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Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's not Millennials. It's you.

No matter where I go, the question is always the same: Your kids are out of college? And they're still living at home?  My answer is always the same, always responsible for the look of shock and awe when I respond:

Yup. Just like every other generation has.

Surprised?  Don't be. In the United States, and certainly in countries well beyond its borders, the fact is that with the exception of the latter half of the baby boomer generation, just about every family lived under the same roof with grandma and grandpa until the kids got married -- and even then, a lot of them stuck around to save money. I'd like to say that people forget that stuff, but it's a lot more accurate to say that nobody ever knew it because most people never bother to learn their history.

With the exception of twenty-somethings from about 1965 to 1985, the norm for Americans has always been to grow up, help out at home, go to school and launch forth on their own when they were ready to start a family.  It was only those two decades when boomers' parents' prosperity (the result of their own Depression era and war time hardships) and cheap, convenient birth control spurred boomer kids out of the house at an early age.

But that was a different time, with different circumstances.

The boomer generation was filled with optimism.  Jobs were plentiful and bigger was better. Rents were cheap and costs were low. America's population in 1958 and 1968 was less than half of what it is in 2018.  There were no fax machines or personal computers -- it took far more people to do far less work.  Above it all, a national ethos of "there's plenty out there if you just go get it" pervaded the land.

Not so for millennials.

As I've written previously,  anyone born after 1990 has endured a childhood, adolescence and young adulthood filled with economic and national pessimism, where initiative has been quashed by nearly three decades of institutionalized laziness and inertia.  Clinton was a party animal, the first boomer president who mistook ambition for success. Dubya was a rich kid boomer who didn't succeed at much, either. Obama was the boomer who will go down in history as the first American president to simply give up, intoning phrases like, "those jobs just aren't coming back."

It's the spoiled, selfish, untrained and uneducated boomers who traded long term wealth accumulation for short term quarterly gains.  Boomers are the first generation to prefer leasing to owning and living with unmanageable debt.  The first to eschew the security of savings for overpriced consumerism and the first to choose the short term solution of divorce over the commitment of marriage.

Hardly the virtues their millennial children needed to see in their everyday role models.

Growing up millennial was to endure the media's preoccupation with terrorism and bad news relentlessly pounded the brains of kids without any counterbalance of real progress and opportunity.  Couple that with an educational system that glorified impracticality, ignored real life skills and promoted biased political agenda, and after a while, one has to ask himself how anyone under 40 would be motivated to leave the nest.

What's the point of leaving if there's nothing out there worth pursuing?

It's true America has been polarized, but not the way you think.  It's not a black versus white thing.  It's not a rich versus poor thing, either.  It's a "can do" versus a "what's the point" thing, which is why both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have emerged as the voices of their respective viewpoints.  One camp still believes in the American promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness while the other has simply given up on the American dream.

So the next time someone asks you why your kids are "still living at home," school them in a little American history.  Let them know that historically, that's how it's always been. Tell them they've shirked their duty by depriving an entire generation of its rightful opportunities.

 And while you're at it, explain that it's the kids who are perfectly normal -- not them.