How is it that Baby Boomers, my generation, known for marching against the Vietnam War, fighting for Civil Rights, gay rights, and the Earth, turned against all that to become the primary support for fascism in America?
The answer lies in a forgotten moment over 30 years ago.
It was the Republican National Convention in the Houston Astrodome. The wife of the Vice President, Marilyn Quayle, was sent out to rebut Hillary Clinton, the wife of the presumptive Democratic nominee.
“Not everyone demonstrated, dropped out, took drugs, joined in the sexual revolution or dodged the draft,” she said. Liberals, she said, are “disappointed because most women do not wish to be liberated from their essential natures as women.”
It was bullshit. It made me angry. We’d just had our second child and my wife was back at work. It wasn’t because she was divorced from her essential nature as a woman. We needed the money. And her work was fulfilling.
But Quayle was right in one respect. Most Baby Boomers are as socially conservative as our parents were. It’s just that this was hidden by the progress of our time, and the benefits of that progress. The desire for social regression, for a return to a 1950s childhood of safe suburban streets, remained. It still abides.
That dream was always a lie. We know, from what was written and produced even then, that the suburbs always held an ample share of alcoholism, drug addiction, sexual dysfunction, and misery. It was just covered up by privilege. White privilege.
My dad served in World War II. After wandering the country for a time, he used the skills obtained in service to open a TV repair shop. After that went away, he got an SBA loan to buy a lock shop.
My first neighbor here in Atlanta was also a serviceman, who dreamed of becoming a TV repairman. He couldn’t get the training he was entitled to because he was black. He could never have gotten an SBA loan for the same reason.
The injustices that lay behind Quayle’s façade hide a stark truth. They’re a waste of human resources. It’s no less criminal to ignore this waste than it is to ignore the waste from oil refineries. But for most of mankind’s history we’ve done it. Most people still do it.
It’s a waste the movements of the 1960s tried hard to address. It’s vital that we address them now. It’s not just our prosperity that’s on the line, but our democracy and our planet. Covering up that waste with rhetoric and performative politics will kill our grandchildren.
That monster wears Marilyn Quayle’s face.