Far be it from me to be an ungracious host, but I must demur from commenter Election Watcher’s correction of my generational terminology below.
I can’t stop people from using “Generation Jones” for the immediate post-Baby Boomers if they like. However, as I wrote in an earlier comment, “Generation X” was indeed coined to describe the born-in-the-60s, grew up in the 70s, began working in the 80s group of which Barack Obama (born 1961) and myself (born 1964) are members. Douglas Coupland, author of the original Generation X book, was also born in 1961. Looking a few things up, it also turns out (as I suspected) that the two most prominent purveyors of Seattle grunge rock, so heavily associated with Gen X, are in the same age group: Kurt Cobain was born in 1967, the same year as my younger brother, and Eddie Vedder in 1964, the same year as yours truly. The key experience in common here is having been too young to directly participate in any of the 60s movements or their fallout. It’s prosopography, baby!
That brings me back to Obama and the Weathermen. The story of his association will former Weatherman Bill Ayers is a little less flimsy than I originally assumed — there was apparently a state senate campaign event at Ayers’s home — but the terms of it are interesting generationally. In the recent debate,
Obama replied that Ayers was a neighbor and acquaintance. “The notion that . . . me knowing somebody who engaged in detestable acts 40 years ago, when I was 8 years old, somehow reflects on me and my values doesn’t make much sense,” he said.
Who did or said what to whom back in the day was just not relevant. My reaction exactly to any number of academic situations I have run into regarding old radical antipathies and controversies.
Let me close by saying that I really hope I don’t have to wait longer than January before my generation gets its first president.