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How Old Are You?


Iam the same age as the next president of the United States.

It's very strange. I don't feel old enough to be president. I don't think I'm old enough even to be City Councilman. In fact, I don't think I'm old enough to be any kind of authority figure.

I grew up thinking that all authority figures were despicable old men. The main virtue of my generation was that we were young, and that was Young with a capital Y, Youth without Age, Eternal Shining Youth.

And the main feature of capital-Y Youth is Energy. As William Blake said, "Energy is Eternal Delight." We, the first post-war generation baby-boom babies born snug under the atomic umbrella, had energy to spare. It was a very moralistic kind of energy that we deployed mainly in order to secede from old age, and to excoriate the evil dominion of old men with frozen ideas. And bodies.

Energy may be eternal delight, for a pure and brief moment, but then it gets harnessed by the prevailing winds. The generation just before us had its youthful energy used by fascist and communist ideologies. Those who survived the war, men like Reagan and Bush, were contaminated by their leaders and became prematurely old. They got rid of the excess energy of their youth by exercising to death. They left a vacuum that must now, willy-nilly, be filled by my generation.

When Bill Clinton said that time had come to stop using "us" versus "them," because we've nearly "them'd" ourselves to death, he was referring as much to an internal tension in himself as to the country at large. To our generation, which thought itself younger than any other, including the prematurely old Reagan-Bush kids, presidents were always and forever automatically older. They were "thems." It's dizzying to watch "us" become "thems."

It's scary, too. The easiest way to keep that fear at bay is to say the "thems" ought not to exist any more. It's only "us" now.

Of course, the real young kids don't believe it for a second. To them, we are just old "thems" with some odd scruples about it.

Andrei Codrescu is editor of Exquisite Corpse.

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