Archive for the ‘GenX’ Category

It’s hard work. The bottom line about addressing racism in this country is that it’s hard work. We have to be willing to listen. We have to try to be empathetic. We have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes.

And that’s hard.

Most of us spend the better part of the day comfortably in our own perspective. We make two key assumptions from this point of view: 1) our perspective is true, and 2) others’ perspectives are similar to our own.

When we learn that there is a radically different perspective, an experience we had never considered, someone else’s truth, we doubt its legitimacy. Doubting is okay, after all, that perspective isn’t indigenous to us; it’s new and different and learning is hard.

Denying is not okay.

Denying someone else’s perspective is doubling-down on our first assumption. What we see is true, so what they see must be false. Denying someone else’s perspective puts that someone else at other. We divide and belittle when we reject others’ perspectives. We assert our own moral rightness leaving others to wrongness.

We end the conversation before it ever even gets started.

We have to be willing to listen. We have to try to be empathetic. We have to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes. Imagine what the experience is like for them. Try to understand their hurt and anger and fear and frustration. All uncomfortable emotions that we don’t feel in our position of privilege.

Acknowledging we are privileged does not put us at a disadvantage. We have all the advantages, that’s the whole point. We have a perspective that is shaped by the advantages that we don’t even know exist.

The hard thing about addressing racism in this country is shutting the fuck up and listening to someone else’s perspective on it. How do they feel? What are their fears? How can I respond in a supportive and loving way?

#TakeAKnee isn’t about hating our country. It’s about hating the denial we have adopted in lieu of real conversations about race and dignity and privilege.

When I explained the most recent chapter in this complicated narrative, President Trump’s ridiculously callous comments, my nine-year-old daughter said, “I really thought we were done with all that.”

She really thought the Civil Rights Movement and I Have a Dream and integration had cured us of all that ugliness and bitterness and ignorance. And God bless, I wish we were cured.

But we’re not. Our nation is still sick with racism and we cannot ignore it and we cannot put off dealing with it for the next generation or the one after that.

We are in the enviable position in this country to be climbing to the top of Maslow’s hierarchy. We have self-actualization in sight. To be fully actualized, we need to be honest about the ugliness at our roots. This isn’t about blame or victimhood. It’s about understanding and compassion.

It starts with being willing to have conversations that make us uncomfortable. Being willing to admit we don’t understand someone’s perspective. Respecting that perspective as valid. Believing that perspective is as true as our own.

We don’t fix centuries of racism with a couple of years of sensitivity training. This isn’t a politically correct whinefest.

The vitriol coming from those who would not even grant a man the right to kneel is crazy pants. It reminds me of the Dixie Chicks fervor. Remember that? People so quick to defend President Bush that they burned the Chicks’ CDs in effigy, demanded their money back, threatened country music stations, and protested outside of concerts. It was cuckoo pants.

Our country loves to shout, “Free Speech!” until that speech comes from someone else’s denied perspective.

Why would you refuse someone the right to express themselves when, in doing so, they can help you understand their experience?

Inclusion is the solution. To truly understand others’ perspectives, we have to be willing to listen. We have to show compassion. We have to try to put ourselves in their shoes. We have to love them.

And we have to be willing to change. I’m willing.


Senator Graham had a room full of people who didn’t vote for him on Saturday, March 25th, in Columbia. He asked early-on how many people were Democrats. He made a prepared statement and then he listened to questions read off cards people had submitted while waiting in line to enter.

Lots of concern around Russia: Would he propose a special prosecutor to look in to Trump campaign ties to Russia? What does he plan to do about the FBI investigating the Trump administration for ties to Russia? He said he’d let the FBI do its job and the investigation run its course.

Lots of concern about education. He said he supports charter schools as an alternative to the current under-performing public school system. He slipped the word “vouchers” in there which had people booing.

Here’s the thing: he’s not wrong.

The current system has been in place for a century and it’s antiquated and it’s failing our citizens. I’m not convinced charter schools and vouchers are the way to fix it, but we need to try something. Schools are funded on a per-student basis, so their resources will not be totally lost. Schools with failing performances will lose students and close their doors.

The transportation issue is what concerns me. How do lower-income kids get across town to better schools? Like I said, though, we have to try something.

Lots of concern about healthcare and this is where it got ridiculous. Senator Graham asked who in the room would like to see Medicare made available for everyone. Tons of hands went up. Then he said, Well, Medicare doesn’t provide pre-natal care, so it’s not exactly designed for everyone. (not a direct quote, just the gist)

The healthcare debate is not a healthcare debate. It’s an insurance debate. The two camps are those who believe they should have free healthcare and those who know someone has to pay for it. Healthcare is available to anyone who can get to an emergency room. They cannot turn you away. In that sense, it is secured as a “right.” But healthcare is expensive.

Click here for more of my rant  on healthcare.

When Senator Graham asked the room how to pay for things like Medicare expansion, someone shouted, “Tax the rich!”

Since that’s exactly the opposite of what’s going to happen when Trump tax reform goes through, let’s talk about that. For a long time now the Democratic party has run platforms on Robin Hood economics. Take from those that have too much to give to those who have too little.

Robin Hood economics is responsible for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which was put in place in the 70s to catch the top 1% of Americans who were making over $100,000. Every year, the AMT catches more Americans. Middle class people, because we can all admit now that $100,000 really isn’t that much anymore. Congress won’t repeal the AMT because it’s a cash cow.

Robin Hood economics imagines that the rich are sitting on their money like Scrooge McDuck, diving through gold coins as if they were water in a swimming pool. Except they’re not. The rich are investing their money so that it earns money for them. There are three ways to get money: steal it, earn it, and let it earn money for you. The rich are doing the third. Yet, every time we cry, “Tax the rich!” what we mean is find out how they’re getting rich and try to make it harder.

When we make it harder for rich people to invest, they stop investing in us. They put their money elsewhere, in overseas markets for example, where they can make higher returns. What we need is a system that encourages investment because it’s the right thing to do. We should identify the influence investment has on our daily lives and celebrate the buildings and innovations investors are part of.

We need Wall Street reform. Demystify the money-moving and show us how the rich are helping us all out. Then we’re less likely to think of them as Scrooge McDuck and more likely to think of them as partners in progress.

Not all wealthy citizens are benevolent. But forcing them to be never works.

We don’t want to end up like Greece and we’re already well on our way. We spend more than we earn and we borrow more than we lend. Our government is top-heavy and unsustainable. Austerity measures hurt, but we have a wealthy citizenry that can be implored to help if properly motivated. Stealing from them to give to the poor won’t solve the problem long-term. It will only hasten their exit from the system all together.

Democracy requires participation. What’s encouraging about the galvanization of the public that we’ve seen since Trump’s election is that more sides are being heard. What’s concerning is that a lot of the voices are interested in two things: 1) a government solution to everything, and 2) an immediate resolution to these problems.

Senator Graham made a great point when talking about education. He said the reform of our country’s education system is not about us or our children. It’s about the generation after them and the jobs we’re preparing them for. Identifying the skills they’ll need and then equipping them with those skills should be our primary concern.

It’s hard, Senator Graham, to think that far into the future, when today’s uncertainty could mean being out of work, out of insurance, or out of the conversation all together.

Because, really, that’s all that’s at stake here.

I don’t hate Hillary and I’m not voting against her.

We really needed her once. We needed her in 2004 when the Bush administration was fucking everything all to hell. The Great Recession wasn’t even a twinkle in Wall Street’s eye but the deregulation of mortgage investing was about to put us all at the mercy of scum and villainy.

We needed someone to say, “What’s happened for the last four years cannot continue. We need a change.”

And the Democrats sent John Kerry to fight that battle. Seriously?

We needed Hillary then. We needed her popularity, the novelty of a woman president, the fierce life-long public servant that wouldn’t put up with Republican shenanigans.

And she failed us. Oh, sure, running against a sitting president is hard. Just ask Bob Dole. But heroes do it. They do the hard stuff because it needs to be done.

We needed her and she didn’t show up.

Someone probably told her the odds were not in her favor. Now she’s here and I don’t think she really wants to be. I think she’s here because the Democrats told her she needed to be. (“It’s your turn, woman-person.” Oh, well, thank you for finally giving me a chance. Assholes.)

There’s a chance she’s done all the public service she really wants to do but just couldn’t resist the lure of the can’t-lose campaign. (“The Republicans are a disaster, we’ll win easily. Queue Hillary.” Thanks for the vote of confidence, assholes.) It’s always been the people around the Clintons who make me queasy.

And there’s a chance she’s being used. Again.

Even if she wins, she’s not a hero. It’s more than likely she’s a puppet. Just like Trump.

The real power is in the Party and the Party doesn’t want a leader. It wants a win.

If one of the two major parties is going to win, they can sure as shit do so without me. Or you. Or that guy who keeps Liking all your Facebook posts telling me I’m wasting my vote.

Fuck you both.

I’m not voting against Hillary. I’m not even voting against Trump.

A Libertarian vote is for a party that doesn’t know it’s a Party. It doesn’t have the corruption of decades of power and entrenchment. It doesn’t have the stench of gerrymandering and election rigging and hanging chads and slanderous emails.

Sure, it’s a long shot. But the chances are better now than they’ve ever been. Better now than they were when I voted Libertarian in 2004 and Michael Badnarik finished fourth behind Ralph Nader, an independent. (Incidentally, Nader ran in 2008, too, and no one accused him of hurting the McCain/Palin ticket’s chances.)

If you really want things to change, you have to actually vote for change. Not change in the same old establishment asshole’s clothing.

Less than 1% of the vote doesn’t seem like much of a difference, still, pundits would have you believe that every vote in the popular election counts. I hear them:

A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the candidate I hate more. So I should vote for the candidate I hate less and not waste my vote.

Again, fuck you.

Perot earned 18.9% of the popular vote but managed zero electoral college votes. And therein lies the trick: the electoral college will still swing whatever direction the Two Major Parties maneuver it to swing. In most states, the electoral college is winner-take-all.

All votes are created equal and the only one that doesn’t count is the one that isn’t cast.

So, really, your vote against Trump or against Hillary doesn’t really matter any more than my vote for Gary Johnson.

If you want to actually matter, stop your passive social media campaigning and get out there and volunteer: advocate and sacrifice in ways that demonstrate you have some skin in the game. Because though the pundits would have you believe your Likes and Tweets matter, in the end you’re just rallying the same feckless assholes who would vote a straight party ticket no matter who was on the top of the ballot.

Be willing to fight the good fight. Not the easy one.

Consider what life would be like if we weren’t under the hooves donkeys and elephants. Every election cycle Libertarians gain more traction and every gain is a win.

I’ll vote for that.


This was written some time ago but not posted. After Prince and the Beastie Boys’ John Berry died, I was reminded of this post and thought to finally share it. 

I’ll admit I didn’t know who it was when I saw the news about Scott Weyland. The name was familiar but I didn’t attach it to the sound I remember so clearly.

Stone Temple Pilots is a mainstay on my iTunes. They’re on my running play list. They create the fabric of sound in my very best memories. And he’s part of that. Forever.

And knowing he is dead I get that River Phoenix feeling. He was one of us, as Natalie Merchant sang. His death showed us how vulnerable we really are.

And Scott Weyland’s death is the same kind of reminder. Someone whose voice is so familiar it’s as if it were our own. Whose struggles mirrored our own. He’s a metaphor for our own lives. Anger and distrust. Exploration and boundary-pushing. A reluctance to grow up. More anger at the requirements of adulthood. A denial that adulthood is really where we live.

And addiction. Softening the impact of life on our psyche.

We all have vices. We all have ways of coping.

The loss and pain of it, crime and the shame of it. No way to save him from himself. Or us from ourselves.

We hear their voices, those who came before us. The ones who sacrificed themselves for us again and again in song and lyrics.

I have that River Phoenix feeling. The sense that we’re not immortal. And though I knew it all along, it’s a reminder that we suffer and some of us die sooner than others.

We’re not unique in this experience. The Boomers lost Hendrix and Belushi and Joplin. And we lost Cobain and Farley and Brittany Murphy and Heath Ledger. We can probably claim Philip Seymour Hoffman, too. Celebrities die just like everyone else. There is no life eternal and the frailty of the human experience is a reality for us all.

I’m not sure we’ve sought everlasting life. Not with our contributions to the casualties of war, our affinity for thrill-seeking, or our emphasis on appreciating the here-and-now. The Millennials call it YOLO (you only live once) but we never needed clever monikers. We simply saw it as the only chance we’d get to do whatever it is we planned to do.

One chance to be a rock star.

One chance to jump from a plane.

One chance for graduate school.

One chance to backpack across Europe living in youth hostels and going days between showers.

One chance to start my own company.

Before we started calling everything historic (thanks, Baby Boomers and Millennials for contextualizing everything as it happens), we thought of everything as arbitrary.

I think we still believe in the arbitrariness of it all.

And Weyland is further evidence of that. Why, in all those other times did he not find the right mix to end it? Why this time?

And how, after so long, did that bright light burn out?

We continue to lose the best among us to war, disease, addiction, and violence. And those of us who remain are left to wonder how we’ll manage to see life the way we did when they were interpreting it for us.

The Agent Rejection

Posted: September 8, 2015 in GenX
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I’m about to begin querying my GenX novel After December to a small press. I made the decision over the weekend after considering, again, the response I received from an agent last spring.

Agent: Nobody wants to read about the 90’s. It’s too recent to be considered historic and too long ago to be considered relevant.

Fair enough. To be honest, I don’t remember that much about the 90’s. We have Trivial Pursuit: The 90’s Edition and it’s ridiculously hard. I spent most of the decade wrapped up in my own personal dramas related to high school, boys, college, and my parents’ divorce.

Also there was a lot of drinking and smoking weed.

But the next part of the agent conversation is what made me question why I was even interviewing agents:

Agent: Why can’t the main character just be 22 now?
Me: Like, a Millennial?
Agent: Yeah.
Me: But there’d be social media and a big part of the story is his detachment from his friends.
Agent: Maybe he’s just not into social media.
Me: A Millennial?

I know some Millenials and they’re basically good kids. But come on. They’re value system is very very different from ours. Stripping GenX from Brian Listo is like making Elizabeth Bennett a lesbian. While it might be a doable version of the story, it would be a very different story.

Finally, the agent asked who would read my novel. I said book clubs — you know, those GenX moms who drink wine and remember their high school boyfriends? Possibly college kids now — I read Ethan Hawke’s college-kid-finds-love-and-loses-it novel The Hottest State when I was in college and it resonated.

Agent: So Millenials are a target audience?

As if to prove her point about aging Brian into the now.

The Millenials I know think DiCaprio originated the role of Jay Gatsby. They don’t need modern-era novels. They just need something that confirms their own interests in self, fame, and partying.

So, okay, one agent who doesn’t get it is just a single strike out. Get back up there and keep swinging. What I realized, though, was that agents reflect what the publishers say they want. So I need to find a publisher who will buy my pitch.

Next blog: The Pitch.

20th Reunion

Posted: June 22, 2015 in GenX
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The consensus at our 20-year high school reunion seemed to be that none of us really feel like adults. We all feel like we’re adulting, like it’s some kind of game we’re in or role we’ve got.

This from a real estate attorney, a police officer, and two people who own their own companies.

We all have kids.

And we’re all just faking it.

There’s a side of me that blames the grey ceiling for this pretense. Those Baby Boomer bosses who won’t retire so we can advance, those grand-parenting enthusiasts who seem a little possessive over our children, those 5K 10K charity fundraising junkies who assign every activity a cause and promise to pray for us.

They’re omnipresent and we’ve been told we could trust them and so we do. But they don’t trust us. They’d still hang the house key around our necks if they could.

We don’t believe in our own adultness because we’re not treated like responsible parties.

We’re building careers and companies, inventing technology and processes, enacting laws and enforcing them. Quietly running the place like the grown ups we are pretending to be.

There’s a humility to thinking we’re faking it. To forgetting we’re the ones in the room with the most experience, knowledge, and ability.

I catch myself sometimes reminding myself of my own credentials and my classmates admitted they do the same thing. We’re so often pressed between Boomer bragging and Millennial preening that it’s humiliating to attempt distinction. There’s something cheap and insincere about naming ourselves experts.

Even when we are the best at what we do, we’re always dismissed as slackers.

It’s especially hard in a room full of people who knew you when you were 17 to remember that you’re now almost 40. Even looking at these people’s children doesn’t stop me from thinking about them as the kids we were back then.

Probably because I perpetually think of myself that way.

It’s not an obsession with youth or denial over the aging process. It’s an honest-to-goodness belief that I have more to learn.

I may not be ready for Hollie to be a teenager right now, but I will be when it’s time. My classmates with teens told me so.

I may not be prepared to retire right now, but I’m putting together the right portfolio to manage that when it’s time.

In the same way I was ready when I finished my PhD, when I started my company, when I decided to lead in a project where following would have been easier.

After a weekend of looking back, I’m ready to focus on now.

Now is the most interesting part of my story. I’m mid-career and my own boss. I’m mom to a kid learning to read, write, swim, and ride a bike. She doesn’t know everything yet and neither do I.

What’s even better is this sense that I’m living my life my way and that while that may be a little scary and unpredictable, it’s going to turn out okay.

It may turn out we’re pretty good at this adult thing. Maybe the slacker generation is exactly the image we need to hide our super hero antics.

GenX Friendships

Posted: April 20, 2015 in GenX

I consider myself the kind of friend who values loyalty above all else.

As a middle child, I was used to compromising and my two best friends were only children, whose fierce loyalty to me I returned in kind.

And I extend that loyalty to others. To eldest siblings who boss me around and youngest siblings who always get their way. Not my siblings, mind you, just their birth order which tells a lot about a person.

In my study of Generation X, I’ve found this loyalty to my friends is characteristic not of my birth order, but of the era in which I was born.

The maturation of our friendships is a uniquely definitive characteristic of Gen X because our friends supplanted the traditional family unit.

I remember that.

I remember being a senior in high school and my parents were nowhere to be seen but my crew was omnipresent. I remember being a little kid and relying on my friends’ judgment on things like jumping in the creek, crossing the yard boundary, setting things on fire, and hanging out with older kids.

I remember relying on my friends’ judgment about things like drinking and drugs.

And I remember choosing friends who wouldn’t do that shit. Not right at first. After college acceptance, after the parents left, after we’d secured our future, we killed time with booze. But we kept each other clean for 17 years first.

We were good to one another. We protected each other. We kept each other from stepping over the line. We lived to tell the stories.

It’s later now and my parents and I are reconciled, as are most of my friends with theirs, and still we have a special bond. We still have those unwritten Thank Yous that include the slight shifts away from disaster toward survival.

I always say Charlie and I grew up together even though I didn’t meet him until I was nineteen. In many ways, he and I helped one another walk the line. For years we’ve held one another back, just the briefest of seconds, to say, “Are you sure?”

A good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, ‘Man, that was fun.’

My true friends never let me end up in jail. They never let me go too far.

As our friendships have matured, we have shared financial advice, career advice, relationship advice, and parenting advice. All of which is coming from equal footing.

When I think of Brian Listo (After December) and the friendships he is struggling to maintain in his twenties, I think of the times my friends and I seemed destined to break apart and how we managed to sew ourselves back together.

My best friend Tami says she hangs around because she knows enough about me to blackmail me when I run for office. I told her she can have all my illegal campaign contributions.

That our generation takes counsel from ourselves may end up being our undoing.

We may be saying, “Why can’t it be done that way?” and someone who tried it a long time ago could be saying, “I’m proof it can’t.”

We consider ourselves special, exceptional, different, un-afflicted by the failures of generations past.

We think our course is true.

We think our friends are giving right counsel. And they are. But they’re on equal footing.

Our collective inexperience could be the thing that dooms us.

I look at my crew now and I see a few good history students, a few whose parents were of sound mind, and a few more who are on the front end of my generation and who have the experience the rest of us need.

We’ll rely upon one another as we always have.

And we’ll change the world.

Believe it.