Throughout my life I have had an ambivalent relationship with Baby Boomers. Both of my parents were Boomers, my father (and stepfather) being born towards the beginning of the generation and subject to the difficulties of the Vietnam War and its consequences, and my mother being born towards the late end of the generation and subject to the drastic social changes that resulted from the political upheaval of the time. Depending on how one defines the Boomer generation, we have had Boomer presidents from Clinton through George W Bush and Obama to Trump today in the United States, demonstration of the wide range of people and political worldviews that can be viewed as Boomer, for better or worse. And yet this is not how the expression “Ok Boomer” is used when one hears it in conversation or even, apparently, occasionally in legislative debates where it may actually be referring to Boomers.
It should go without saying that “OK Boomer” as an expression tends to be used mainly for people who are not Boomers. I happen to be either a very young Gen Xer or a very old Millennial depending on how one defines the boundary between the two generations, and I have heard the expression directed at myself a few times. It is perhaps not too surprising that this would be the case, given the way that such a term is used to describe people who are viewed as old fashioned and that young people have seldom done a good job at separating those who are old from those who are not far removed from being young. Considering that Baby Boomers are all in their late 50’s at the youngest, the vast majority of people that youth will encounter and will wish to dismiss as being out of touch are people who are not that much older than themselves, in their thirties or even twenties.
Even my relationship with a term like “OK Boomer” is ambivalent, because I lament the way that GenXers and Millennials are called Boomers when they are clearly not and because I agree that labeling something as Boomer is often a well-deserved term of opprobrium. It would be nice if we had a term that would reflect the generally negative social changes that Baby Boomers inflicted on the rest of society that was not so scattershot or so ambiguous that it was used to hit at a great many people who did not deserve the title. This is the problem with language, that words mean things and that we want to have precise enough language that can use them to mean the right kind of things. Alas, there are all kinds of people who simply like giving a good insult and do not care if the word is just. People forget that a key part of finding the mot juste in one’s discourse is to make sure that the word is just and appropriate. Far too often we use words that are not just and so cheapen and debase our discourse, such as when we refer to moderate conservative populists and their supporters as Nazis and fascists, refer to anarchic and antidemocratic Brown shirts as antifa, and refer to people who are not Baby Boomers and are hostile to ambivalent to Baby Boomers as Boomers simply so we can insult them. There is no shortage of well-earned pejorative expressions that we can use of people, so there is no need for us to use the wrong words to describe the wrong people simply because we like to troll.