MARTHA THOMASES: Child is father to the man
There is hardly anything more annoying than listening to a bunch of us Baby Boomers talking about the good old days: the music, the sex, the drugs, the sit-ins and be-ins and love-ins, even the comics. We act like we invented rebellion, and we don’t think anyone else will ever care about the world as much as we did, and certainly no one else will make changes as important as the ones we made.
A recent article in USA Today describes “Generation Y”, those born since the early 1980s, as one that has endured a lifetime of public tragedies. My generation lived through the Kennedy assassinations and the murder of Martin Luther King, the Kent State shootings, the Viet Nam War and Watergate, and these things were horrible. However, kids today witnessed the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle explosion, the Waco standoff, the Oklahoma City bombing, the attack on the Atlanta Olympics, school attacks on Columbine, the Amish school in Pennsylvania, and the recent Virginia Tech massacre. They’ve seen a tsunami devastate Southeast Asia, and Hurricane Katrina destroy New Orleans. In my day, we watched a half-hour evening news broadcast, while today there is a 24-hour news cycle. They say that Viet Nam was the first war fought on our living room television, but the “Shock and Awe” attacks on Baghdad four years ago had so much advance hype and so many on-the-scene embedded journalists, they practically had official sponsors.
The horrific moments that changed my personal world occurred when my best friend’s brother died in Viet Nam, followed shortly by the Kent State slaughter which was just a few miles from my house. Before that, my feelings, although sincere, were based more on ideas than on events. My son saw the World Trade Center collapse outside his classroom in lower Manhattan, but not before he saw burning bodies falling from the windows.
Just as the Sixties didn’t turn everyone into a protesting hippie peacenik, these events have not shaped a single personality type among today’s twenty-somethings. Most of the mass media would have us believe that the values of this generation establish a new low of shallowness, exalting the likes of Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. But their taste and values go far beyond American Idol or the Pussycat Dolls.
The USA Today article quotes social historian William Strauss: “the Millennials’ baby-boomer parents were anxious about political assassinations because that’s what they witnessed growing up. But their children’s fears are different – because they witnessed mass killings of children by peers whose motives nobody can seem to understand.”
He continues, “The fact that this sort of thing can happen calls into question the super-achieving, high-stress life some of them lead.” He says that Generation Y will be less concerned with “having it all” than with having a balance. Unlike many in my generation, who traded in their values for SUVs, private schools and second houses and the long commute to jobs that paid for everything, there is hope that this generation will enjoy every day with their families as well as meaningful work.
“When random (bad) things happen, we tend to want to smell the flowers a bit,” Strauss says. Millennials will be inspired to “re-create a civil society and address the question of how something like this can happen.”
In response to the events of our day, we created popular art and entertainment that reflected what we saw. At its best, this includes the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, the Grateful Dead, the Velvet Underground, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Patti Smith, Andy Warhol, Richard Pryor, and lots, lots more. In comics, we got breakthrough talent like Jim Steranko, Robert Crumb, Denny O’Neil, Neal Adams, Howard Chaykin, Trina Robbins, Neil Gaiman, Frank Miller, Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz, among others. The best of them changed comics, and even their imitators created fun stories.
I can’t wait to see what you guys get.
Writer and creator of Marvel Comics’ Dakota North and contributor to their Epic Illustrated, Martha Thomases also has toiled for such publishers as DC Comics and NBM before becoming Media Queen of ComicMix.com.