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    Ann Rostow: Not the Greatest Generation

    By Ann Rostow–

    Not the Greatest Generation

    I have been casting about for interesting topics and procrastinating to some extent, since I don’t have a major lead story this week, and I couldn’t resist clicking on: “Most Uncool Things Boomers Still Think Are Cool,” preparing myself for an affectionate dressing down by some Gen X or Millennial writer assigned to one of these clickbait listicles. 

    Sure enough, I agreed with “cruises,” “racquetball,” and “crocs.” No, Mel and I don’t go on cruises or play racquetball. But we have friends who play pickle ball and we do have an ugly pair of crocs on the porch, so that’s not too far off the mark. But after that, these analysts devolved, accusing us of hanging out at the mall and preferring chain restaurants like Applebee’s to more sophisticated fare. Boomers also like the Home Shopping Channel, and read Readers Digest, they continued inexplicably.

    I had to stop at that point because, as many people know, Boomers are still busy people with no time to waste on nonsensical internet tangents. Applebee’s? Really? Haven’t you noticed that Boomers managed to avoid student debt and retire at the end of a decades long rise in the stock market? You’re the ones at Applebee’s. We’re deciding whether or not we agree with Pete Well’s latest restaurant review. And no, we’re not at the mall. We’ve never liked the mall. That was Gen X, you fools! Oh, and Readers Digest is the Silent Generation, not us. 

    Also, we may still be guilty of doing and liking uncool things, but we’re not so out of it that we still think these things are cool. We know they’re not cool and we choose to do them anyway. 

    In all seriousness, I’m not happy about our generation, those Americans born in the 1950s and 1960s. 

    We allowed the civil rights movement to fail. We set the stage for climate change. We were complacent. Most of us were too young to participate in the opposition to Vietnam or Woodstock or the Summer of Love, yet we assume those mantles as if we were part of a valiant struggle or a cultural revolution. 

    I’m sure you’ve heard that we Boomers had to duck and cover for those absurd nuclear bomb preparations. But we were kids. That wasn’t frightening. Gen Z students, on the other hand, live with a legitimate sense of dread based on an actual possibility that has happened dozens of times and killed hundreds in the last ten years alone. They and their older siblings are also the ones who will have to save our planet, while paying off loans and trying to support their families on two incomes with expensive health insurance and lousy child care. 

    Hey, we did fight for gay rights, live through AIDS, invent computers, increase everyone’s life span, map the human genome, and discover the Higgs boson. So, we’re not complete wastrels. And any of us with extra cash will presumedly leave it to you guys to help with your many projects. 

    It just feels as if we could have done better.

    Gay Is Not Always Good

    I see from the Human Rights Campaign’s news email that Amazon is going to make a movie out of the best-selling novel Red, White and Royal Blue. Because I am fond of trashy paperbacks and because this book had a gay theme and good beach read type reviews, I bought it and read it. 

    Friends, I advise you not to follow my lead. It was not good. It was trite, predictable, and just plain stupid. I sort of like bad novels, but there are good bad novels and bad bad novels and this was in the latter category. So much so that I wondered if some of those “saucy and fun!” reviews and blurbs reflected people’s fear of looking politically incorrect by dissing a gay book. 

    The premise is that the handsome son of the Hillary-esque female President of the United States is secretly gay and in love with the handsome Prince of Wales, who is also secretly gay and in love with the President’s son. They pretend to dislike each other at various important events, but that’s just their way of hiding their true feelings. This “tension” is presented with the subtlety of an opera plot, and before you know it, the two of them are having a steamy affair. The rest of the book is just them, having their affair, trying to hide it, breaking up and making up, and living happily ever after. Each of these transitions is signaled loudly in advance so the reader is not disturbed by any distractions, like suspense. 

    This book was one of the ones I took along on a visit to family a few months ago, and now that I think about it a) it has a number of sort of raunchy sex scenes, and b) I left it in my grandchildren’s playroom. Ooops. I would warn their parents but I don’t want them to know how low I will stoop in my trash reading habits since I like to parade around with sophisticated novels or serious nonfiction selections.

    “Oh, hi, Matthew! This? Yes, I’m just rereading David Talbot’s history of the Kennedy brothers. Do you know it?”

    “Has anyone seen my copy of The Overstory? I was sure I left it here in the living room. What? Red, white, and what? No, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

    It’s That Time Again

    The U.S. Supreme Court is back in session, and will be considering whether or not to accept a number of GLBT cases. For now, however, most people are focused on the scheduled review of Mississippi’s abortion ban, which takes effect at 15 weeks. Roe v Wade effectively guarantees the right to an abortion during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, ergo this Mississippi law would seem to violate settled law. 

    But, I can hear you out there, what about Texas? Isn’t that a ban on abortion after just six weeks? Well, yes and no. The state of Texas is not going to go after women who have abortions after that time, nor will the state confront the doctors who conduct the procedures. Instead, the state has left it up to vigilante bystanders who can sue anyone who facilitates an abortion and legally be awarded damages of up to $10,000. 

    We’ve talked about this already, and indeed, the Justice Department has sued Texas over this convoluted situation. But did you know that the judge in charge of this lawsuit is a gay man, appointed by Obama with the full support of Senators Cruz and Cornyn? Well respected throughout the federal bench, Judge Robert Pitman heard arguments on October 1 in Austin.

    And here’s what I should have known already, but just discovered. A few years ago, the city council of San Antonio voted against Chick-fil-A, which wanted to set up a franchise at the airport. San Antonio’s administrators didn’t like Chick’s antigay postures, and also did not approve of the Christian company’s Sunday closings. That may be fine and dandy to encourage small town church attendance, but it’s not really useful in a busy airport.

    Well, of course there was an uproar, and Texas being Texas, the state legislature passed a special statute in 2019, the “Save Chick-fil-A law,” that Governor Abbot promptly signed. I’m not kidding. I remember the situation and I’m sure I mentioned it in these pages, but I had not paid close attention to the logistics of the Save Chick-fil-A law. It allows anyone to sue when they believe religious discrimination has denied someone or some organization a government contract or benefit. 

    Sound familiar? It’s just like the abortion law, providing totally unconnected strangers the right to interject themselves into conflicts that are none of their damned business.

    In the Chick-fil-A case, the restaurant was offered a spot at the airport in some kind of settlement with the FAA, but they declined. Subsequently, in line with this wacky law, some rando and his pals sued the San Antonio city council in an effort to give Chick-fil-A another opportunity for an airport restaurant (even though there was no indication they wanted one). That suit was dismissed on the grounds that the city council had sovereign immunity, but the fact is that the law remains operable and that this statute has provided the predicate for the abortion nonsense.

    Look, there’s a clear mandate in American jurisprudence that a third party does not have the right to sue just because they don’t like a situation. Further, a plaintiff with standing must have suffered an actual injury. It’s not enough to argue that you might be injured in the future or that you’re offended by something that’s going on. You and I cannot sue the state of California or the city of San Francisco because we believe we’ve observed some nefarious instance of discrimination against some other person. We can’t (well, we shouldn’t be able to) sue an Uber driver who drove our Texas cousin to the women’s clinic and collect $10,000. 

    Any law that says otherwise is opening the door to complete chaos. And that’s why the Supreme Court decision that allowed that Texas law to stand during litigation is such a jaw dropper. It’s like temporarily allowing the volunteers with the neighborhood watch to demand an ID check, or lock people up in Mrs. Parker’s basement overnight. It’s not right. And I can only hope Judge Pitman puts an end to it, pronto, and takes the Save Chick-fil-A law down while he’s at it.

    And Another Thing or Two

    There are a lot of school stories here and there. A Gay Straight Alliance was discriminated against in Indiana (allegedly)—the school in Oregon, where the farmers put out a rainbow flag in the field, remember? That school board voted again to ban “controversial” paraphernalia that apparently include rainbow images and Black Lives Matter signs. And in the Dallas area, students held a walkout after safe space stickers and rainbows were removed from classrooms, and some gay-friendly teachers appeared to have been disciplined. 

    It seems evident that the country’s step back into more overt racism, meanness, jingoism, and conspiratorial nuttiness has been colored with a wash of homophobia. I don’t recall the same number of antigay school stories in pre-pandemic years. The increase fits with our narrowing minds.  

    Speaking of narrowing minds, I was pleased to hear Liz Cheney’s mind widen to accept the blame for the opportunistic hostility to same-sex marriage that she affected in order to ingratiate herself to Wyoming conservatives during her 2013 run for Senate. “I was wrong,” she told 60 Minutes the other day. “It’s a very personal issue—and very personal for my family. I believe that my dad was right. And my sister and I have had that conversation … . Freedom means freedom for everybody.”

    Finally, we can thank Psychology Today for observing that gays and lesbians are more likely than straight men and women to be friends with their exes. The authors cite three fairly recent academic papers on the subject, all from the late teens, concluding that yes, it’s more than an urban myth. We do indeed put the “long” into long-term relationship, even after we break up. I guess another research project on this subject is underway at Trent University, wherever the hell that is. Oh, okay, fine. It’s in Ontario, Canada, in a town called Peterborough. 

    The original authors, the Canadian writers say, “suggested that the continuation of such relationships in the form of platonic friendships may help to preserve access to social support and security,” in particular, due to the fact that us gays and lesbians historically lack social support and might need to hang on to our exes as a result. 

    It also might be that we have no choice in the matter because our ex just took up with our other ex, who is dating our sister and we can’t avoid them. Plus, considering we’re having an affair with her ex’s best friend, we’re bound to run into each other. Did we mention there are only two gay bars in town? Oh. And we’ve always really liked each other and still do.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on October 7, 2021