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Gen X

Their Thoughts On Health, Wealth, War and the Future

By Gloria Diaz

Fort Wayne Reader

2006-01-06


What happened to Generation X? Over a decade ago, they were in the spotlight as the generation born after the “Baby Boomers” of the post war years. They’ve been classified as being whiny, spoiled, lazy, and apathetic. A privileged Baby Boomer may resent a Gen Xer who is working a low-paying job, and struggling to pay rent, figuring, “I worked hard for what I got, so should they.” The struggling Gen Xer looks at a Baby Boomer who has a job with health insurance and retirement plan and wonders how he can put away anything for a retirement he’s positive won’t ever come. Boomers may not believe in universal health care, but you can be sure when they become eligible for it, they will expect Medicare to pick up their bills. It’s this sort of hypocrisy that irks Gen Xers.

Gen Xers feel they’ve inherited a bleak world — AIDS, a skimpy job market that places little value in a college education, and looming crisis in health care and social security.

In a non-scientific survey, Generation X appears to be surviving. They may have inherited a bleak world, but they realize they’re here and must make the best of it. Some have definite opinions on politics, others couldn’t care less. Some are doing well financially, others are scraping by. Nearly everyone surveyed was eager to give their input.

Domestic Matters

Of the respondents, the majority said their parents were still married. About half were single, or considered themselves single; a quarter were married, and a quarter were divorced. More than half own their own homes. Three respondents, two of them single mothers who are employed, have children. About 1/3 reported having parents who were Baby Boomers. One respondent, Rick McGinnis, of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, had a unique childhood experience; he was adopted by a couple in their 60s, both born before 1910. “My birth parents were classic Boomers, born at the height of the postwar miracle, and I was the result of a teen pregnancy. I didn’t know them, however, so my world view was never really shaped by Boomer parents, but by much older people.”

Looking at each other

Baby Boomers see Gen X as slackers, but what do Gen Xers think of each other? The question, “what scares or shocks you the most about your peers?” garnered diverse responses.

Rick McGinnis was bothered by his generation’s lack of direction: “Most of them -- my friends, in any case -- spent their 20s and early 30s flailing about. There were false starts in careers, abortive first marriages, or just what you’d expect from people whose place seemed doubtful, demographically and economically. As a result, Gen X seems to easily slip into resignation or fatalism, while retaining their right to complain at the drop of a hat -- a bit of a contradiction, but we do it so well.”

Mark Turney, of Fort Wayne, is disappointed at Generation X’s “inability to think independently of their social conditioning.” Although “deliriously happily married,” Turney offers some gloomy thoughts on what lies ahead for the 13th Generation.

“Mother Hubbard’s cupboard is bare,” says Turney, of the Social Security issue. “There is no trust fund. Privatizing it a’ la W is not going to make a bit of difference. So Democrats and Republicans are BOTH lying to you. The Fed has plundered all accounts and will even welsh on the Baby Boomers, to say nothing of Gen Xers. I predict, I almost GUARANTEE that the Fed will plunder our 401K’s by 2008 to ‘offset this eminent crisis.’ Another word for it is racketeering. We trusted sharks, and now we are flabbergasted to find that we have been bitten. So the answer is not to go looking to the sharks to help you; get out of the water.”

Turney does have some advice for the health care crisis: “The health care crisis as I define it would be the biotech/pharmaceutical stranglehold on our health system. They own 95% of the hospitals in the country, 85% of the private practices of individual doctors, almost all the medical schools, and want us all to be sick and take pills until we’re 110 years old. If this is health care, I’m glad I don’t have any. Instead of poisoning our bodies, we should boost our immune systems as they have been doing in Santa Rosa, California, with holistic, naturalistic supplements and vitamins. They know that if you keep your body alkaline instead of acidic, for instance, you cannot get cancer.”

If Medicare exists for Generation X, it won’t be accessible until they become elderly; what about now? “Julie” (not her real name) of Chicago, thinks about health care quite a bit: “I developed rheumatoid arthritis a little over a year ago. Within six months, I literally was becoming crippled. I couldn’t close my hands because they were swollen and painful, I was having trouble walking and I was exhausted. I felt like my body became a bizarre science experiment. Every couple days a new joint would swell up. I finally got to try a fairly new drug, which is not actually a drug at all, but a cloned human protein, brand name Embrel. I do a weekly self-injection. Almost overnight, my worst symptoms went away. It was incredible, almost miraculous. But this drug, Embrel, retails at $1,200 a month. My major medical covers it and I pay $120 a month. That’s not cheap, but I’m lucky to get it. But now I worry constantly about the future. Without this drug I become crippled. Because it’s a cloned protein, there won’t be a cheap generic available ever. There’s no cure for RA. If I lose my job I’m screwed. I don’t see how I’ll ever get to retire and how I’ll ever be able to maintain decent healthcare. My partner is self-employed, and so of course I’m not covered under her insurance.”

Matt Holdaway, of Berkeley, California, would address the health crisis by cutting military spending. Under his plan, every employee working 32 hours a week or more would get health care. Small employers “would receive help on this from the government.”

Karin Robertson, of Fort Wayne, said, “This may not be a ‘how to’ response. The way I see it, too many people in this country have been turned down for health insurance for lack of money, unemployment issues, pre-existing conditions, etc. Those in the latter category just boggle the mind -- shouldn’t those who have pre-existing conditions have access to health insurance so as to better serve them and increase their chances of getting better and/or obtaining treatment? Without becoming too political, the U.S. should adopt a similar plan (like) that of our Canadian friends. We as a nation care too much about money -- attempting to make that almighty dollar -- when the focus should be to unify everyone with the right to accessible health care.”

Heidi, of Fort Wayne, feels the U.S. should come to a decision about health care and do something, instead of endlessly debating the issue. “First we need to decide what our priority is. Do we think that everyone deserves treatment, or only the rich? If we believe that everyone deserves it, we need to go to some sort of national healthcare program. If we think that it is only for the rich, let’s get honest and say so. So that the rest of us can stop worrying about how we would pay the medical bills if we do get sick.”

If worrying about health care wasn’t enough, Gen Xers have a variety of things they list as their “biggest fear.” “Julie” had plenty. “Personally, I’m worried about almost everything ... global warming combined with long-term droughts, running out of oil, health care, never being able to retire, losing my job and not being able to find another one because I’m too old or because my job will be outsourced, war, global unrest, that the U.S. is the big dumb frat boy of the world ...okay, well, that’s what comes to mind just off hand.”

Other Gen Xers worried about being poor, making ends meet, the future of their families, and Matt Holdaway’s concern that “my nation will lead the way to a World War that will destroy everybody.”

“The Righteous Hyperspace Warrior Prophet Bonae 841” is a New York City resident who’s biggest fear is “freedom of speech being limited by the Patriot Act.” He adds, “I am not hopeful for a future in America, which is why I am leaving.” He’s moving to Belgium in August.

Those Damn, Narcissistic Baby Boomers

There wasn’t unanimous hatred when respondents answered questions about Baby Boomers (several said “hate” was a pretty strong word) but there is resentment, jealousy and a general feeling that Boomers have had it good and don’t much care about what happens to anyone else. “Julie” had this to say about them: “They are selfish, greedy and nostalgic. Blech. They don’t see that they are getting the last of the ‘American Dream’ and leaving the crumbs to us.”

Kathy Moseley, of Chicago, doesn’t hate Baby Boomers, but… “(What bugs me is) the idea that everything they do is being done for the first time, and better than ever before! The way they raise their children is also a big annoyance point for me. Their children are the most precious treasures in the world, and nothing must ever be hard for them ever! On "60 Minutes" last season they were talking about the kids of that generation, and someone (I think he was a corporate recruiter) who said that these kids don't know how to problem-solve or think on their feet because everything has always been done for them.”

Rick McGinnis: “I hate the way they mutated youth culture to suit their sense of themselves, their sense of narcissism, that habit of insisting on their uniqueness, distorting things to make it seem like they invented youth, rebellion, anxiety, angst, politics, spirituality, fashion -- almost everything. Now, of course, they’re going to tell us all what it means to get old, as if no one has ever gotten old before. It’s a cultural arrogance that seemed to cast everything that came afterward -- my whole generation’s experience -- into deep shadow.”

Heidi: “A lot of the Baby Boomers I know seem to think that they are entitled to a great paying job, a huge house, lots of big gas-guzzling cars and of course, early retirement with full benefits. Oh yeah, and of course, they don’t feel that anything is their fault. If their children misbehave, it’s because of a cartoon they watched on television and not because they failed to teach their children how to behave.”

Mark Turney, said the main thing that bugged him about Boomers is “they don’t think they’re as clueless as we are.”

The respondents for this survey were overwhelmingly against the war. Of those who supported the war, one did so reluctantly, and believes her initial misgivings are being proven correct. Another respondent who sees going into Iraq as a good thing is Canadian, who feels the U.S. being in Iraq will pay off in the long run for both countries.

Kathy Moseley: “(I was) very much against (the war). I think it was a completely manufactured situation to advance the agenda of the Bush administration, and I think that's been pretty well proven at this point.”

Rick McGinnis was for the war. “(I) didn’t much care about the WMD rationale. Saddam was a tyrant, and a sinister enabler of so much of what was making the Middle East an apparently unsolvable stalemate -- funding whatever terrorist groups Iran wasn’t already supporting. I didn’t see the problem with one less dictator, regardless of whatever relationship the U.S. had with him in the past -- especially considering that Europe and Russia (and North Korea) had their own peculiar ties.”

At least two respondents questioned why Saddam Hussein was being targeted when it was generally believed that Osama bin Laden was the one who orchestrated the September 11 terrorist attacks. Mark Turney: “First, I support troops wherever they may be. Secondly, what did Saddam Hussein have to do with September 11th? That was supposed to be Osama bin Laden. Thirdly, what has Saddam done that hasn’t been done at least as much by the Sudan, China Korea, etc.? It’s not about war; it’s about the transnationalist agenda for global government to turn our world into a macrocosm of Singapore. As for the constitution of Iraq, I say we send them ours; it’s not like WE’RE using it.”

September 11, 2001

And how did September 11 impact Generation X?

Mark Turney: “My first thought was: here comes the New World Order. There are many books out that show monumental evidence that our government either let it happen to pass the Patriot Act that was penned in the late 90s or they actually perpetrated it with the use of Bush’s buddies, the bin Laden family.”

“Julie”: “Honestly, I thought it was kind of an exciting event. People are horrified to hear me say that, but that’s what I thought. I honestly couldn’t imagine who all the people were who felt so very safe and snug in their insulated worlds. I like watching film of the planes hitting the towers because it’s completely fascinating. My views on 9/11 are a tad unconventional, so I don’t broadcast them much.”

Rick McGinnis: “It was the final catalyst for my departure from the political left, and once I got over the shock and horror and tragedy of the day itself, it felt like history slapping me in the face again -- without perfect hindsight, who could have predicted it? It reminded me that there was a lot more going on than the economic interregnum after the Cold War, and ended what I can only call our luxurious “peace dividend” mental vacation.”

Karin Robertson: “It made me feel quite vulnerable. I was living in Knoxville, Tennessee, at the time and had no family to go home to the day 9/11 occurred. It was just a ‘feeling’ wanting to be physically closer to my family as thoughts flooded my brain as to when the next attack -- if any -- would happen on American soil.”

Amy Kline, of Fort Wayne: “It really didn’t (affect me). I did come to realize, though, that if someone has an American flag or other ‘patriotic’ symbol on his or her car, that generally means that the person is a conservative Republican and supports the war. The American flag no longer stands for freedom. It stands for a leader who forces a false religion and unjustice down our throats. And it signifies a leader who did not win the popular vote and who manipulated everything necessary to get into office.”

Heidi: “I think it made me think about what I take for granted every day and that I need to appreciate what I have a lot more because it could all be gone tomorrow.”

“The Righteous Hyperspace Warrior Prophet Bonae 841”: “My wife and I were in Manhattan. We lost friends. We got married, had a child and dedicated our life to world peace and understanding between diverse peoples.”

“Any Mouse,” of Arizona: “It broke my heart.”

Kathy Moseley: “My best friend and her family live in New York City, so I was very personally connected to it in that way. They lost friends and neighbors, and it has made their day-to-day lives very different. I don't know if we as a nation really understand the true impact of 9/11 yet. It has been co-opted by the Administration as an easy way of eroding civil rights and liberties in the name of "safety." The American people were so shaken by the whole thing that they just accepted this new clampdown, and haven't really snapped out of it yet. I'm afraid by the time they do, it's going to be too late.”

Our Legacy

Despite all the problems facing Generation X, most in this survey felt hopeful about the future. Heidi says in order to get the things she wants, she’ll have to work two jobs. Mark Turney has faith in God, but not society. Some feel Generation X needs to take care of themselves and not rely on any help on from the government. What will we, as a generation, leave for future generations to discuss?

Rick McGinnis: “We’ve made irony and wry defensiveness a legitimate way of coping with life’s let downs and disappointments. It was our way of insulating ourselves from the enshrined rebellion and angst and self-righteousness of the Boomers. They didn’t get it -- they thought it was all just a passive, dismissive shrug, and came up with terms like ‘slackers,’ which we, to our shame, embraced. In the end, we work as hard as anyone else. Harder, considering what it costs to raise a family now and how much time it takes up now that children are no longer left to their own devices to amuse themselves from the age of four or five -- like we were.”

Amy Kline: “Our poverty and our helplessness, and our dependence on welfare and other government agencies to supplement or provide our incomes.”

“Angry Canadian”: “We’re spawning the next generation of complacent slugs with no drive to succeed.”

Heidi: “Our generation’s distinguishing mark on society will be that we accepted that life and dealt with it, instead of complaining about it all the time. We know what we’re about, we don’t have to announce it to the world. We know that we’re about surviving the aftermath of the Baby Boomers.”

Mark Turney: “Actually, we’ve yet to make one, but we can. Right now. Read the Constitution and read history. These people were in the same boat we’re in right now: over taxation, governmental intrusion on families and beliefs, and overt oppression. Only we’ve been conditioned to think that it’s all normal.”

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