Generation Politics

5336_109437127642_624667642_2410084_7553110_nMy new piece for California magazine is part memoir, part generational polemic. It begins at the Reagan White House, at one of Nancy Reagan’s Just Say No celebrity tennis tournaments, and works its way down through the years, surveying the damage our generations–Silents, Boomers, Xers–have caused to the body politic. Our only hope? The millennial generation.

On a swampy day in June 1988, I found myself–a 16-year-old skate punk with a dim view of politicians–at the Ronald Reagan White House. Specifically, I was at the backyard tennis court for a celebrity tournament organized by Nancy Reagan (my dad worked for one of the corporate sponsors). The theme: Just Say No to drugs. I sat sweating in the stands, one row behind the Gipper himself.

While the Reagans watched, a doubles team that included Treasury Secretary James Baker–the bureaucratic warrior who would later spearhead George W. Bush’s Florida recount campaign–demolished Secretary of State George Shultz’s squad.

There were celebrities, too: Herschel Walker, the Dallas Cowboys running back, sported a high-top fade. Chuck Norris wore short shorts and looked more ordinary than action-figure. Umpire Dick Van Patten, the Eight is Enough patriarch, spiked his commentary with Borscht-Belt jokes about his wife’s shopping habits. Johnny Depp, a high-school narc on 21 Jump Street, skulked around the court in dark sunglasses, looking like he wished he were somewhere else.

Afterwards, the First Lady, a birdlike, immaculately coiffed figure, handed out $50,000 checks to nonprofits pushing the Just Say No mantra. The master of ceremonies thanked her, “for bringing to America the drug problem that is afflicting all of our young people.” An unfortunate malapropism.

There’s a generational lesson here …

Read the whole thing here.