OK, zoomers: Here is your trigger warning. What was the name of Roy Rogers’ horse? The answer is Trigger. You were warned.
For those who are wondering who in tarnation is Roy Rogers, he called himself the “King of the Cowboys” and was one of the big stars of Western shoot-’em-up movies. Those films really contributed to the cultural mindset that has made us such a gun-totin’ country today, which results in one assault weapon massacre after another.
If you’re wondering who zoomers are, they make up Generation Z, and have barely made it out of puberty. As well as millennials, who just seem like they haven’t. It’s a snarky reference to those who are too young to have accumulated the mileage necessary to take over, well, just about anything. It’s also an irritable reaction to the “OK, boomer” dismissal of anyone who might offer the benefit of experience to anyone younger who thinks he or she knows everything and doesn’t need the benefit of seasoning that only comes from years of existence.
But let’s discuss this attitude on its merits, or lack thereof. It is true that the boomers have made a mess of things and also true that the boomers were incredibly self-indulgent. “If it feels good, do it” was the mantra of the 1960s, obviously irresponsible, but it certainly felt good. The boomers made the same mistake of those who succeeded them, the millennials and the ones they begat. For the boomers, the watchword was “Never trust anyone over 30,” rejecting the lessons their parents tried to teach them, as part of the so-called Greatest Generation.
The “Greatest” survived the Great Depression and went off to war to stop tyranny, but their era was, in fact, a mixed bag. Balancing the obvious accomplishments were the realities of Jim Crow segregation and the oppression of women. Plus, that generation could be blamed for raising the boomers. While they were a population bulge of narcissists, this is the same self-indulgent demographic group that started unraveling all the bigotry it inherited. They also coddled their children, who have continued their assaults on the prejudices that still infect our society.
Meanwhile, technology is spinning out of control. Yes, it brings with it a worldwide connectivity. But that has advantages, along with very serious disadvantages. While the cyber world moves at blinding speed, it also blinds us to the need to understand how knowledge is accumulated. We no longer have to learn how to learn. Computers do it all for us, which inevitably leads to a contempt for the learned.
The social media also are antisocial media. Our access to everyone paradoxically means we are in solitary confinement, where our individual abilities translate into lone voices. A sense of community at any level is tougher and tougher to achieve.
So, OK, zoomers: How are we going to undo our mess? The answer is to combine forces, to value experience as well as energy. Furthermore, we must ignore those who refuse to abandon puberty, like a certain divisive president we all know, who would take us back to generations that are obsolete.
Bob Franken is an Emmy Award-winning reporter who covered Washington for more than 20 years with CNN. (c) 2020 Bob Franken. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.