Monday, July 01, 2013

Good-bye, cruel world, I'm a baby boomer

I bookmarked this article a while back, thinking it might be worth a few lines, then forgot about it until I found it among the electronic detritus on my hard drive today.

Our reporter, Tara Bahrampour, covers religion (or as her Washington Post bio refers to it, "immigration").  
Last spring, Frank Turkaly tried to kill himself. ... In one grim respect he is far from alone: He is part of an alarming trend among baby boomers, whose suicide rates shot up precipitously between 1999 and 2010.
Let's agree that suicide in most cases signals a human tragedy -- not necessarily the suicide itself, but the despair and often physical pain that lead to it. While I question some of the assumptions quoted in the piece, I am not criticizing  or making fun of those who have chosen their exit.

Instead this is a look at how the article is cliché-ridden and soaked in false ideas.

To begin, take that "alarming trend." Every time I read "trend" (or that hack-writer standby, "growing trend") in a newspaper article, I flash back to a scene in Calvin Trillin's novel Floater. In an editorial meeting, one of the reporters remarks idly about having read of several people recently who drowned in their own backyard swimming pools. The managing editor snaps to attention: "Is that a trend?"
As youths, boomers had higher suicide rates than earlier generations; the confluence of that with the fact that they are now beginning to grow old, when the risk traditionally goes up, has experts worried. 
Ms. Bahrampour belongs to a different generation, one that takes note of a phenomenon when "experts" give us permission to worry about it.
To those growing up in the 1950s and ’60s, America seemed to promise a limitless array of possibilities. The Great Depression and World War II were over; medical innovations such as the polio vaccine and antibiotics appeared to wipe out disease and disability; the birth-control pill sparked a sexual revolution. The economy was thriving, and as they came of age, boomers embraced new ways of living — as civil rights activists, as hippies, as feminists, as war protesters.
Judging from this paragraph, I would place the reporter's age in her 20s. She has a superficial notion of the '50s and '60s, and that based on left-wing ideology -- the '50s were a terrible time of racism and conformity, but at least there were some promising developments in medicine. Then came The Pill and things were looking up. Finally the new dawn opened with civil rights activists, hippies, feminists, and war protesters.
Exacerbating boomers’ anxiety is a sense that the world is more treacherous than when they were young, he said. Then, the communist threat and the atom bomb loomed large, but they were distant and abstract; attacks like the ones on the World Trade Center and the Boston Marathon have changed this paradigm.

“These events used to happen 6,000 miles away; now they happen here,” Arbore [another expert] said.
Distant? A few hundred miles from the coast of Florida, World War III nearly started. It was so close during the Cuban missile crisis that the American secretary of state, Dean Rusk, said later: "We [and the Soviet Union] were eyeball to eyeball." In New York, at the United Nations, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev promised us, "We will bury you."

Abstract? I can still remember the front page of the New York Daily News following a test explosion in the Pacific of a hydrogen bomb. With a photo of a towering mushroom cloud, the headline said in huge type:


Yeah, not treacherous like the world the baby boomers have to deal with now. Back then a piece of cake, a doddle, a Disney fairy tale.

This ignorant young reporter probably has no place in her "narrative" for the Soviet Union and mutual assured destruction. Communism was a phantom, the source of "anti-Communist hysteria."  But to Ms. Bahrampour, it was the best of times, with hippies, feminists, etc.
Growing up in a post-Freudian society, [baby boomers] were raised with a new vocabulary of emotional awareness and an emphasis on self-actualization. But that did not necessarily translate into an increased ability to cope with difficult emotions — especially among men. Women tend to be better connected socially and share their feelings more freely — protective factors when looking at their risk for suicide. And African Americans and Hispanics tend to have lower rates of suicide than whites, possibly because of stronger community connections, or because of different expectations.
Yup, there you have the obligatory male bashing and fawning over "persons of color." White men can't cope with "difficult" emotions. They're pigs and they know it. No wonder they're suicidal.



Anonymous said...

She needs to read the story of Samson; as a cautionary tale to she and her fellow travelers.


Frank Dineen said...

Yes, RD, the imbecilic piece you lambasted was indeed worth your trouble; tripe like this richly deserves -- needs -- to be called out. And you, as usual, have proved more than equal to the task.