Generational boundaries are a casual invention of the fourth estate, but they serve the useful purpose of giving names to cohorts. I am a member of Generation X, but barely - the senior Millennials are a mere six months younger. That fits me fairly well, culturally speaking. I was just old enough to watch the Berlin Wall come down and appreciate its meaning, but I was too old to have had an "emo" phase. Of the stereotypes associated with generations, most of the ones associated with Gen X apply to me.
Strangely, anyone under 40 may not even know what those stereotypes are - or were. In an otherwise agreeable editorial in the Wall Street Journal, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. writes:
Coolness, skepticism, and a distrust of passion were boomer[sic] virtues (amid many boomer vices), maybe because their parents had seen the damage passion and unreason can do in the world.
I imagine America in the 1970s would have loved nothing more than to find these cool, skeptical, dispassionate Boomers, and give them charge over their unruly and violent generation. While they may have settled down in the decades since, they have hardly proved themselves incredulous. They invented the movement once known as "political correctness" that now claims to pursue "social justice," and the man most directly responsible for the Right wing's slide into emotionalism - Rush Limbaugh - was the definitive conservative Boomer.
The fact is, coolness, skepticism, and a distrust of passion were not only characteristic of Generation X, they were among its defining features. Gen X famously rejected the naive idealism of their parents' youth, as well as the corporate rat race in which the Boomers took highly profitable shelter after having their fill of sex, drugs, rock 'n roll, and domestic terrorism. In what has become standard journalistic practice, Holman W. Jenkins, Jr., himself a Boomer, writes his children's cohort out of American history. Assuming he agrees with the consensus that emotional reasoning and intransigence are primarily Millennial traits, his timeline would leave no place for us.
What's strange is how consistent and coherent this omission is. In virtually every mainstream narrative, the older generation is Boomers and the younger is Millennials, as if whatever is in between is immaterial. Members of Gen X are frequently shifted up into the older crowd when being attacked, like when we are dismissed with "OK, Boomer", or down to Millennials, like when we are recognized as proficient in irony or as having missed the windfall of growing up in post-war America. Like the media blackout of presidential candidate Andrew Yang - himself a Gen Xer who was frequently mislabeled a Millennial - this erasure of an entire 15-year cohort seems to be both universal and conspicuously unnoticed by the very profession that defined the generational boundaries in the first place. Do no members of Generation X have a large enough public voice to correct this strange nonsense? Whence the silence?
Perhaps the entire generation is counter-narrative. Whatever is counter-narrative does not exist, so far as the cultural gatekeepers are concerned, and the existence of Gen X gives the lie to multiple threads of the official orthodoxy. Most notable among these popular falsehoods is the claim that Boomers and Millenials are on opposite sides of the culture war. The fact is, while while the older generation is more conservative than the younger - as it always is - we find the Left of both generations to be mainly aligned, and likewise on the Right. Wokeness is different than political correctness in name only, and Ben Shapiro is primarily distinguished from Rush Limbaugh by his speaking style. Most of the conspicuous dissenters in the culture war are members of Gen X: Joe Rogan, Matt Taibi, Thomas Chaterton Williams, Douglas Murray, Bret and Eric Weinstein, John McWhorter, Sam Harris, James Lindsay, and Elon Musk, to name a few. Jenkins's three descriptors apply so aptly to most of those individuals that cultish cohorts both older and younger have come for their heads on multiple occasions. Perhaps Xers have been left out of the narrative precisely because we really are cool, skeptical, and dispassionate. The power of our geriatric elite is safe so long as cooler heads do not prevail.