After the Ryan pick, a Gen-X identity crisis
The Kansas City Star
Did you notice that? It was just for a brief moment, but it was there last weekend. It was hard for me to identify what I was feeling because the country hasn’t felt that for some time. The Democrats and the Republicans are united.
What has united our two political parties? Paul Ryan, the congressman from Wisconsin has been picked as the vice presidential running mate. Both Democrats and Republicans think he is the perfect candidate. The Democrats believe he is the perfect candidate to beat and the Republicans believe he is the perfect candidate to help Mitt Romney win election.
This perfect candidate is also 42 years old. Now as a Generation Xer who is close to 42, this immediately sent me into an introspective analysis on my life. Someone my age has been nominated for an office one heartbeat away from the presidency.
I recognize everyone experiences a time in our adult lives when we realize that the people running our country are no longer our grandfather or even father’s age. Then, like Obama, we think of them as an older brother…a much, much older brother. Now with Paul Ryan, the cold hard truth slaps me in the face: Paul Ryan could be my brother, my classmate, my neighborhood friend. Generation X, it’s time to take stock in our lives and see how we measure up. Paul Ryan just raised the bar.
So how do I measure up? How do I compare to my fellow Gen Xer? Comparisons are only natural when someone you could have skated the “snowball” with at the roll rink becomes a vice-presidential candidate. Paul Ryan is best known for his tough economic budget that cuts trillions of federal spending and overhauls Medicare.
Times are tough. I recently laid out a conservative monthly household budget that included cutting out the movie channel option in my cable package so I would have enough money to meet my monthly bills. My five year old is still upset that we don’t have movie channels. By overhauling Medicare into a voucher system with private insurance, seniors will probably scream as loud as my five year old. Ryan wants to cut most social programs, except for the Pentagon. I also had to cut frilly extras in my life to balance my own budget, but I decided to keep my iPhone. Like the Pentagon is critical to national security, my iPhone is critical to my entertainment enjoyment and connection to society.
Paul has an interest in women’s health. He wants to defund Title X, our nation’s family planning program. I am a woman…who has health.
As a Gen Xer, I couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that Congressman Ryan seems to be like another well-known figure from our generation. Like Ryan, this person also excelled at his career at a very young age. Doogie Howser, MD, the boy wonder doctor from my youth, has many similarities to Paul Ryan. Gen X, you remember Doogie. He provided us with a nice, typed-out moral on his computer at the end of each episode. He knew that Generation X couldn’t be bothered to draw up our own conclusions at the end of our sitcom. Generation Xers were too busy entertaining ourselves while waiting for one of our double-income-earning parents to come home.
Like most Gen Xers, I will continue this internal dialogue of comparison to Congressman Ryan. If it turns out to be too much for me, I will do just as many in my generation frequently do, I’ll use an anti-depressant and squash those feelings of inadequacy.
Until then, show us what you can do, Congressman Ryan. I will be looking for typed-out conclusions on my television at the end of the VP debates telling me who won. Just blame it on Doogie..Howser, not Ryan.
Aimee Patton of Overland Park owns two companies, one in convention and meeting planning, the other in presentation design. To reach her, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.