The generation gap was on the back burner until the phrase “OK, Boomer” took over the internet earlier this fall. Becoming the headline of memes, conversations, and even uttered in New Zealand’s parliament, “OK, boomer” has revived the decades-old topic of intergenerational hatred. This has long been a driving force behind political affiliations and alliances as each generation rebels against its predecessor. But behind the amusing memes, nasty phrases like “OK, Boomer” and “snowflake” only create further polarization in the U.S. They also distract from the deeper conversations we should be having about what really divides us and how to form the affiliations that will truly bring progress to our nation.
Generational divides date back to the beginning, as proven by Homer’s “Iliad”, which says, “And so with men: As one generation comes to life, another dies away.” Boomers are not our boring, egotistical enemy. We know them as people stubborn in their political ideologies with a childhood in a prosperous, utopian suburbia. However, boomers were actually labeled as hippies and rebels in their youths, and they were the generation that desegregated the nation and led the feminist movement of the 1960s. Their “spend now, worry later” lifestyle angered their financially conservative predecessors who survived the Great Depression. Boomers strived for a better life in the suburbs—one where their children could attend college and both spouses could reach their career aspirations. Baby boomers have done a lot of good for this country, and they definitely don’t deserve to have their opinions ignored or answered with a passive “OK, Boomer.”
Gen-Z and millennials aren’t just a bunch of “snowflakes,” though. These generations are living through an era of wage stagnation, declining life expectancy, and rapidly approaching environmental collapse. “Gen Z will be the first generation ever to have a lower quality of life than its predecessor,” said Joshua Citarella, a researcher who studies online communities. We watched the Twin Towers fall and have known nothing but life in a nation always at war in the Middle East. We are not lazy and entitled narcissists like older generations believe us to be. We know what it’s like to take out an average of $26,290 per year in student loans and live in a one-bedroom apartment that costs an average of $1,216 per month.
So let’s face it: every generation has its challenges, and there is a deep divide between us. Dialoguing, voting, and working together are more pragmatic approaches to uniting our nation, but the use of derogatory terms in referencing age groups does nothing to help. We might not be able to fully unite simply by ditching these terms, but it is a vital step toward bridging the gap between boomers and younger generations. If we throw away degrading terms like “snowflake” and “OK, boomer,” we would further unite our nation and speed up compromises in politics.
It’s trendy to be accepting of others’ tattoos and hair color, so let’s make it trendy to be accepting of others’ ideologies and stop this generation-shaming. Your Fox-News-watching, gun-toting grandpa is not the enemy, and neither is your avocado-toast-eating, blue-haired, Bernie-Sanders-supporting friend. We must end this intergenerational warfare. Instead, we should begin to listen to each other, young and old, boomer or not, and compromise with one another based on ideas, not birth year.