The irresistible baby boom generation has a way of imposing its will upon history. Sheer force of numbers (40 million) has blessed the boomers with a sublime sense of their own entitlement and a willful generational narcissism that empowers them in sibling teamwork toward rational solutions. So they have had their way over the years in matters of Vietnam (get out!), of fashion, of sexual license, of music, of public health (No Smoking!), of leadership (cf. Bill Clinton) and, for some years now, of economic success. I can't wait until they arrive at old age. Death may get the boomers in the end, but not until it has been thwarted and postponed every which way by medical miracles and geriatric conveniences that will make today's Viagra and cosmetic surgery seem primitive.
I got to thinking about such matters in contemplating the upcoming Memorial Day and its reminders of things military. And I have come to the conclusion that it's time to direct the old baby boom magic toward the problems of the armed services. Of course, the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines have changed a great deal already under boomer influence women, gays. The trouble is that the military, by the nature of its work and code (duty, honor, country, sacrifice) is not exactly in the boomer spirit of things. Vietnam long ago produced a profound split in the generation the Elite Draft Dodgers v. the Suckers Who Went. A generation that believes it should live forever is not the most effective material to send into battle. The old French decadent said: "As for living, we have servants who do that for us." The privileged boomer said, "As for dying, we have servants who do that for us." Saying that produced a moral unease.
We can fix that, I think. Some have protested that the armed forces are not supposed to be a social experiment. I say, let's make it a real experiment. Here's how: Enlist the baby boomers now. Replace today's armed forces, in which the young predominate, with service people over the age of 50. To get the ball rolling, it might be a good idea for Bill Clinton, who is at liberty as of late January 2001, to be the first boomer recruit in the new Army.
The benefits of the plan are clear:
- Fitness: The military will rejuvenate the middle-aged boomers, functioning as an incomparable diet-and-exercise program. Slim down, shape up.
- Sexual behavior: If all the service people women as well as men are in their 50s, the incidence of sexual harassment will decline almost to zero. So will the incidence of pregnancies. Let older, more mature hormones exert their civilizing influence. (The commanding officer may want to have a word with Private Clinton on this matter).
- Boomer psyche: An all-middle-aged army would repair at last the moral split in the generation. (Those who served back then would, of course, not be expected to serve now, unless they wished to.) The boomers would feel better about themselves (if that is possible.)
Could there be a better solution to the midlife crisis?
Would it work? Today's military is technologically sophisticated, and brute young muscles are less required than they once were. In peacekeeping situations around the world, mature judgment counts for more than a 20-year-old's reflexes.
Protesters pointed out during Vietnam that the old men (Lyndon Johnson and the rest) made the decisions and the young men did the dying. Think of the advantage if they all decision-makers and soldiers belonged to the same generation.
Besides, there are so many baby boomers, we really wouldn't mind if we lost a few.