Who Hurts the Most?

I recently eavesdropped on an Internet conversation about “trigger alerts,” which took a side turn into whether baby boomers or younger generations had a harder time when growing up. In this discussion, baby boomers maintained that, as youth, we didn’t need to be alerted when something painful was about to be discussed in a classroom or on a TV show, and that the new generation was being coddled by being warned ahead of time that the lecturer or movie had material—about rape or violence, for example—that might hurt or offend. Instead of turning away from offensive or scary material, the baby boomers argued, we need to confront our fears, not avoid them.

As an older baby boomer, this rang true, until I started reading comments from younger women. They talked about being raped—a word I hardly knew when I was in high school—and pointed out that they had grown up with the threat of school shootings, and the subsequent preventive measures, like lock-down drills, that promoted constant fear and anxiety.

We baby boomers had our own school drills, like crawling under the desks to practice what we would do if the Soviet Union launched nuclear warheads at the U.S., something that seemed very possible during the Cold War when both countries were building nuclear arsenals that threatened the destruction of the whole planet, otherwise known as MAD—mutually assured destruction.

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Talkin’ About My Generation

It’s only recently dawned on me that my generation—not just Baby Boomer but the older half of that generation—had it easy (unless you were a minority, which is a different story). My lifeline followed the prosperity of this country—starting from the 1950s when an economic and population boom followed the end of World War II. Housing was cheap, and my parents’ generation was flocking to the suburbs, where new subdivisions were being quickly built on what was farmland. I recall that my parents paid $15,000 in 1956 for the house where they raised our family. (Of course, everything was cheaper then; when I was in college, I remember working at office jobs where I was paid $2/hour.)

For my generation, college was affordable (I recall paying around $2,000 a semester), and jobs were plentiful after graduation. I didn’t have to worry about student debt, because my parents, even with seven children, were able to pay the tuition.

My father was a firm believer in the stock market, and his investments grew throughout the decades, with only a few blips here and there. He also saw the benefit of buying property—a few acres here and a few acres there when he had the money—which also accrued value as the decades passed.

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