I've been classified as a Boomer, but am I really? The election of Barack Obama has raised interesting generational questions. Originally classified as part of the Baby Boom Generation, he came of age long after Woodstock, Vietnam and the rest of the 60s generation. Remember all the fuss about Bill Ayres. You would of thought that Obama was part of the Weather Underground -- but he was just a kid living in Hawaii when all that was happening.
So what generation does he stem from? Since my brother is younger than Obama, I would assume that whatever answer defines him, defines me. The answer being proposed is Generation Jones -- that Generation that bridges the Boomers and GenX. We share some things in common with both, but in other ways, we're very different -- we children of the 60s and the 70s.
I noticed this link on Brian McLaren's blog. It's a link that Diana Butler Bass sent to him, and so since Diana and I are essentially the same age I figured it had something to say to me. In an essay entitled "Stuck in the Middle," sociologist Jonathan Pontell, the creator of the Jones Generation idea, sets Obama and his cohort in its proper place. He also notes that with the rise of Obama, comes the rise to leadership of this same generation. Indeed, as I look across my own congregation, there is a growing leadership cohort of this very generation.
So who are we? We are practical idealists, forged in the fires of social upheaval while too young to play a part. The name "Generation Jones" derives from a number of sources, including our historical anonymity, the "keeping up with the Joneses" competition of our populous birth years, and sensibilities coupling the mainstream with ironic cool. But above all, the name borrows from the slang term "jonesin' " that we as teens popularized to broadly convey any intense craving.
The Jones runs deep in us. It arose from our 1960s childhoods. While the Boomers were out changing the world, Jonesers were still in elementary school — wide-eyed, not tie-dyed. That intense love-peace-change-the-world zeitgeist stirred our impressionable hearts. We yearned to express our own voice. By the time we came of age and could take the stage, though, a decade of convulsions had left the nation fatigued. During the game we'd been forced to watch from the sidelines, and passage into college and careers came only after the final gun had long since sounded.
The Boomers had their opportunity, and the GenXers weren't around soon enough to bear witness. Neither was left jonesin'. But the actual children of the 1960s yearned for something more. Our unrequited idealism has bubbled beneath the surface ever since.
Obama has The Jones. It permeates his biography and his philosophy. It's a crucial piece of his identity. His message and approach reverberate with GenJones themes.
So, on behalf of my Generation, I say that we accept the baton, and maybe we'll hold on to it for just a bit, before we pass it on to the next generation.
For more, keep reading the Pontell essay here.