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May The Young Never Hold Their Elders Accountable As We Did

March 26, 2013

During the Passover Seder last night and tonight,  Jews like me around the world celebrate the crossing of the Red Sea out of bondage and into freedom. But what if the waters had instead risen to overcome us?

In Jackson Browne’s prophetic and all-but-forgotten masterpiece, “Before The Deluge” (written in 1974, Browne ended a concert with this last month) he envisions a time just before, and after, an end-of-the-world flood…


“Some of them were angry

At the way the earth was abused

By the men who learned to forge her beauty into power.


And they struggled to protect her from them

Only to be confused

By the magnitude

Of her fury

In the final hour.


And when the sand was gone and the time arrived

In the naked dawn only a few survived

And in attempts to understand a thing so simple and so huge

Believed that they were meant to live after the deluge.” 

Let me put it this way:

What if Sandy and Katrina, and the melting of the polar ice caps, and other results of global warming were beginning to occur not now, but back, say, in 1968, when boomers like me were coming of age? And what if half the older generation were claiming the entire thing were a myth, while the other half were wringing their hands? What would those of us who were hippies and student radicals have done?

I don’t know, but I’ll tell you this, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

We had our Nam; and for those who are young now, the environmental catastrophe that’s beginning to wash onto our shores may become their’s.

And when I consider that many members of my generation have migrated to the far right, with its there-is-no-global-warming (or there’s nothing we can do about it) point of view, I take pause. But if the temperatures and seas really are rising, and the big waves really are on their way, I have to face some facts. Those waves will probably break the hardest not on us, but on our children and grandchildren. (Knowledge of which makes me breathe a guilty sigh of relief.) And when that happens, whom will they revile the most? Those who back in this part of the century denied there was a problem at all; or those of us who knew the truth but only spoke when we should have shouted; only shouted when we should have acted; and only acted when we should have risen up in revolt?

In truth, like a lot of boomers, I’m living the life I’ve carved out for myself and I’m loving it. I could run guilt-trips on my ass, but as I age I find this doesn’t goad me into action like it used to anyway. I do therapy; I write; I try to change the world a session and a word at a time. But I can’t deny that the times we live in call for more.

Here’s a thought for my fellow boomers: We have amassed the largest treasure of mental and fiscal resources civilization has ever seen. Many of us started out as idealists, with intentions of changing the world. Now, more than ever before – and perhaps more so today than tomorrow – we can.

And allow me to say to my boomer Tea Party friends, that what we still have in common is that we’re all still dreaming of a better world like we always have. And in that way we still share the same values. (I’ll make you a deal: I’ll care more about the national debt we’re dumping upon the young if you’ll care more about the environmental one.)

We have been given, and have earned, so much. And as a generation I contend that we still have a particular destiny (if we dare to reclaim it) that we have yet to fulfill. Were we to rise to the challenge, what would be the best way to spend our resources for the sake of all who follow?

And if the global shit should ever hit the climatic fan, God help us if the young ever hold us accountable as so many of us  did long ago our elders for their folly.


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