After decades of complaining about obnoxious Uncle Louie who always ruined Thanksgiving with his bad pants, his World War II stories and his Depression-era opinions, I have news for all my fellow Boomers out there.
Louie is dead. May he rest in peace.
Alas, Louie passed the torch to a new generation, and it is us.
The good old days when we showed up for the holiday unfashionably late with long-haired pacifist boyfriends who got stoned before dinner and provoked our elders with their disdain for capitalism, organized religion and, um, deodorant are gone.
Now, we’re the ones who arrive early bringing our own Prilosec, insist on making Grandma’s cabbage salad even though nobody eats it, say totally inappropriate things (So, how much did that tattoo cost?), register unconcealed horror at our nephew’s attitude that a college degree is an obsolete relic of white privilege, and think we’re cool when we cue up Springsteen on Pandora.
All it takes is a cocktail or two for us to start channeling the ghost of Uncle Louie and begin talking (and talking) about the latest thing we saw on Facebook and how hearing aid prices have dropped.
Trust me, that look on your daughter’s face is not dyspepsia.
So, in the interest of harmony this Thanksgiving, I suggest we all consider avoiding a few topics that might create a hostile dining environment, a door-slamming exit or, at the very least, extreme eye-rolling.
Let’s start with climate change.
Even if everybody around the table accepts the conclusions of the world’s elite climate scientists and supports the need for urgent action, Boomers are better off avoiding this issue altogether.
We are the ones who made gas-guzzling SUVs standard equipment in nearly every garage, after all, and larded our IRAs with oil and gas stocks despite all the evidence that for the past 40 years Big Oil has been sabotaging efforts to address climate change through its spectacularly cynical disinformation campaigns.
We are the ones regaling the kids with the stories about our retirement trips to Botswana and Uruguay, while they’re calculating our carbon footprints on their smart phones.
We are the ones portraying ourselves as some kind of heroes because we started taking reusable bags to the grocery — after our generation created an island of plastic trash twice the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean.
See what I mean? Best to steer clear of this subject.
Oh, and the economy is another conversational minefield.
Sure, sure, we all freaked out equally about the price of eggs last summer, and paying 15 bucks for a burger and fries is definitely upsetting. But Boomers can’t begin to understand what it’s like to try to pay the rent, the car payment, the student loan bills, health insurance premiums, child care costs and everything else circa 2023.
With low-interest mortgages locked in or our houses paid off and a nice fat spike in Social Security payments this year, some Boomers have been splurging on luxury travel and nights out on the town.
It’s that reward we promised ourselves throughout the 40-some years we put in at our jobs, we say. We deserve it, especially after COVID, right?
Maybe, but keep that to yourself if you want the kids to invite you back next year. Some might call you oblivious as well as obnoxious.
And then there’s the war in Gaza.
It will be hard not to talk about it. Since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, the stories of bloodshed and horror have shocked the world. It seems there are no heroes, only victims, thousands of them, many of them little children.
But our interpretation of the crisis can be wildly different based on our age and circumstance.
A recent Pew poll found a wide generation gap across the U.S. on sympathies for Israelis and Palestinians. Among those over 45, the poll found 72% favored Israel while 50% of those younger than 45 sympathize with the Palestinians.
Even before the war exploded last month, younger Jews in the U.S. were more critical of Israel’s leaders and more sympathetic to Palestinians. A 2021 survey by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 33% of Jews under 40 said that Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians compared to 18% of those 40-64, and 15% of those over 64.
Among the under-40 demographic, 38% said they consider Israel an apartheid state, compared to 23% ages 40-64 and 13% of those over 64.
The divergence in viewpoints is dramatic, and emotions right now are on screech. Engage at your own risk because this one can ruin relationships.
I realize it won’t be easy.
I come from a family that argued about everything, but especially politics. We didn’t wait around for holiday gatherings to cut loose.
For his entire adult life, my dad argued about the New Deal with my grandpa. I think one of the last things my dad said to his father before he died was that the old man wouldn’t have a pot to pee in without FDR.
There was love but no deathbed reconciliation on that point.
So, for me, this kind of restraint doesn’t come naturally.
But to make sure I don’t end up an object of ridicule like Uncle Louie, I vow to listen more, talk less, wear tasteful clothing and stay sober enough to drive home.
I’ve had my turn being the provocateur at the dinner table and, oh, how I loved it. But it’s time to sit back and watch with pride as the next generation tries deliciously to get under everybody’s skin.
Viva la revolucion!
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