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An Ode to the Children of the 80’s

Thinker’s Notebook
Marlon Rice

I grew up in the 80’s. The 80’s were an interesting decade, especially if you lived in Brooklyn. The 80’s were the last decade where you had to actually get up from the couch to turn the channel on the television. When someone rang your doorbell, you either walked down the steps to let them in, or you tossed the keys out of the window. When there was a thunderstorm and lightning appeared in the sky, your grandmother made you turn off everything electric in the entire house. You’d be sitting there in the dark for hours until the storm passed. It was the last decade of hearing the busy signal when you called someone while they were on another call. It is the decade that pagers became the new technology, and when Apple computers were still called by their full name, Macintosh.
We ate whatever was in the fridge which meant fried bologna sandwiches and beans and franks were cuisine staples. We shopped with food stamps, not an EBT card but actual paper currency that came in small books. If you had a microwave oven you were well off, but no one in your house would stand in the kitchen while it was in use. We were the last generation of children that repurposed things to use as toys. When I was in Elementary School, my friends and I would compile all of the aluminum foil that our lunches were wrapped in, and we would make a ball out of it. That ball would be a football on some days, and a basketball on other days. We would take milk crates and cut the bottom out of them, and those crates would become basketball hoops. There was no social media, no internet, no smart phones and no GPS. We weren’t constantly connected to a global web. We were just here, in our community, on our block, present in every moment because there was no other option.
We are the last generation to know of a time before the busyness. In fact, we created the busyness. We were the people who turned analog into digital. We were the ones that made music a lifestyle, and then married that lifestyle to every facet of popular American culture. When you hear your favorite detergent brand use a rap song in a commercial, that was us. When your son wants to stand in line for ten hours to buy a pair of Jordan’s, we did that. The generation before us didn’t experience the digital age until they were middle-aged. The generation after us doesn’t know a time without it. We are the bridge.
If you were born on five years either side of me, then you’ve experienced the Son of Sam, Jim Jones, the Atlanta Child Murders, Jeffery Dahmer, Richard Ramirez and Andrew Cunanan. You watched from your television as the drama unfolded with who shot JR and you was also watching when Ronald Reagan was shot. You grew up with Jaws, Jason Voorhees, Freddy Kruger and Michael Myers scaring you to sleep. You were there for the Challenger explosion, the Cold War, Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Beirut, Rwanda and Benghazi. You’ve survived the Crack epidemic, the HIV epidemic, Ebola, Avian flu, Swine flu, and Mad Cow Disease. You made it through Waco, Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, the Heaven’s Gate cult, 9/11 and Katrina. You are the veterans on the front line, the Police Officers and Firefighters who put your own lives on the back burner to save others. You are the teachers that are working through all of the issues and still trying to educate our children. And, when Covid came you didn’t cower or fold. No. You educated yourselves about the virus, and created opportunities for yourself and for others. You took that stimulus check and put it towards your credit card debt, or spent it on groceries. You adjusted to working from home, and you made sure your children adjusted to remote learning. You made it through 90 days of quarantine and an entire summer of political, social and emotional chaos. And you did it all while partying to D-Nice on IG Live.
This has been a season of shifting consciousness. Yes, you can point to Covid as the catalyst, but much of this shift was already happening before the pandemic reached our communities. And as it comes, as the shift happens and we are compelled to pivot into new normal, you can count on Generation X to take the lead. We thrive in change. We are innovative and resourceful. Because, we grew up in the 80’s.

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