….Ok boomer

Following the panic and confusion caused by the lockdown on the Winnetka campus last Friday, many students looked to @newtrier203 on Instagram for an explanation.

The same note Paul Sally had sent to parents was the caption of a photo that read “A message to New Trier families.” While the caption was helpful, the comment section was easily the most fascinating and entertaining component of the post.

An older gentleman had left a comment on the photo that rubbed most students the wrong way.

“Ridiculous that there are lockdowns. Teaches fear when the odds of needing it are close to zero. Worry about cars and drug abuse. This is what gets NT kids,” he wrote in his comment.

Given the traumatic events just hours before this post, the comment was tactless. Though school shootings are super unlikely, practicing procedure in the event of a lockdown saves lives. NT also spends a lot of time talking about drugs, and I cannot be sure of exactly what he meant about “cars.” 

It was not clear who this man was or why he had the authority to make these claims, but that didn’t matter. His profile picture showed his white hair, beige suit, and baby blue tie – he was a certified Boomer™.

Beneath his comment were nearly 30 replies that all said the same thing: “ok boomer” (and one “boomer ok”).

Honestly, I laughed. It felt good to see a hurtful comment shut down.

While generational warfare is nothing new, the “ok boomer” meme has become a way for Generation Z to fire back at Baby Boomers (or really, any adult) who make offensive remarks or display disdain for young people. 

In this instance, the Boomer’s comment triggered this response because it demonstrated a lack of empathy for what the lockdown was like and why lockdown procedures exist in the first place.

This is especially interesting considering that when Baby Boomers were our age, they had to hide under desks during H-bomb drills, while today we similarly practice hiding from active shooters.

In fact, there are several similarities between Gen Z and the Baby Boomers.

Boomers marched on Washington D.C. to protest the Vietnam War, demanded Liberation for women, and fought for the Civil Rights Movement to expand equality. Today, Gen Z marches on Washington to demand gun reform, fights for justice for the LGBTQIA+ community, and advocates for the preservation of our planet.

When Baby Boomers were young, they believed that previous generations had created a heap of problems that they needed to solve. Now that their position has been reversed, some Baby Boomers display an unwillingness to sympathize with young people or listen to our ideas.

Obviously, not all Baby Boomers are uncaring or uncompromising. In fact, most of them aren’t. However, enough Boomers are so unwilling to listen that there is cause for concern.

As Greta Thunberg (my queen) said in her speech to the UN, “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth – how dare you!”

This comment perfectly encapsulates Gen Z’s outrage with the Baby Boomers. We are called entitled, lazy and naive simply for pointing out the problems we face and demanding solutions. But the world cannot afford to forestall until all the callous Boomers retire.

This anger has been channeled into a comeback made of the best tools we have — sarcasm and memes.

The only reason we say “ok Boomer” at all is because it is an efficient way to fight back when we are shut down for doing something that older generations may not understand. 

However, I must admit it is difficult for young people to empathize with Boomers as well.

Right now I am 17. Becoming a sixty-something-year-old feels almost impossible. I do not yet have the experiences to understand the Baby Boomer generation. I imagine it can be scary to see today’s kids shirk tradition and challenge authority while seeing the world change a hundred times over in the span of a single life time.

I know that Gen Z will eventually get old (unless climate change screws us all over). The youth of the future will begin doing things and voicing ideas entirely unimaginable to us now. I wonder if our generation is doomed to acquire the same lack of empathy and refusal to listen that have fueled thousands of Boomer memes.

My only hope is that as a generation, despite the mistakes that we are bound to make in the future, we are able to maintain a stronger sense of open mindedness.

As I live in new places, meet new people, and grow older, I believe it is critical that I maintain an openness to other perspectives. If I reread this when I am 67, even if I can’t exactly remember how it felt to be 17, I hope that I remember the frustration of not being heard.

We say “Ok Boomer” because otherwise there’s a chance that we won’t be listened to at all, or that we’ll be lectured about our laziness or naivete. My generation wants change, dialogue and progress, and we’re willing to work to make it happen – we simply need adults to listen.