I turned 43 back in January and I’m not too happy about it. It’s not my ever-graying beard that bothers me. It’s not aches or pains or a slowly dissolving understanding of popular culture. What really bothers me is that I feel robbed.
You see, some of my earliest memories were of elders telling me about how hard they had it when they were my age. Oh, the joy they’d take in painting their dreary black-and-white world of having to walk uphill both ways so very far across the room just to change the channel. I wanted that joy for myself. What’s the use in getting older if you can’t lord over the next generation the uncontrolled and random circumstances of your birth? But I can’t. That’s been stolen from me because when I look at the next generation coming up behind me … Yikes. Their world is looking rough.
The other day the president was framing the rise in gas prices as asking Americans to make a sacrifice for The War Effort. Back in my day when we went to war the most the president asked us to do was to go shopping. And that was for wars we were actually in. These days the president will point at some armed conflict across the world, fall all over himself to repeat how we’re not going to war and then somehow demand we pay for it. What a world!
And the media? Don’t get me started on the media! Nowadays all they talk about is how authoritarian everyone else is. Sure, there’s no lack of authoritarianism out there, but, you know, um … this country literally has more people in prison than any other country in the entire world.
Last year police got record-breaking funding and even though we were all quarantined inside, they took that money and managed to kill Americans in record-breaking numbers. Despite that horrifying fact, somehow, the president still took time out of his recent State of the Union address to call for more police funding. Congress interrupted him with a standing ovation before he could even finish his sentence. I mean, the country’s so authoritarian, this president was the more reasonable choice!
One thing that’s changed is that back in my day when there was a pandemic the especially vulnerable got laughed at and science never even got mentioned. With pandemics nowadays at least one political party believes in science … Until it’s just ever so slightly inconvenient. Then it gets real quiet. One-third of the children who’ve died from COVID died during the omicron surge, long COVID in kids is being called a pediatric public health crisis, it turns out the vaccine isn’t doing very much for children, brain damage can be caused by even the mildest cases of COVID, disability and insurance claims involving COVID are frequently denied, a new variant is taking over as I write this, and our leaders in both parties have reached the bipartisan agreement that we should all take off our masks and live with it. Oh, and the especially vulnerable? They’re mentioned even less than science.
Back in my day the leadership used the bigoted excuse of blaming gay people. Nowadays you can’t even say gay.
I guess I could keep going on about skyrocketing living costs or ever-vanishing voting rights. Maybe the unhoused crisis. Something about the dwindling creativity in pop culture? There are just so many ways capitalism is robbing the generations behind me. Everyone sees it.
Sometimes I feel at any moment a person in their 20s will tap me on the shoulder and say, “You poor dumbshit. Do you have any idea how good you had it? With your original Air Jordans and your Danity Kane and your survivable weather? Do you know what we get? We get sequels and remakes and remixes of music and movies and politics! We get told we’re too precious for agency! We get an app to watch white people grow their wealth by stealing dances from Black people! You had it all and you blew it!” All that said, I haven’t lost hope. Historically speaking, shifts and reversals do happen and they often happen quickly. So, don’t feel too bad for me. I’m only 43, after all. I could start wagging my finger at any moment!
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