Wednesday, November 11, 2009


So the Baby Boomers had 1968. Holy shit, have they told us, and told us, and told us of the wonders of 1968. Because in 1968 they changed the world, you see.

But of course they didn't. As a general rule of thumb, the baby boomers who tell you all about how they changed the world are not the ones who actually changed the world. So some ex hippie will prattle on about peace and love and someone like John Lewis, who really did change a particularly noxious corner of the world, doesn't feel the need constantly to reinforce that point. And John Lewis is a politician, for whom plugging his role in changing the world ought to be front-and-center. (It's actually remarkable how few of the Civil Rights Movement's activists act like your apodictic baby boomers, when the irony is that they are the ones who are most in a position to act like self-important, self-righteous, and self-indulgent twits. Ahhh, baby boomers, the dubious gift that keeps on giving, even when we make it clear we really don't like the gift.)

Don't get me wrong -- 1968 was a remarkable year, made all the more so because its currents were truly international. It's a year I love to teach. And it's a year that has come to symbolize both the best and worst of that strange decade. But for my generation, 1989 was every bit as important, with the added benefit of 1989 having been a time when the world really did re-order itself significantly.

Twenty years ago (gulp) I graduated from high school and headed off to Williams. Little did I know when I made the two-plus hour ride into an entirely different world that within a few months much of the world that I knew would transform itself. The Berlin Wall, the prevailing symbol and metaphor of the Cold War, would fall, and that collapse would itself provide a metaphor for the crumbling of the Eastern Bloc and the dawn of a new era. As 1989 gave way to 1990 FW de Klerk, who had risen from the ranks of Afrikaner Nationalism with a seemingly impeccable apartheid pedigree, released Nelson Mandela from prison and unbanned the ANC and PAC, setting the stage for epochal transformations in South Africa. The Simpsons made its debut in December 1989. And of course Milli Vanilli's first album, destined to win a Grammy in 1990, was released in the United States. Tectonic shifts all.

Much like 1968, the legacy of 1989 is "Still Up For Debate." Any series of events that causes The Boston Globe to heap praise upon a Bush (albeit the competent one) is clearly monumental.


Anonymous said...

Nice Dcat...nice piece!


dcat said...

Thanks Tramaine.

Clare said...

As a boomer, I'm here to tall ya...lovely piece!

(Sheesh, was it really 20 years ago?)