Millennials and Baby Boomers: What They Fear and Why

What do you fear? What makes your palms sweat and your mouth turn to sawdust; what makes your stomach icy and your guts go watery when you contemplate it? What disturbs your sleep at night? What do you rail against and which causes do you support because you fear the outcome if you don’t?

A pundit on one of the recent political shows remarked that if a candidate had no positive message to offer why voters should elect him or her; the thing to do was to scare them into voting against the other guy. It’s not a particularly worthwhile or informative tactic but it obviously works.

Have we learned that tactic too well? Why is every advertisement, every Op-ed; every discussion or interview framed in the language and context of fear?  “Here is my position; if my solution isn’t implemented immediately, these three catastrophic things will happen, plus you will break out in incurable warts if you disagree with me.”

We have mentioned and/or argued about all of the following topics in this forum over the past few months. As you read through the list, ask yourself WHY are you afraid of these things? Where did the fear come from? Try to pinpoint facts and not feelings about how you, personally, learned to fear and became a partisan. Take the exercise seriously, please. There are issues on all sides here – somebody is going to disagree with or ridicule everything on the list:

         Iran attacking Israel




         Bird flu

         Privatizing Social Security

         Personal debt

         National debt/increasing the debt limit

         Israel attacking Iran

         Deficit spending/unbalanced federal budget

         Higher taxes

         Losing your job


         Losing your health insurance

         Mortgage foreclosure


         Illegal immigrants

         Contraception, abortion, Planned Parenthood



         Rising sea level

         Rising gas prices

         Getting fat

         Creeping dementia

         Wall Street re-regulation

         Wall Street de-regulation

         Gun Control


         Nuclear fallout, nuclear winter

         Genetically engineered foodstuffs/ cloning of humans and animals

         Single-payer/universal healthcare

         Outliving your retirement funds



         Being spied on by the FBI/Homeland Security

         Second Amendment “Solutions”

Some conclusions I reached from my own exercise

1) Most Baby Boomers fear nuclear fallout/ winter and ecological disasters as well as Second Amendment Solutions because the major events in their lives were the Cuban Missile Crisis and President Kennedy’s assassination. Thus, some of our big issues and crusades throughout our lives have been environmentally focused and centered around sustainable, green energy and gun control.

2) Many millenials may fear terrorists — as well as immigrants — because the salient event of their lives was 9/11. Thus, their issues are security-centered. Security issues and the seeking of security and/or minimizing risk may influence them all their lives.

3) The third paragraph of Roosevelt’s First Inaugural address is still relevant:

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life, a leadership of frankness and of vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory. And I am convinced that you will again give that support to leadership in these critical days.”

Photo Credit: George Laoutaris