Tuesday, April 29, 2003

The Bushies and the Intra-Generation Gap

Here's an amusing exchange between pretentious-satirist-but-actually-just-old-comedian Al Franken and serious-thinker-yet-genuinely-funny DepSecDef Paul Wolfowitz at last weekend's White House Correspondents' Dinner from the newly profitable Salon:

Franken: "Clinton's military did pretty well in Iraq, huh?"

Wolfowitz: "Fuck you."

Arrogant? Simplistic? Unilateral? Yes. Refreshingly so.

What I like best about the Bush team is their extraordinary ability to totally outflank and devastate their critics in ways that are both unexpected and elegantly efficient. I hope this catches on.

Up until around 1965 it was cool to "not suffer fools lightly." But that ethos was a tad too harsh for the mellow sixties generation which seemed to value non-confrontation and hair design above all else. In that context, a guy like Al Franken could be considered "edgy" and serious if he concealed his fundamental meanness under a veneer of humor. Of course, he'd have gotten the shit kicked out of him by Frank Sinatra had he dared make some edgy crack about him.

The "me-generation" was so concerned about peace and harmony that, at some point, it could no longer function socially without acting out some kabuki play of niceties and irony meant to shield true meanings as much as possible.

Guys like Wolfowitz and Bush and Rumsfeld don't have time for that. They rip through all the encrusted genteel sixties decorum like a hurricane blast through the lobby of the Delano.

Irony? That's for losers. Irony didn't really exist until 1966 or so anyway. Before that it wasn't retro-chic, it was real and no one was embarrassed to like it.

Contrary to popular revisionist history, the 1950s were not a repressive time of conformity . . . the 1960s and 1970s were. The 1950s were about confidence. The 60s-70s celebrated insecurity.

The 1950s gave us the most creative music, architecture, literature, politics, and automobile design of the 20th century. The 60s-70s gave us nothing that anyone outside the Baby Boom cohort will ever remember, much less appreciate.

Civil rights? . . . the hard struggle was over by 1964.

Women's rights? . . . feminism was a total dead end compared to 1920s suffrage.

Uh . . . ummm . . . music? Already a deeply embarrassing cliche with no shelf life whatsoever.

So the next time a smug 50-year-old approaches you and suggests that your accomplishments and all you believe in is actually the consequence of the struggles of a chosen few who made up an enlightened generation . . . clear them from your path with judicious "Fuck You" and continue on your way.

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