A thought just occurred to me...
Three people who are all on the cusp between the Baby Boomers and Generation X -- Barack Obama, me, and Rob, the hero of High Fidelity...
I've been thinking the last day or so about how this presidential election is at its core a battle between the Baby Boomers and the Gen X-ers. Bush and both Clintons are Boomers (and McCain is Grandpa Munster). Obama is on the cusp, like me and Rob, though all three of us are closer philosophically and culturally to the Gen X-ers.
(The musical sort of updates the story by referencing Coldplay and other more recent pop culture icons, but the novel was released in the mid-1990s, so Rob was definitely on the cusp.)
The Baby Boomers grew up with parents who had struggled through the Depression, rallied 'round the flag during World War II, and relaxed into the hyper-materialism and mind-numbing conformity of the 1950s. Sure, a lot of the Boomers rebelled against that in the 60s, but most of them ended up pretty much becoming their parents anyway. The Gen X-ers are different. More fucked up. They feel too much. (Just look at St. Elmo's Fire, for God's sake.) They actually believe the idealism of the Boomers but despair at the mess the Boomers have created for us. The Gen X-ers don't want to master the rules of two generations ago; they want all new rules.
The funniest thing to watch in the Democratic primary right now is how baffled the Clintons are. They've totally mastered the rules of politics, they know how to play the game better than anybody (except maybe the Bushies). But this Obama dude shows up and says, "You may be good at that game, but we're gonna play a new game now." And everyone (press and public) magically agrees that we are playing a new game now. But the Clintons are masters of the old game! And every time they play the old game now, everyone yells at them for their "old politics." So what the fuck do they do now?
Yep, Me, Rob, and Barack. The old rules just don't work for us. Money isn't much of a motivator. Yes, Barack played inside the system while Rob and I stumble around outside of it, but none of us ever had money as a goal. We believe in Big Things. Rob and I believe in the incredible power of art. Barack believes in the incredible power of the people when they have something to believe in. Real grass roots politics. For all of us, our central joy in life is sharing what makes us most happy -- Barack's dreams, my theatre, Rob's music.
I'm still working through all this. But there is something special -- which is not to say easy -- about being on the cusp. We're a little bit lost sometimes, but we're adventurers of one kind or another, so eventually we know we'll find our way. Eventually...
Long Live the Musical!