News & Politics

Letter To a Young Person: I Ain't John Cusack, But You Better Vote

All the effort in the world means nothing if you don't show up to vote.
Dear young voter,

You and I have been arguing for years now about whether baby boomers are to blame for the state of the world as it is today. You've told me that we all sold out to Wall Street and greed, that WE are the ones who put George W. Bush in office, that WE are the ones who supported the Iraq War, that WE are the ones who threw your future away for short-term gain. You've put Dennis Hopper out there as representative of baby boomers even though he was born in 1936 -- a full ten years BEFORE the beginning of the baby boom -- just because he played what you think of as a hippie in a movie.

I have in my paper files a Tom Toles cartoon from 1987 called "The Reading of the Will." It depicts a lawyer reading to five young people from a piece of paper:

Dear kids,

We, the generation in power since World War II, seem to have used up pretty much everything ourselves. We kind of drained all the resources out of our manufacturing industries, so there's not much left there. The beautiful old buildings that were build to last for centuries, we tore down and replaced with characterless but inexpensive structures, and you can have them. Except everything we built had a lifespan about the same as ours, so like the interstate highway system we built, they're all falling apart now and you'll have to deal with that. We used up as much of our natural resources as we could, without providing for renewable ones, so you're probably only good until about a week from Thursday. We did build a generous Social Security and pension system, but that was just for us. In fact, the only really durable thing we built was toxic dumps. You can have those. So think of your inheritance as a challenge. The challenge of starting from scratch. You can begin as soon as -- oh, one last thing -- as soon as you pay off the two trillion dollar debt we left you.

Your parents
Sounds familiar, doesn't it? Except that Tom Toles wrote that in 1987 -- twenty-one years ago -- when I, born in the peak years of the baby boom, was thirty-two years old and Barack Obama, born at the tail end of the boom in 1964, was twenty-three.

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Jill Hussein C. blogs at Brilliant at Breakfast.