Born between about 1965 and 1980, Generation X came of age in the 1980s and early 1990s. The oldest members of this cohort remember Watergate as children; the youngest are still forming their families today. Most became politically aware during the Reagan-Bush or Clinton years. They are more conservative than millennials and less partisan than boomers. Their outlook was shaped by a childhood defined by broad-based domestic prosperity, slow but steady technological progress, relative racial harmony and social stability, and the Cold War triumph over the Soviet Union.And yet, the Thirteeners fought Desert Storm, supposedly to settle things in the Gulf once and for all, the way their saecular antecedents, the Lost Generation, fought the War to End All Wars. Oh, wait.
They were raised with the expectation of inheriting a world at peace, enforced by the global supremacy of the US military, but also a world in which sexual relations were haunted by the specter of AIDS. They were taught in school that doing drugs was dangerous, premarital sex was to be avoided and there were, in fact, just two genders.The US divorce rate peaked in the early 1980s, just as the oldest Xers entered their teen years. Their mothers entered the workforce en masse. Many became so-called latchkey kids — independent, resilient, slightly cynical. Perhaps jaded by these experiences, Xers got married later than their parents did but have stayed married longer. Like millennials today, Xers were once slandered as sullen, withdrawn and difficult to please.
The charges didn’t stick. As adults, according to the University of Michigan’s Longitudinal Study of American Youth, Xers have become “active, balanced and happy.”
Some say that, in America, everything works out in the end. These optimists put their full faith in the American system — representative democracy, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, free markets, free minds, liberty and justice for all; or, alternatively, in the arrival of a political Superman to put us back on course. Sometimes, though, no Superman can be found, and an entire generation of Americans must step into the breach. It’s happened before.Yes, and there have to be pragmatic managers to moderate the conceits of the prophets and the heroes alike. "Don't get cocky, kid" and all that.