On September 26th, 1983, I was ten years old and living in Madison, Wisconsin. As a child, I actively feared nuclear war; it bordered on an anxiety disorder at time, to the point that my parents refused to let me watch The Day After when it aired lest it set off months of insomnia. Madison in the 1980s was not a city where children were told reassuring lies or half-truths about nuclear war: I knew from the age of six that the U.S. and the Soviet Union had enough nukes between us to blow up the world 36 times (why once wouldn’t be enough, well, that just went to show how crazy Ronald Reagan was) and that a nuclear blast was non-survivable. No one taught me to duck and cover, although I had a classmate with the t-shirt that ended with the line “…and kiss your ass goodbye.” There were maps provided by one of the peace organizations that showed the results if a one-megaton nuke were detonated over the Wisconsin State Capitol (chosen not because it was a likely target, but because it was a recognizable landmark). Not realizing that the Soviets would be more likely to aim at the munitions plant up near the Dells, I used to study those maps to see whether I’d be annihilated in the blink of an eye (my preference) or survive with horrible burns or die slowly of radiation poisoning or what.
It almost happened.
But it didn’t, thanks to Stanislav Petrov…you are a mensch…
Kritzer also wrote the following about the fall of the Berlin Wall, which she says is the dividing line between Gen X and Gen Y. Here is an excerpt:
Gen Xers remember the Fall of the Berlin Wall as the Day the World Changed. I still tear up looking at pictures…The Fall of the Berlin Wall had its own Stanislav Petrov…On November 9th, Günter Schabowski, the East German Minister of Propaganda, announced during a TV interview that East Berliners would be allowed to cross into West Berlin, and due to a communications error said that this was effective immediately (it wasn’t supposed to take effect until the next day, and they had planned for something much more controlled). East Berliners immediately flooded the checkpoints, and the overwhelmed border guards realized quickly that they had two options — let them through, or open fire. They opened the gates.
Gen X Over 40
A writer for the Washington Post, Gabe Goldberg, reports in the early edition of the Washington Post (Sunday, September 28), about the work of 40Plus, a nonprofit group that addresses job concerns linked to age (among other things). Check it out!
Voluntary Simplicity, Frugal Chic
This next one is pretty interesting – to me anyway. It’s an article in the Palm Beach Post, Expert Sees Housing Market Off Until 2011. First of all, it talks about Baby Boomers not being able to “offload their McMansions” onto Gen X and Gen Y.” What I really like about it, however, is something that has been working its way into becoming a full-fledged trend for at least 10 years — something this article calls “frugal chic.” Ten years ago, I bought Voluntary Simplicity. I loved this book so much.
Gen Xers and Academia
Here is another blog post from Zimblog out of Vermont, which is worth checking out: Gen Xers and Academia revisited. He writes about Stefanie Sanford’s Civic Life in the Information Age: “‘We’ GenXers emerge … as a prickly group with an intense work ethic, a mania for effectiveness and efficiency, a hatred of talk and meetings, a pragmatic wish to find out what works, a corresponding impatience with ideology, and a risk-taking and entrepreneurial spirit…”
Gen X Mother Pens Letter To Children About Economic Bailout
Here is a blog post from a mother in Colorado who is also a lawyer. It is a letter to her children, and it’s about the $7 billion bailout. It’s long, but if you have time, read it. If not, soak in this for a while. She writes:
“My Dear Children, …I am a part of Generation X, a generation that has never known large-scale suffering. We’ve had endless opportunities. I always knew I would go to college…I’m not one of those people whose house has been foreclosed. I have a good job. But now, most of my money goes to five things: mortgage, food, day care, gas and health care. There’s not much left after that…But my husband and I are very scared for the future. We wonder if we’ll lose our savings in the stock market. We wonder if we’ll lose our jobs. We wonder if we’ll be able to afford day care…What will we say to you – our children? Will we be able to provide for you?…What is known is that in order to recover from this crisis as a nation, we will be paying down debt for a long time. And I mean you – my children. I worry that this could mean you won’t be able to go to college. You won’t be able to afford a house. You won’t be able to travel and see the world like I did. It is the American Dream to hope for a better life for the next generation. Now, I just hope that you’ll have the same opportunities that I had…Was it somehow my fault?…We should have been more politically involved…We should have bought a smaller house…We worked hard. We did the best we could… I promise you I will do whatever I can to protect you, teach you and give you every opportunity I can. But I’m scared, I’m sorry…”
This next blog post, The Great Concavity is a memoir by a male blogger in Chicago (Megablog) and the years 1998-2008. It begins at age 30 as the blogger plods through the tar pit of Generation X (worthless job, eroding ambition, guarding the fish). It is 1998, and David Foster Wallace has skyrocketed to literary-sex-symbol status with Infinite Jest. The blog entry is part tribute to DFW, who killed himself a couple of weeks ago. Also, two weeks ago, the blogger turned 40. He writes this powerful reflection: “A part of my history, of what is yet to come, has been prematurely ended. His work is rich enough that I’ll be reading it repeatedly for the rest of my life, drawing inspiration and awe, but it is crushing and sad to think of his depression, his decision to kill himself, and the suddenly premature finality of his oeuvre (Wallace always insisted that, above all other intentions, Infinite Jest was a novel about sadness)…”
Finally, have you heard of this book, Generation Kill. It came out in 2004, was a best seller, and I completely missed it. This book is written by a South African reporter (Evan Wright) who was embedded with the platoon of First Reconnaissance Battalion Marines in March 2003. He writes about how different the current generations (X and Y) fighting the war in Iraq are from the generation that fought World War II.
Did you know about Stanislav Petrov Day? What do you think learning about this all these years later?