Hey Elderly Aunt, what the heck happened to the Baby Boomers’ moral compass?

Hey Elderly Aunt, I am confused by the overall change in the Baby Boomer generation. They were the Summer of Love and Give Peace a Chance generation, created Earth Day, and helped unify to push for Civil Rights. Now this same generation scapegoats non-white immigrants, supports rolling back important safety nets for our environment, and largely has ignored critical thinking and instead lives off Fox News, which ten years ago hated a president who wore a tan suit, but now supports a president that hasn’t divested from his failing businesses and plays footsies with Nazis in Charlottesville. In other words, what happened to the Baby Boomer’s generation moral compass?
— Baffled by Boomers

elderly_auntRTlogoFirst of all, the Elderly Aunt is a bona fide Baby Boomer, and neither she nor any of her many Boomer friends would dream of scapegoating non-white immigrants, rolling back important environmental regulations, or practicing fuzzy thinking. As for watching Fox News, the Elderly Aunt feels it is wise to consult a broad spectrum of news sources, including ones that raise her blood pressure.

But let’s move on to the moral compass of Boomers.

As a place to start, the Elderly Aunt invites you to imagine her reaction to Bob Dylan’s 2004 Victoria Secret’s ad. There he was—the consensus bard of the Boomer protest movement’s idealism—on television, intercut with some sultry female model, using his face and one of his songs to hawk overpriced ladies underwear!

For a disillusioned moment or two, the Elderly Aunt embraced cynicism and believed that greed really does conquer all. Just in time, however, she realized that cynicism—the certainty that the imperfect good must be dismissed as all bad—was the ultimate moral copout. The wise alternative would be to accept that Bob Dylan’s music is one thing; Bob Dylan, the person, another thing entirely. As someone named Robert Verity put it, “…the illusion that [Bob Dylan] is some sort of icon of anti-corporate purity is a case of idealistic people whistling in the wind to scare away the wolves.”

It is certainly true that, in the ‘60s and ‘70s, Boomers worked hard to ban the bomb and promote Civil Rights, and Boomers certainly hit the streets big-time to demonstrate against the Vietnam War. And yes, we Boomers knew how to party and free-form boogie. But as someone who was there and did all of the above, the Elderly Aunt challenges you, dear reader, to accept the difference between a one-dimensional, popular image of the Boomer Generation and the entirety of what we got up to as a generation.

A few Boomer inconsistencies to keep in mind:

  • While some of us marched for Civil Rights, others of us threw rocks at the marchers.
  • Boomers fought in the Vietnam War, as well as demonstrated against it.
  • A lot of counter-culture Boomer males were chauvinistic pigs.
  • For every Boomer guy with long hair, there were many other close-cropped Boomer guys loudly questioning the long hairs’ masculinity.

It was Dylan’s 2004 Victoria Secret Sellout that forced Elderly Aunt to realize that she, herself, was using her own lazy-minded, naive idealisms about Bob Dylan as a way to help keep the hippy-dippy wolves at bay—to protect her from loss of hope, loss of faith in humankind’s better nature, loss of faith in the power of peaceful protest.  The real challenge facing the Elderly Aunt was not to allow her very real disappointment with Bob Dylan, lingerie salesperson, to rob her of the enduring power of Bob Dylan’s protest music to inspire her own better nature—the part of her the Elderly Aunt hopes will stay forever young.

With respect and affection, the Elderly Aunt suggests that you, dear reader, are in danger of falling victim to your own idealism by categorizing an entire generation as one way back in the ‘60s and ‘70s, and another way today.  The truth is that Boomers are today what we were back then—a mixed bag. Certainly, a lot of us do inhabit the dark side. But not all of us, dear reader. Not all of us. The Dude, as always, abides.

In closing, the Elderly Aunt strongly suggests the realchallenge for you and your contemporaries, dear reader, is to cultivate your own better natures and let ’em rip!


The Elderly Aunt offers her thoughtful responses to your questions about this wild ride we call life on the second and fourth Monday of each month. To get the Elderly Aunt’s advice on an issue that’s been intriguing or bugging you, email your question to [email protected] with the subject line “Elderly Aunt question.” (Just please don’t ask detailed financial questions). 


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