Boulder man writes letter imploring City Council to ban “Okay Boomer” from meetings because it hurts his feelings, Daily Camera publishes it

Boulder man writes letter imploring City Council to ban “Okay Boomer” from meetings because it hurts his feelings, Daily Camera publishes it

Is "Boomer" the ageist equivalent to the "N-Word"?

CultureDecember 11, 2019 By Will Brendza

When John Spitzer stepped up to the dais at the Boulder City Council meeting on December 3rd, he was putting himself in the line of public fire. He was there to defend Councilmember Mirabai Nagel after she had made some racially inflammatory remarks, that riled up Boulder’s hair-trigger army of social justice warriors.

Spitzer was following several of those young warriors who had only just ripped into Nagel for perpetuating racial discrimination by ignoring her own white privilege. They sat behind Spitzer as he addressed the city council, and held up a sign, emblazoned with the bold phrase “OK BOOMER.”

BoomerJohn Spitzer speaks at the December 3rd Boulder City Council meeting. Behind him someone holds a sign that says, "OKAY BOOMER." 

That really hurt Spitzer’s feelings. So much, he decided to write a letter and submit it to the Boulder Daily Camera, denouncing the use of that phrase, begging people to stop using it and telling the City Council that it has no place in their meetings.

I will not speak at Council again until such signs and speech are banned at City Council meetings and elsewhere across the city,” Spitzer wrote in his letter. Which, the Daily Camera, Boulder’s unofficial Boomer rag, published on December 9th.

He said that the incident had a “chilling effect” on his own free-speech, and therefore the term should be forbidden from use in the City Council chambers.

The irony of that argument was probably lost on Spitzer.

Now, in Spitzer’s defense, he wasn’t being derisive, or close minded when he made his statement. He opened by expressing his support for switching Boulder’s municipal energy over to a 100-percent renewable model. He said that doing so would not only have benefits environmentally, but socially as well, since climate change will disproportionately affect the planet’s poorer populations/regions.

Then he started defending Councilwoman Nagel’s character, and moral integrity. That’s when the sign went up behind him.

OK BOOMER.

It’s a derogatory phrase, no doubt about it. And, yes, it probably is “ageist” — but, by that same argument, so is the term “millennials.” Some people (boomers usually) use that term in the pejorative as well. So what, should we ban the word “millennials” too?

I'm not here to defend those kids who held up that sign, either. It was a dick move. They should have just let Spitzer say his piece, just like they had said theirs, without holding up a mean sign — that’s kind of petty, and it definitely doesn’t add any value whatsoever to the conversation at hand. It’s the kind of thing you would expect from bratty high schoolers who don’t agree with someone, and who aren’t willing to listen to them.

But, then again, Spitzer is being just as naïve as those kids if he thinks that banning words from government proceedings is the solution. I don’t care how much it hurts your feelings, speech is protected in this country, words cannot be illegal, no matter how offensive they might be. It’s one of this country’s most powerful liberties.

In his letter, Spitzer went so far as to quote Boomer columnist Bob Lonsberry, who called the word “boomer” the ageist equivalent of the “n-word.”

Which, is a ridiculous argument. If you’re comparing the weight of two words, and you can’t even say one of them, what’s your point?

Anyway, at the end of the day, this is just a story about name calling. The kids have found a name that really irks their older generation and they’ve latched onto it. Now, they’re using it just like kids have always used spiteful nicknames: to hurt other people’s feelings, to dismiss their ideas and to put others down.

And Boomers like Spitzer don’t how to respond. They panic, floundering in frustration and injured pride, and lash out with an angry letter, an appeal to authority, begging those in charge to ban the things that offend them.

Suck it up guys. Nobody likes being called names, nobody likes having pejorative signs held up behind them while they’re speaking on broadcast television. Nobody likes being disrespected and dismissed.

But that’s nothing new. It’s simply a side-effect of free speech — which is far more valuable than anyone’s pride or opinion.