In a "Generation of Sociopaths: How the Baby Boomers Betrayed America," author Bruce Cannon Gibney, argues that America has been in decline because its government has been managed by baby boomers "who are anti-social in the clinical sense: sociopaths."
A generation of selfish, deceitful, imprudent, remorseless politicians in the public square, Gibney claims, have squandered America’s "inheritance, abused its power, and subsidized its binges with loans collateralized by its children."
The more power these boomers accumulated, "the more self-serving and destructive their policies become. For purely selfish reasons, the boomers unraveled the social fabric woven by previous generations."
This reckless entitlement behavior is responsible for driving the nation’s Social Security and Medicare systems and public finances to the brink of insolvency. And the financial ticking bomb has been conveniently timed to explode shortly after the selfish generation dies off.
What caused a huge subset of boomers to become self-indulgent? To fully understand this phenomenon, one must go back to the post-World War era.
World War II veterans, America’s greatest generation, who survived the horrors of war and the Great Depression, wanted their children to be brought up in an environment of plenty.
Baby boomer parents worked hard so their children could grow up in fine homes in the suburbs, not coldwater flats in the inner-city. Their children were to be dressed in the latest fashions, not hand me downs. They were to have the newest toys and they were to receive the best education. Their children were to have all the material goods and advantages they were denied in their youth.
Many of these parents overindulged their children. They failed to instill in them the work ethic they practiced, that every right has a corresponding responsibility, and they failed to teach them the greatness of America and its institutions.
These children came to believe that success meant having plenty of objects — big homes, expensive cars, the latest gadgets. Material benefits, comforts, and security were viewed as entitlements, not privileges.
They never learned tolerance and patience — they expected special considerations and instant gratification and were petulant and self-righteous. They gave rise, social-philosopher Christopher Lasch wrote, "to the narcissistic culture of our time which . . . translated the predatory individualism of the American Adam into a therapeutic jargon that celebrates not so much individualism as solipsism justifying self-absorption as 'authenticity' and 'awareness.'"
These kids had grandiose views of their talents, excessive interests in themselves, a craving for attention and admiration and a consciousness of superiority. This type of narcissist, according to Lasch, "depends on others to validate his self-esteem. He cannot live without an admiring audience." Success “consists of nothing more substantial than a wish to be vastly admired; not for one’s accomplishments, but simply for oneself, uncritically and without reservation."
And baby boomer presidents have been bona fide members of the "me generation."
First there was Bill Clinton, "who established," Gibney writes, "an early pattern of hyper-technical compliance and regulatory machination garnishing as necessary by occasional dishonesty."
The 42nd president is best remembered for these words he uttered during his perjury scandal, "It depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is."
"The quintessential Boomer [Clinton], his generation’s most brilliant and influential politician," Gibney observes, "could not even manage an honest conjugation of 'to be.'"
George W. Bush, the boomer ne’er-do-well son of a successful entrepreneur and public servant, believed he was an heir to political dynasty and therefore entitled to be president. His brashness resulted in geo-political miscalculations that pushed America into a Mideast quagmire.
Barack Obama, who declared as a presidential candidate, "We are the change that we seek," expected to make the oceans recede and the planet heal. Instead he saddled future generations with huge debt and left the world in disarray thanks to his "lead from behind" foreign policy.
And now we have in the White House — hopefully the last Boomer — Donald Trump. Gibney describes Trump as "a bully whose quantum thought is no greater than a tweet." A boomer avatar who "tries to conform the news to his preexisting conceits" and "presided over a ramshackle real estate empire whose only products are architectural vulgarity and serial bankruptcies."
What theseboomers in chief have had in common is an inflated sense of themselves. For them the world is an extension of their intellect and emotions. Because they are the anointed ones, the people should be submissive to their exercise of power. Anyone who challenges their vision is unworthy, insensitive, evil, intellectually and morally bankrupt.
Sadly, these self-indulgent boomers have undercut the very foundations of our democracy and have "ruthlessly enriched themselves at the expense of future generations."
George J. Marlin, a former executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, is the author of "The American Catholic Voter: Two Hundred Years of Political Impact." He also is a columnist for TheCatholicThing.org and the Long Island Business News. Read more reports from George J. Marlin — Click Here Now.
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