• 72°

Leonard Pitts: Go ahead, say ‘OK Boomer’ to heart’s content

“Every generation blames the one before.” — Mike + the Mechanics

So I guess the phrase “OK Boomer” is a thing now. And I gather I’m supposed to be offended by it. Certainly, some people seem to be.

The saying — a dismissive eye roll from Generation Z to their elders — is suddenly all the rage. It appears on hoodies, headlines, tweets and memes, this catch-all response to old folks’ nonstop nagging and criticism. Some members of the baby-boom generation are not amused.

Maureen Dowd of The New York Times sees it as “intergenerational war.” Steve Cuozzo of The New York Post says the young ones “really, really hate us.” Bob Lonsberry, a conservative radio host, declared “boomer” — no joke — “the n-word of ageism.”

Granted, these are media types — not real people — so we should be careful about generalizing. I, for one, can’t say I really feel “hate” from young folks. But to whatever degree I should be taking this seriously — “You darn kids, get off my internet!” — I find that I can’t. I keep laughing instead.

It strikes me as funny that some in my generation, which defined itself by an insolent rejection of the old, are traumatized by a younger generation’s insolent rejection of us. Am I the only one who remembers when the hippies warned, “Don’t trust anyone over 30?” Does no one else recall when Pete Townshend sneered, “Hope I die before I get old?”

Then, how dare any of us clutch our pearls over a little intergenerational sniping? Besides, it’s not as if the kids don’t have a point. Our record is certainly mixed.

I’d say our music was better than theirs, but they have better television — and more of it — than we could’ve dreamt. Boomers made great strides in civil rights for black people, women and the LGBTQ. But we dropped the ball on climate change, failed to address a rigged financial system. And we — the white cohort of us at least — bear blame for the catastrophe of Trump. We deserve both credit and castigation. Every generation does — even the “Greatest.”

When I was a kid, I used to tease this old man in the neighborhood for being an old man in the neighborhood.

“Keep a’livin’,” he’d always retort.

And I did. And here I am, just turned 62 and wondering how the heck that happened. The Gen Z kids will too soon enough wonder the same thing. The big wheel keeps on turning.

Usually that confers perspective and context, the soil from which wisdom grows. But you couldn’t prove that by these overwrought responses to young people’s taunts.

I’m remembering teenage battles with my mom as I write this. As it happens, I’ve got Nat King Cole playing in the background. He was mom’s end-all and be-all. She didn’t want to hear any noise from my room about P-Funk getting funked up, Papa being a rolling stone or midnight trains to Georgia.

As far as she was concerned, music stopped when King Cole died. I got sick of hearing his name, scorned him on general principle.

But I remember one day mom deigned to listen to the Stylistics with me. Afterward, she sniffed that “Betcha By Golly Wow” was actually a pretty song to have such a silly title.

It was a backhanded compliment, but I felt vindicated by it just the same. I doubt she needed my vindication — adults didn’t need that from kids back then.

Still, somewhere in the intervening decades, I decided Cole wasn’t so bad either. I just had to learn how to hear him — and I did.

So the kids may “OK” this boomer to their heart’s content. Because as they will eventually discover, that old man in my neighborhood was right.

Keep a’livin’ indeed.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Email him at lpitts@miamiherald.com.

Comments

Local

Charlotte-based developer chosen for Empire Hotel project

Coronavirus

COVID-19 deaths in Rowan grow to 378 since start of pandemic

Coronavirus

375 employees noncompliant with Novant Health’s vaccination requirement

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 21

Local

Salisbury woman wins $200,000 from scratch-off ticket

Local

Commissioners approve incentive agreement for ‘I-85 Commerce Center’ on Webb Road

Education

State Employees Credit Union commits $1.5 million to new Partners in Learning center

Local

Salisbury council to discuss grant for thermal cameras, reconsider rezoning for future Goodwill store

Elections

Early voting for 2021 municipal elections begin Oct. 14

Nation/World

COVID has killed about as many Americans as the 1918-19 flu

Nation/World

US officials defend expulsion of Haitians from Texas town

Nation/World

Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine works in kids ages 5 to 11

Coronavirus

Seven new COVID-19 fatalities bring September death toll to 27

Business

New ambulance company moves into Rowan County, filling need as COVID hospitalizations remain high

Crime

Blotter: Woman’s car shot several times on Pinehurst Street in Salisbury

Crime

Blotter: Sept. 19

Nation/World

Search for Gabby Petito boyfriend continues after body found

Nation/World

US launches mass expulsion of Haitian migrants from Texas

Ask Us

Ask Us: What companies does RSS use for instructional materials, textbooks?

Business

In lieu of annual festival, New Sarum turns Cheerwine beer release into celebration

Education

RSS says federal money won’t be long-term solution for staff pay

China Grove

Main Street Marketplace combines local ingredients, community with farm-to-table dinner

Business

Business roundup: New managing director takes helm at Piedmont Players Theatre

Coronavirus

COVID-19 cases continue decline as week brings 12 new deaths