the infamies the Councilwoman has suffered at the hands of disgruntled McCain staffers, but they might want to consider what Sun Tzu said on offensive strategy: "Before engaging the enemy, it is of vital importance to make sure you have a fucking weapon first."

The one thing I thought was interesting were the reports that the Palin's raid on Neiman-Marcus had included somewhere between $20-40K spent spiffing up Todd Palin. Again, I don't mean "interesting" in the sense of "revealing something new or unexpected about that group of traveling swindlers John McCain tried to put a heartbeat away from The Button", but, rather, "interesting" because I'd spent part of the run-up to Election Day reading The XX Factor, where Palin's shopping spree was partly ameliorated, to certain ways of thinking, by blegging a possible cost of Joe Biden's suits [Caution: Meghan O'Rourke link]. The average estimate ("most of you.." sez Meghan) came in at $1000, with a caution that it "could easily" have risen to five times that. (One could, of course, have simply gone to the Brooks Brothers site, say, or picked up a phone, but it's so much more accurate when you collect multiple data points.)

I suppose we will not be hearing anyone point out at The XX Factor that for that amount of jack Mr. Councilwoman Palin could have hauled in twelve Brooks Brothers suits and had enough left over for seven pairs of alligator shoes, sufficient silk shirts, ties, socks, and undies, Gore-Tex™ bags to stuff the loot in, and perhaps a silver shovel to bury it all with before the auditors show up, unless they figure out a way to compare that with what Joe Biden is now likely to cost in Secret Service protection. The point isn't that these phony Tundra Populist dumbasses behaved as if they'd just hit the Lotto; the point is that people leapt to the first dumbass defense of the completely indefensible that came into their heads.

(At any rate, if there's someone out there who really believes that Palin & Brood didn't have every intention of cashing in on this stuff, before they noticed they were on videotape, I've got an Abner Doubleday autographed baseball for sale.)

Bonus Meghanism (as always, if you experience dizziness, light-headedness, vertigo, or an overwhelming urge to kill the next person you see, do not contact your doctor; it's only natural) from her election night in Grant Park:
Spontaneous cheers broke out ever few minutes, whenever an El train went by, with the energetic unity Whitman described in his healing paean to democracy, Song of Myself, a poem written at a moment of cultural divisiveness rivaling the one we just lived through.

That was only partly sadistic on our part; we think it's also necessary to get a grasp on just how poorly people understand their own history (in no small measure as the result of how watery the watercolor version painted for them in high school truly is; that's not a fucking excuse! by the way, unless your line is plumbing or dance remixes). In this we found an unexpected ally over the weekend in Ms Havrilesky, who is generally seen telling Salon readers what teevee shows they Just Can't Miss this week (which may, in fact, be the reason she's so refreshingly honest about the whole thing):
Dear boomers: We're sorry for rolling our eyes at you all these years. We apologize for scoffing at your earnestness, your lack of self-deprecation, your tendency to take yourselves a little too seriously. We can go ahead and admit now that we grew tired of hearing about the '60s and the peace movement, as if you had to live through those times to understand anything at all. It's true, we didn't completely partake of your idealism and your notions about community. Frankly, it looked gray and saggy in your hands, these many decades later. Chanting "What do we want? Peace! When do we want it? Now!" at that rally against the Iraq war made us feel self-conscious in spite of ourselves. We felt like clichés. We wondered why someone couldn't come up with a newer, catchier, pro-peace slogan over the course of 40 years of protests. We knew we shouldn't care that some of you were wearing socks with sandals and smelled like you'd been on the bus with Wavy Gravy for the last three decades, but we cared anyway. We couldn't help it. It's just who we are.

Mind you, I didn't say I was relieved to finally locate some historical accuracy; I'm just glad we could finally get down to the Wavy Gravy business. I have no idea what Mr. Gravy, or his bus, smells like. Skunk weed? B.O.? Patchouli? My guess would be "Herbal Shampoo", but I really don't know. I have a dear friend who's a sort of surviving hippie, but if she ever wore tie-dye she gave it up long before I met her. She runs a sort of salon herself, and her habitués mostly smell like perfumed soaps or moderately-priced fragrances conservatively applied. Occasionally somebody smells like grocery-store incense. (Mr. Gravy, by the way, born Hugh Romney, is a decade older than the oldest of Boomers.)
And look, we really did stand for something, underneath all the eye-rolling. We're feminists, we care about the environment, we want to improve race relations, we volunteer. We're just low-key about it. We never wanted to do it the way you did it: So unselfconscious, so optimistic, guilelessly throwing yourself behind Team Liberal. We didn't get that. We aren't joiners. We don't like carrying signs. We tend to disagree, if only on principle.

You know what would make this a little more compelling? An element of truth.

Okay, so I don't doubt that "Gen X" is basically liberally-minded. This entire blog was dedicated to the proposition that even Indiana is basically liberal-minded.

So no real points for that. And where's the rest of this shit come from? You'd think that in 1700 words dedicated to explaining that You didn't really know what You were talking about (before the scale fell from Your eyes last Tuesday night) it might have occurred to you to wonder about that. Unself-conscious? Optimistic? Lacking in self-deprecation? Fuck, lady, let me introduce you to the Firesign Theatre, the National Lampoon (back when that was a brand name for humor), and the Punk movement. Have a listen to "W.C. Fields Forever" and "Le Trente-Huit Cunegonde" from Firesign's first (1968) album, and then point me to something contemporary which is half so self-effacing. There was less cultural Balkanization in them days, perhaps--though this, too, did not begin when you started looking around--but there was certainly a more robust public argument about consequences.  By the time I got to college, in the early 70s, "counterculture" was pretty much reduced to a sick joke. Just like it is with you, but told by people who knew what they were talking about.
But how could we have known? We were raised under Ronald Reagan, smiling emptily under a shellacked cap of shiny brown hair like a demon clown, warning us (With a knowing nod! With a wink!) about those evil Russians stockpiling nuclear arms thousands of miles away. We were raised by "The Love Boat" and "Eight Is Enough" and "Charlie's Angels," a steady flow of saccharine tales with clunky morals. There were smiling families, hugging and learning important lessons on every channel, while at home, our parents threw dishes at each other's heads. We went to church and learned about God's divine plan every Sunday, but all it took was one Dr. Seuss cartoon about an entire world that existed on a speck of dust, and our belief in God was deconstructed in an instant. Our childhoods were one long existential crisis. We ate Happy Meals while watching the space shuttle blow into tiny bits.
What? That's the goddam bio, mutatis mutandis, of every fucking Boomer in the country.

The difference, perhaps, is that some of us stopped getting our moral lessons from teevee once we reached adulthood. And some of us joined our elders (the oldest Boomers were twenty-three when the Sixties ended, Heather) in opposing institutionalized racism and immoral international adventurism. I am, truly, sorry that this had the effect of reducing social activism to an of out of fashion brand of pants and the aroma of an old man on a bus, but, y'know, I consider that your fucking problem. I'm sorry you had to grow up with Reagan; I'm sorry the opposition party has done nothing to counteract that. But I grew up with the Johnson and Nixon administrations lying to me on a daily basis, and I got over it even before they were done.

And here's the thing: I don't apologize for taking the Civil Rights Movement seriously (and I certainly don't apologize for recognizing its correct time frame). I don't apologize for believing that a proper understanding of US involvement in Indochina is as important today as it was at the time, especially since there's been a concerted effort on the part of the people responsible, and their political descendants, to obfuscate that history and their own guilt. It's not a "generational" thing. It's just as important that people understand the First World War, the Quasi War, and the Whiskey Rebellion. Proper historical perspective on Vietnam would have prevented Iraq, in the same way that military conscription would have turned all of you into a bunch of dirty hippies. 

Hey, "my" generation is "responsible" for Yuppie-ism, Disco, and the career of George Lucas. But to suggest, in damn-near the same breath, that "we" are responsible for Ronald Reagan and taking all the fun out of war protesting for you is just silly. What you know, what you don't know, what you imagine you learned by staring into Barack Obama's eyes on your plasma teevee, means fuck-all as far as I'm concerned. We're all in this together, for good or ill; like all men, we've been given bad times in which to live (though the 1850s were almost as divisive, but with better poetry). It's not productive to keep taking offense at this sort of shit, so I won't; I just wish you--low-key feminist, low-key environmentalist, high-profile teevee pundit--would stop for a second and ask just what path you'd have taken back a brief generation ago, when such matters were pure anathema to the ruling classes, when you risked ostracism, and jail time, instead of a reduction to niche marketing.  Enjoy the next two months.  After that decisions get made.  After that you can't blame the bogey-man, or the boogie-rocker, any more.  


map106 said...

You know, in all honesty, I do recall thinking those monthly exercises of running to the cloak room and hiding underneath your coat to avoid nuclear fallout were actually fun, or at the very least, a welcomed relief from addition and subtraction tables. And I kinda got into imagining digging a fallout shelter in our back yard; we lived on a hill so we could have tunneled for days. The decorating and supply possibilities were endless. And we always had Ozzie and Harriet and those "cool" Nelson brothers to instruct us regarding proper family behavior. God, my childhood was a dream compared to the Reagan babies.

heydave said...

I used to like Heather's work on but this whole fascination with tv, well, just sucks.

map106 said...

And, of course, that should have been:

compared to THOSE of the Reagan babies.

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr. said...

He said he can shout--don't hear you...

Doug said...

Lisa: Nothing you say can upset us. We're the MTV generation, we feel neither highs nor lows.

Homer: "Really? What's it like?

Lisa [shrugging shoulders]: ehh.

arghous said...

Proper historical perspective on Vietnam would have prevented Iraq

Colin Powell, he of the alleged "Doctine", had all sorts of perspectives, even the proper one buried in there somewhere, I'd wager. Fat lot of good it did.

Iko said...

Bravissimo, Senor Riley!

Uncle Omar said...

The Palins' shopping spree reminds me of a Jimmy Buffett tune. Yes, they were the Gypsies in the Palace. I'm going to miss them, at least until the comeback.

Anonymous said...

Another one into the upper deck, Doghouse.

I haven't kept track when or where, but I've read this stuff before. Not Havrilesky's piece precisely but something suchlike. Many tedious times over, in fact, these last couple of decades.

Whiny Gen X, Y or Zer chides imaginary long-in-the-tooth boomer for clinging irrelevantly to radical whimsy. For full editorial effect, piece must be stocked with beyond-obvious subquips about dope, hygiene and loony apparel. Conjecture before consideration - actual history and context need not be noted.

Where is the cynical sprite who questions what percentage of this raging stereotype actually went to Vietnam, attended Woodstock, marched in a rally or spent the sixties on one long acid trip. Does not Classic Rock-as-marketing pablum right into the early part of this century not offer a clue? Why not write the true thing instead? That is, these same allegedly tie-dyed boomers, if you want to take an entire age-aligned demographic as a lockstep group, led the western world on a stupendous rightward lurch once they were grown up enough to exercise political power.

henry lewis

Anonymous said...

It was those total idiots who wrecked the train in Maryland that opened the door to the Reagan Revolution. Really, that's the fulcrum. You heard it here first. --Beel

dave said...

Aw, c'mon. Heather, in her own clunky way, was just trying to bridge the old "generation gap". As an early Boomer, I've heard these lame ass generalizations about idealism, clothes, hair, and hygiene (usually coming from the George Will division of Boomerdom) enough to know that they're just filler in what would have been a pretty slim essay. Hell, in the post election spirit of comity, I'll even absolve her of the guilt over eating a Happy Meal while watching the Challenger blow up. Sure it was a tragedy, but a girl's gotta eat. After all, WE watched the Viet Nam war spooling up while eating Swanson TV dinners, so who are WE to judge?

Anonymous said...

Hey, easy on HH, Doghouse.
She's an ally. We may have to send you back for regrooving.

Would say more, but my Geritol hasn't kicked in

Karl LaFong

Anonymous said...

I think the Boomers-vs-MTVers dichotomy - to the extent that it is a real distinction between real attitudinal styles self-assumed by two age cohorts - is a classic example of the psychological pendulum. No group of younger people wants to be like their parents, not in our post-agrarian society. In more or less stable, peaceful times, the parental way of doing and thinking is considered stylistically stale. If there are actual practical problems that the young people must deal with, their parents' ways are considered unuseful. That's the way it's been since the kids first left the Farm and Saw Paree -- and maybe before that, when rural life started to be changed by quickly changing new technology.

Li'l Innocent

Mike said...

I pray that Heather and her cohorts, who have suddenly discovered the
rush of pride and idealism that accompanies the rise of a potentially
great and charismatic leader, never have to suffer the soul scarring
experience of losing three of them to assassins' bullets within a five year period.

For many of us who were young adults in the 60's, those heartbreaking
events contributed mightily to our "earnestness".

Spa Resort said...

wish it works out..