Between 1946 and 1964, a LOT of people were born in the United States, and we came to be called “baby boomers.”
As a generation, our greatest fear was “the bomb.” Movies like “Fail Safe,” “Dr. Strangelove,” and “On the Beach” had conditioned us to believe that a single call on the “red phone” or at the touch of a button, our world would immediately end, leaving only bacteria and cockroaches. Conversely (and ironically), our parents viewed that same bomb as salvation. It had effectively put an end to World War II – clenched success of the allies, and frankly, sent all those GI’s home to make all of us babies.
Despite our parents’ respect for the atom bomb that we so feared, they appeased and pandered to our paranoia, essentially convincing us that by covering our necks with our hands and lining up against lockers, we would be spared in that moment of Armageddon. Though the world explode in a hail of Cold War Russian bombs all around us, there was something sacred about cowering under our desks or against hall lockers that would leave us unscathed. And so, at least a couple of times a month, we participated in this ritualistic “civil defense drill,” certain it would be our salvation.
Having survived the Great Depression, the Day of Infamy, a World War… overall, our parents, the “greatest generation” opted, for the most part, to fear very little. After all, their own president (Franklin D. Roosevelt) had assured them there was “nothing to fear but fear itself.”
Intrepidly, they packed up their children in automobiles with no seat belts, even let us lie up in the rear window, and took us on long car trips across the country. They bought us toys coated in lead paint. They fried up food laden with lard, in iron skillets, and urged us to be in the “clean plate club.” Don’t just pick at your food – eat every bite – even when you’re no longer hungry. They sent us to school in buildings constructed largely of lead and asbestos.
Only a few things seemed to strike terror in the hearts of our parents, and they warned us time and time again of these dangers:
Mayonnaise – Ingestion of any sandwich containing mayonnaise on warm day would surely kill us. Likewise, swimming within an hour of eating anything might lead to swift and painful death.
Other less lethal, but potentially dangerous acts included: Running with sticks, crossing your eyes, and eating after someone else.
As we approach the year 2011, the affectionate term “baby boomer” has given way to “mid-centurions,” which makes us sound like a bunch of old codgers. And it seems our own government is seeking a way to reduce our impact on society. They urge early retirement (make way for the younger, less expensive workforce), and appear determined to make sure we don’t all collect our Social Security or Medicare benefits en masse.
However, as always, the numbers are in our favor. So, how can they reduce those numbers?
We survived lead, asbestos, cars with no seat belts, and we were riding bikes before helmets were invented. We lived through mumps, measles, and chicken pox – even survived archaic forms of corporal punishment that included switches and paddles.
Apparently, the only possible way to reduce our numbers would be for the government to invite us all on a big picnic next summer, and serve us tuna or chicken salad sandwiches, then throw us in the lake – before that sacred hour during which our food must digest.
I am warning you now, fellow boomers. When you get that picnic invitation pops up on your smartphone – just respectfully decline.
Paranoia? Perhaps. But, as Johnny Fever (“WKRP in Cincinnati”) said, “When everybody’s out to get you, paranoia is just good thinking.”