I've noticed an interesting trend on Facebook: baby boomers drunk on nostalgia.
It reminds me of a song popularized by Welsh singer-songwriter Mary Hopkin that rose to No. 2 on the U.S. pop charts in 1968, when many boomers were kids.
Some will remember these lyrics.
Those were the days my friend, We thought they'd never end,
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.
Ah, the good old days. Boomers might as well be humming these words as they post their midcentury memories on social media.
Just in the last few days, I've seen Facebook odes to bologna sandwiches, "Gilligan's Island," Kool-Aid, tap water, paddling (the kind you got from the gym coach in junior high, not the kind you do on the Ocoee River), transistor radios, bikes with banana seats, toilet lid covers made of shag carpeting, Paul Lynde, "Petticoat Junction," monkey bars, streaking and mooning.
I could go on, but why?
The inference from all of these Facebook postings is that growing up in the '60s and '70s was a complete and total blast. All this is coming from people now in their 60s and 70s who, frankly, seem endlessly fascinated with themselves. (Full disclosure: I'm all about remembering the past. I write a weekly feature for the newspaper called "Remember When, Chattanooga?" which often has midcentury themes.)
But what bothers me a little about this burst of baby-boomer nostalgia is that it's often wrapped in a sort of moral superiority, as if boomers, as kids, were all risk-taking, fun-loving, humble- bragging, rule- following, music- loving, TV-watching, comic-book-reading, God-fearing, goody-goodies.
And today's kids? Meh.
Some of the boomer posts on Facebook are so self-congratulatory that the writers almost dislocate their shoulders patting themselves on the back.
I made a screenshot of this anonymous post: "I grew up eating what I found on my plate, wearing what my parents could afford. That's how I learned to be grateful and appreciative."
Ah, yes. Please add plate-cleaning and clothes-wearing to the Boomer Book of Virtues.
Funny, but I don't remember our parents, many of whom grew up during the Great Depression and fighting in World War II and Korea, bragging about their virtuous younger years. Leave it to the "me generation" to make heroes of their 10-year-old selves.
Things we forget about the '60s and '70s: Magazine ads that said things like, "More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarettes." Stagflation and oil shocks that make today's economic difficulties look less significant. Multiple failed presidencies. U.S. male life expectancy of 67 years. A seemingly endless war in Southeast Asia (30% of combat deaths were draftees). Enthusiastic use of corporal punishment on young children that sometimes lapsed into cruelty. And on and on.
Sorry for raining on the boomer parade, but not everything in the '60s and '70s was wonderful. Like any chunk of years in history, the mid-to-late 20th century had its beauty marks and its warts.
I went back and looked at the lyrics of "Those Were the Days" to see if I could find any additional wisdom there.
Baby boomers, please consider this lesser-known verse of the song:
Just tonight I stood before the tavern
Nothing seemed the way it used to be
In the glass I saw a strange reflection
Was that lonely woman really me?
They say that just before you pass away your life flashes before your eyes, like a documentary. Boomers can catch the previews on Facebook.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645.