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Long Time Passing

Last week I seabaugh%20mug.jpgwas sitting comfortably at a sidewalk
café on lower State Street talking with a fellow Boomer when a
small ragtag band of war protesters came marching down the street,
singing “Give Peace a Chance.” The median age appeared to be around
65 and their collective fashion sense was mired somewhere in the
late 1960s.

I sniggered to my friend: “This is what it has come to.”

“At least someone is trying,” said my more charitable lunch
companion.

I know the Baby Boomer generation is not some monolithic cult.
We, just like any generation, vary in terms of our religiosity, our
sociology, and our views on Hillary Clinton. Yet I can’t help
wondering — as we collectively experience the horrendous déjà
vu
of Vietnam — where is everybody? Have we stopped caring?
Have we become smug and snug behind the automated gates of our
lives? Where have all the Boomers gone?

A 1967 survey of Boomers in the flush of their youth revealed
the idealistic bent of this generation: “Developing a meaningful
philosophy of life” was considered the top priority by 85.8 percent
of them. Financial success was deemed a primary goal by only 41.9
percent.

Contrast the Boomer’s youthful values with a recent survey of
18- to 25-year-olds today. In a major Pew Research Organization
study, the so-called Echo Boomers show up as the mirror opposite of
their forebears. Their top goal is to get rich (81 percent). An
aggregate of 40 percent of the Echo Boomers value charity and
spirituality.

But here is where it gets really interesting. According to Scott
Keeler, director of Pew, this apparently mercenary generation is a
more tolerant generation than the supposedly altruistic Boomers.
Furthermore, he expects them to stay that way.

For example, you might suppose the generation that saw gay
liberation emerge from the closet would be more supportive of gay
marriage. Yet today, 64 percent of Boomers oppose gay marriage with
only 30 percent supporting it. The Echo Boomers, however, favor it
by a slight 1 percent margin.

Immigration is another hot-button issue that the Echo Boomers
seem to accept better than their parents. Two-thirds of the Echos
have a positive view of immigrants and their contribution to our
society, and 25 percent of them are all for increasing legal
immigration. By contrast, only 47 percent of the Boomers believe
immigrants strengthen our society and 16 percent would support
increasing legal immigration.

What happened to us? We were the generation that spawned Earth
Day (right here in Santa Barbara). And we are also the generation
that insists on driving those gigantic gas-guzzling SUVs. When we
stopped dropping out, did we start selling out?

Perhaps we didn’t go so wrong, after all. Although the
generation we spawned may be materialistic, they are also echoing
the tolerance that we once shouted from the street corners.

Yet Boomers can’t really afford to sit back on their well-earned
duffs. Harry R. Moody, AARP’s Director of Academic Affairs, was in
Santa Barbara this past week speaking at Fielding University and
pointed out that the 1990s saw a change in our thinking about
aging. We are living longer, that is apparent, so the environmental
issue of “sustainability” has become pertinent.

As he so cogently pointed out in his talk: “If you are going to
live to 122, 222, or even 1,000, then nuclear waste, global
warming, and all kinds of other issues take on a whole new meaning.
You should imagine living to be 122 because you will start thinking
about the future in a whole different way.”

Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh is a licensed clinical
psychologist with a psychotherapy practice in Santa Barbara.
Comment at healthspan@mac.com and visit his
Web site/blog at www.HealthspanWeb.com for more
information on the topics covered in this column.

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