Why Gen X Has No Time For This Nonsense
Fox News had a story this week that seemingly begged Gen X-ers to stop the rampant “cancel culture” that is “plaguing” our country. That sound you hear is an entire generation sighing in unison. Leave us out of it.
Cancel culture, you say? Ask any X-er about this term, and they could write you a dissertation on the canceled culture of their own youth.
We watched as Dee Snyder and his flowing locks took on Tipper Gore and her Washington Wives when they tried to cancel our music. They still got the “Explicit Lyrics” label, and that made it all the more tantalizing.
We saw outraged mobs burn NWA albums in the streets while the artists laughed all the way to the bank.
How about the Satanic Panic? Kids couldn’t even play Dungeons and Dragons without outrage, fear, and distress from their parents.
The DARE program told us exactly who the “bad” people were; there was no nuance there.
We lived through the AIDS crisis where we heard over and over again that homosexuality was a sin, and this was the punishment.
MTV was going to make us a generation of foul-mouthed slackers.
Madonna and Prince were the targets of moral outrage long before Cardi B or Meg Thee Stallion.
Video games were rotting our brains and making us violent.
We couldn’t even wear t-shirts with Bart Simpson on them to school because he was such a terrible influence on us.
Through all of this, we had real issues that the moral panic of the 80s and 90s never seemed to address. The “greed is good” mentality of the 80s that bled into the 90s had a real effect on our upbringing. So many of us were latchkey kids that were cooking our own meals long before we knew what puberty was. As we worry about our own kids and their schoolwork during a pandemic, we have vivid memories of being alone at home and getting our homework done. No one checked it. No one asked if it was done. We looked to the stands during sports matches, plays, and awards ceremonies; we were hopeful for them to be there but never expectant.
We saw violence in school and out of it, but it wasn’t really labeled that way. It was just something “kids did”. We were told not to “ask for it” with our clothes; the dress code at school was several pages long. We were taught that “boys will be boys”, and we had very little agency over our bodies. “What did you do to provoke that?” is a question X-er women are quite familiar with. Our sex ed was inadequate at best and dangerous at worst.
We saw breaking news on MTV when Kurt Cobain killed himself. We watched live in our classrooms as an exciting mission to space ended in tragedy, and then we watched live in our living rooms as planes flew into towers 15 years later. There is an unspoken trauma that is often left unaddressed.
So, leave us out of your “cancel culture” mess. We grew up with it, and we’re on to the game. It is a distraction. A shiny object that lures us away from the real issues of mounting debt, environmental crises, and inequality. So, have fun feeding the outrage machine, but don’t ask us to participate. We never were all that great at participation anyway.