The Generational Warfare of Our Times

If action isn’t taken to address the major issues the nation faces today, younger people will be contending with a lifetime of hardship. But older generations seem mostly to be looking the other way.

2 minute read

June 10, 2019, 7:00 AM PDT

By Camille Fink


Golden Gate

kropic1 / Shutterstock

Henry Grabar writes about the generational conflict that is reflected in the complacent attitude of older Americans who did not have to contend with what young people are grappling with today—college debt, a lack of affordable housing, and the threat of climate change:

So when it comes to addressing the fact that reality has changed—that housing near good jobs is no longer affordable, that going to college now entails decades of debt, that Miami will be underwater in 30 years—their resistance to address the changing reality reads as a collective shrug of self-interest. I got mine.

Grabar notes that the current Congress has one of the oldest cohorts of legislators ever, and taking quick and bold action on these key issues has not been a priority. He adds that while these problems are weighing on younger people, affordable housing and climate change affect all generations and should be universal concerns.

And the growing gap between young and old is not just one of social and economic measures, but an ideological one as well. "In April, a Harvard Institute of Politics survey asked voters in their 20s to evaluate whether various groups ‘care about people like me.’ Boomers as a group scored lower than the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, and Donald Trump," writes Grabar. 

Younger voters are showing up at the polls, and they need to keep doing that in the future, says Grabar. "But they can also try to make the case—in community meetings, in statehouses, and in Washington—for empathy. Young people in college, at planning meetings in Palo Alto, or protesting in Dianne Feinstein’s office, aren’t asking for anything radical—just for what their parents and grandparents already had."

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