Reality Really Does Bite: Gen Xers in the Age of Trump

The most ardent and vocal Trump supporters I know aren’t Millennials or even Boomers. They’re my own peers, Gen Xers.

Millennials think Trump is pathetically out of touch – an obese, senile great grandpa sitting on his porch raving about the “coloreds” and “queers.” They’d compare him to Archie Bunker if they knew who Bunker was.

And Boomers, many of whom actually are Archie Bunkers, don’t even bother to make a spectacle of their political views because, well, they already bought their retirement homes or cashed in on Social Security. Their best years are behind them, and now they’re sitting back, eating hotdish, watching the world burn like it’s an episode of Fox & Friends.

No, it’s Gen Xers who get into the most vicious political arguments; laugh the loudest about drinking Snowflake tears; and seem most willing to defend Trump despite all the graft, lies, and treason.

When I see them doing this, I want to ask them, “Did you guys even watch the same movies in the ‘80s that I did?”

If so, they must not have learned a damn thing.

Pretty in Pink should have taught them that the rich guy in Wayfarers, blazer, and loafers is almost always an entitled dick who only cares about himself. James Spader’s sneering Steff is Jared Kushner, a trust fund slumlord who has lied over and over on security clearance forms.

Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark should have taught them that scientists are good and Nazis are bad. No, there aren’t good people on both sides. In fact, there are never good people on the Nazi side, yet Trump supporters disparage climate change experts and university professors while ignoring—sometimes even cheering—the real damage white nationalists are doing to this country.

The Star Wars franchise should have groomed them to recognize and resist authoritarian rule and fascism. How the hell did they miss all that Third Reich imagery? Or do you suppose in their warped Fox News worldview they see Darth Vader as Obama, the Empire as the Democratic Party, and the Rebel Alliance as oppressed conservatives?

The Day After should have scarred them for life, leaving them with a fear of nuclear weapons instead of an “America, fuck yeah” attitude about deploying them like President Dum Dum and his creepy doomsday cult of cabinet members and donors.

Die Hard, beloved and quoted by gun-fetishizing, cop-worshipping conservatives, should have taught them that terrorists aren’t always brown guys from the Middle East.

Red Dawn should have taught them that Russia isn’t our friend.  Yet now many of us are forced to hunker down in survivalist mode to defend our basic rights, to think like guerrilla war strategists as a coping mechanism for surviving the dangers of an administration compromised by Russia.

ET should have taught them that illegal aliens aren’t always rapists or criminals, that they can contribute meaningfully to society even when that society fears them because they’re different.

Blade Runner should have taught them that what seems human might actually be a Replicant. Yet the conservatives I know are the first ones to be fooled by bots on social media.

Wall Street should have taught them that that just because someone is a successful businessman doesn’t mean he can be trusted to follow through on promises or do the right thing. But we ended up with President Gekko anyway, a guy who lives by the creed “greed is good” as he bleeds blue-collar America dry.

I could go on and on like this, and of course I’m sort of joking, but not completely. And maybe the joke’s on me and other Gen X members of The Resistance because watching They Live and V should have prepared us for all this.

The truth is, a lot of us have been asleep. That’s how the Nightmare on Main Street begins:

One, two GOP’s coming for you. 

Three, four pay the oligarchy more. 

Five, six the voting’s fixed. 

Seven, eight gonna make America great. 

Nine, ten won’t have healthcare again.  

Remember back in the ‘90s when pop culture conditioned us to believe reality bites? We bought into the idea even though we really had no context for judging whether it was true.  We tried on the slacker brand like it was a Members Only jacket someone left behind at that epic kegger in ’85 because it was as close as we were ever going to get to having a generational identity. In the absence of catastrophic wars, moonwalks (other than Michael’s), or assassinated presidents in our formative years to define us, and with only MTV to tell us who we were, we were never going to be taken seriously by Boomers anyway.        

In retrospect, lots of us didn’t have big problems in the ‘90s at all — especially if we were white and middle class.  Most of us weren’t losing our right to vote, right to protest, power to make decisions about our bodies, government aid, or healthcare. We didn’t worry about mass shootings, nuclear war, or economic collapse.

We definitely didn’t worry about losing our democracy, and if anyone had tried to warn us then that it was going to happen by the time we got to our parents’ age, we would have laughed at them like they were Cameron Frye and slammed another Zima.

But guess what? Reality really does bite now, and it’s snarling and foaming at the mouth like Cujo.

So, here’s the deal: Millennials are going to get their chance later to remake the world in their own progressive image. And the Boomers? They’re cashing in and saying “Peace oot.” That leaves us, Gen X, and we stand to lose the most as a consequence of the tyranny of the GOP. There’s never been a president who has represented us or our interests, and the chances of it ever happening dwindle by the day.

But most of us have already been working for twenty to thirty years or more. This country rattles and hums along because of our labor and spending. What will we do when the GOP raids our Social Security benefits? How are we going to pay back our own student loans, let alone our kids’ loans? What happens when our unions are hamstrung by right-to-work laws? How will we get ahead when we’re only one medical emergency away from losing everything? (All problems, by the way, that Bernie Sanders‘ platform addressed.) What happens when the highest-paying blue-collar jobs, in industries like steel and coal, become obsolete – after being hyped and unsuccessfully revived like Crystal Pepsi?

I hate to break it to you, Gen X, but there aren’t going to be any “let’s work together” montages. Members of The Resistance and Trump supporters aren’t going to pull a Breakfast Club, a Goonies, or a St. Elmo’s Fire. There’s never going to be a moment of insight and reconciliation when we say “Even though we’re from different races, ethnicities, genders, social classes, religions, etc. we’re going to fight this together.”

Nope. There will be no seamless and predictably-satisfying denouement at the end of this movie.  John Hughes can’t help us now. Things are going to get messy when Trump is impeached.

Stay strong, Wolverines.




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