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Eat Your Young
By Chris Colord
Fort Wayne Reader
It's been a particularly persistent Winter in Indiana this year, with surprising late-season snows and colder than normal temperatures dominating the usually sunny and optimistic Spring months. The thermometer rarely got near the 60 degree mark during the month of March and the Sun did the vanishing act it usually reserves for November and February. Often, even during the worst winters, there's a respite, a surprising burst of warm temperatures, but this year the weather gods have meted out the nice days like a miser: it's been cold, windy, snowy, depressing. After last year's record warmth that saw 80-degree days before Easter, it's been a harsh return to form.
But finally this past week, the clouds parted, the skies turned blue and normal temps finally returned to the state. As usual, it prompted the typical mania from folks who were all too eager to get out from under Winter's long shadow. On the walk/bike trail near where I live, people were out in full force, trying to recapture in a few hours what's been denied for months. There were bikers, joggers, families, old men with canes. On everyone's face you could read that ridiculous optimism, that hope that this year we'll have a true, extensive Spring in Indiana and not just that measly week or so between bitter Winter and steamy, rainforest Summer.
So, it's a happy time, right, all sunshiny and sweet, trees budding, birds chirping, etc, and I'm more than willing to be as dopey and content as everyone else on the trail. I don't want to be my usual misanthropic being, I want to banish all my negative, mean-spirited thoughts to oblivion, and just enjoy the simple beauty of a simple day. I'm full of bonhomie and warmth for the human race, I'm happy, I'm hopeful. And then I happen to see a young father on a bike with his 4-year old son sitting behind him, and I notice that the kid is holding an electronic device in his hands, something with a screen, a tablet computer, and I realize that the kid is watching a movie on the back of his dad's bike, and suddenly the only thing I want is for the North Koreans to drop a 50 megaton warhead on top of the dad’s head. I recognize that this would lead to my own annihilation as well (not to mention a large portion of Indiana), but what a small price to pay: as long as this dipshit father is obliterated, all is well with the world.
I'll admit that I do have a tiny problem with hyperbole, of course, and maybe some rage "challenges" as well, but in my defense can I just say: the dad was letting his kid watch TV on his bike. In the grand scheme of things, my sins are relatively minor. All I wanted was for the father and the kid to die; they were the ones with the TV on. And I know, I know, who the hell do I think I am, what right do I have to tell somebody how to parent their child, who gave me the moral authority, etc. But Mother of God, what an appalling sight. I've certainly seen worse behavior by parents in public before — at soccer games, at basketball games — but nothing pissed me off so much, so quickly.
Before I get too unbearably self-righteous here, though, I should point out that I probably had it in for the father even before the kid and the television were revealed. For as much as I try to believe that I'm ultra-tolerant and open-minded and accepting of all people, the fact remains that I am a deeply prejudiced person who often wears his prejudices as ugly and as blatantly as warts on a nose. And the group of people that I hate the most would certainly claim the father for a member, for he is obviously one of them: a guy in his 20's.
I've been fighting this battle for a while now, and I've tried like hell not to give in to my base impulses, because I know exactly how it makes me look: a bitter old prick. Being a baby boomer and kicking the shit out of the Millennial generation is just so predictable, so easy, and I've strived hard to never be pinned down as a "typical" anything. But damned if my hackles don't start rising as soon as I see some inarticulate, T-shirted, dubiously-facial-haired twenty-something in sandals and shorts, walking down my street with his eyes glued to his smart phone. I immediately think the worst of him. It's anti-intellectual, this prejudice, and that's what's most galling to me, that I'm so quick to deride and dismiss when I know that it's ridiculous to generalize and stereotype so cheaply. And yet I do it, even when I have sons and nephews in that demographic who aren't like that at all.
And yet, as some point, I wonder if it's really morally indefensible to notice the differences between the generations and to comment on that. This younger generation does seem more inarticulate, but also more confident, and more progressive in the way they think about pressing social issues (gay marriage, obviously — over 70% of Americans born after 1981 are okay with it.) They also seem incredibly, overly sensitive as well, and nearly incapacitated by any sort of professional or personal criticism. And I don't think I'm just making pot-shotting, broad, condescending statements here. At least I hope not. Not too much, anyway.
In the spirit of the late Rodney King, though, I'm gonna hope that "we can all get along here," for this generation friction is not going away anytime soon. In American history, the largest demographic of all time is the baby boomer generation, followed by, in 2nd place, the Millennial generation. It's obvious we're gonna be locked together at least for a few decades more. So I offer this peaceful vow to all the Seths and Jareds out there: no more stereotyping. I promise.