Forum: Things aren’t OK, boomers; but maybe the kids are

Older generations wrote the rules to fit their desires, but maybe there’s hope in their grandchildren.

Dan Hazen

Dan Hazen

By Dan Hazen / Herald Forum

Old folks sure aren’t what they used to be. Jesse and Doris were the “old folks” when I grew up in Stanwood. Born toward the end of the 19th century, they farmed generational land on the outskirts of what was then a small, isolated town.

Jesse told stories about logging from springboards with crosscut saws and a team of oxen. He laughed a lot, which made his very large belly bounce inside the bib overalls he always wore. He was never anxious. Always available. He moved through his world with grace. He was curious about me and interested in my future. He and Doris lived very simply in a mobile home, playing various support roles to their kids and grandkids.

They raised their own children among the generation of parents of the likes of Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, but I don’t sense the same curiosity or grace in what is now this generation of elders.

But simply complaining that the 118th Congress is populated by “oldies” misses the mark. Yes, it’s the third oldest Congress we’ve ever had. Yes, the average age of senators has gone up from 52 in 1981 to 64 today. But politics has always been the purview of elders.

To an extent, that’s how it should be. Even the most progressive agists among us genuflect before the idea of indigenous and aboriginal people organizing their polity around “elders.” (We think it’s all cute and “organic” and “traditional” for them, but “traditional” won’t cut it for us when we want student debt forgiveness, legal heroin, and no police pursuits). But I digress. The point is, we need leaders with wisdom born of years.

Having old folks in charge is not the problem. It’s what kind of old folks.

Our current crop of elders (of which I am a junior member) stands out for its selfishness. American individualism hit its peak with the Baby Boom generation, and it matures along with them. But because we are living this selfishness in real time, it’s hard to see. It’s too close, like a smudge on your glasses that you simply look through but don’t perceive. It’s also hard to see because selfishness changes as we age. The hippies at Woodstock in ’69 are now the retired hedge fund managers and U.S. senators propping up corporate profits.

It started with a self-serving sexual revolution. It’s ending with a self-serving economic one.

But “youngers” do themselves a disservice when they rail against “big corporations.” Those corporations are just a construct; a game with an array of rules written by the players. The shareholders who benefit from these rules are us, and most of the players are over the age of 50 (many older than that and currently contributing zero labor or service yet disproportionately benefiting from the rules they wrote). It’s all 100 percent legal. Because we wrote the laws.

We watch our wide-eyed and panicked children floundering in the frigid water as we sit in an overcrowded lifeboat which itself is slowly sinking. Yet, we cling to it and deny them access because, we say, they would swamp the boat. All the while, we refuse to jettison our second homes, our triple-digit price-tagged RV’s and cosmetic surgeries. We have plenty of space for cheap Walmart products and pallet loads of the latest Costco trend, but no room for our grandchildren.

This isn’t about Democrats and Republicans. At the end of the day, it’s not about boomers and millennials either. It’s about those with power (from personal and local, to collective and global) who wield it for their own benefit at the expense of someone else. It’s about disguising childish greed as cultivated wisdom.

I have some hope, however. I see some young parents (the grandchildren of boomers) quietly, and with a surprising kind of dignity, opting out of the game all-together. No hashtags. No banners or bridge-burning. Just choosing to live more simply … so that others may simply live. I have a lot to learn from them.

Dan Hazen is the community pastor at Allen Creek Community Church in Marysville.

Herald Forum

The Herald Forum invites community members to submit essays on topics of importance and interest to them. Essays typically are between 400 and 600 words in length, although exceptions for longer pieces can be made. To submit essays or for more information about the Herald Forum, write Herald Opinion editor Jon Bauer at or call him at 425-339-3466.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Editorial cartoons for Friday, Dec. 8

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

The Everett City Council approved a $375,000 settlement Wednesday with a former firefighter who alleged racist harassment went unaddressed in the department.
Editorial: Fosse shouldn’t have to choose between elected roles

The Everett City Council can bar its members from other offices, but should not do so retroactively.

Schwab: Throwing cliches at Trump to see what sticks

Except for his ardent yet uninformed supporters, it all sticks in the craws of the fair-minded.

Comment: McCarthy delivers parting elbow to GOP’s House majority

Two months after saying he’d stay in office, McCarthy bows out, complicating things for his party.

Comment: Hospitals turning health care into a stay at a spa

The focus on amenities and health care as ‘a journey’ are driving up the cost of U.S. medicare care.

Editorial cartoons for Thursday, Dec. 7

A sketchy look at the eews of the day.… Continue reading

Ben Ramirez is doused with water by teammates after the AquaSox beat the Emeralds to clinch a playoff berth on Monday, Sept. 4, 2023, in Everett. (Photo provided by AquaSox)
Editorial: City’s $1 million an investment in Everett baseball

Contracts for preliminary work on an AquaSox stadium honor team’s 40 years of family fun and tradition.

civic health white board
Editorial: Improving civic health starts by coming to table

Efforts locally and at the state level seek to counter the incivility that has mired public discourse.

From the bodycam footage of Everett police officer Ryan Greely and footage from Molly Wright, Wright films officer Greely before he arrests her for obstructing a law enforcement officer on Aug. 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Screenshot from a video provided by Molly Wright)
Editorial: Duties on both sides of camera during arrests

The right to record police activity is clear, but so is the need to respect the safety of officers and others.

Comment: Ranked-choice voting the big winnter on election day

More cities and counties — and two states — are using RCV and instilling more confidence among voters.

Comment: Democracy survived Nixon; Trump is a greater threat

A special. prosecutor in the Nixon investigation is concerned about how society has changed since then.

Burke: Dilemma in donations is in where to put your money

With a range of worthy causes — charitable and political — how should one weigh where the need is greatest?

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.