Every so often, a dank meme appears with big pandemic energy, spreading exponentially until suddenly it's everywhere.
Such was the case with "OK Boomer" and so seems to be the trajectory of "Boomer Remover," Gen Z's new term for the coronavirus.
It started, like many memes, with a single Tweet:
According to writer Bailey Carlin's familial grapevine, middle school students have been referring to coronavirus as the "boomer remover." Naturally, Twitter saw this and immediately lost their collective sh*t.
"Boomer remover" quickly became the top trending topic in the United States.
But while the term has an obviously jokey air to it, there's also a very serious undercurrent of anger beneath the surface. Even a perfunctory scroll through related posts reveals an overwhelming number of people who genuinely feel like the boomer generation has destroyed the world for younger people. And while they might shroud their generational rage beneath the guise of humor, there does seem to be some real sentiment that the coronavirus might be the karmic reckoning that boomers deserve.
In truth, there is some irony at play amidst all of this pandemic horror. 53% of American voters over the age of 50 voted for Donald Trump (compared to only 35% of voters under age 24), and now Trump is bungling medical efforts to respond to a virus that has the highest chance of killing older people.
But does that mean it's fair to joke about a situation that has many people fearing for their lives, especially when not all of those people even support the awful policies that have left America entirely unprepared to handle a wide-scale health crisis? After all, the boomer generation isn't a monolith. 44% of people over 50 still voted against Trump.
We're in a very precarious position, culturally speaking (not to mention, in every other regard). The past four years have been an absolute nightmare for many young Americans. Faced with crippling student loans, rampant underemployment, poor healthcare options, lack of resources, etc., etc., etc., Gen Z and Millennials have been loudly crying out for help. In response, we have been called entitled and disrespectful by the older generations, told to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps as they vote against our best interests again and again and again. Of course, all of this is generally speaking. There are plenty of awful millennials and plenty of wonderful boomers. But social media is oftentimes a reflection of the overarching social conscience, and thus reflects generalities.
The question isn't really whether or not "boomers" deserve the coronavirus, the "boomer remover." The question is whether or not we respond with empathy to the real fears of people who never had our best interests at heart. Finding the right answer might not be so cut-and-dry. Even those of us who find divisive behavior uncouth shouldn't be so quick to ignore the pain and anger that has built up within younger generations over the past few years, as older generations have continued to spit in their faces and disregard their very lives.
Even worse, while many young, healthy people are self-quarantining for the greater good, too many older people are still viewing COVID-19 as a big media joke.
"For me, that would've just extended my vacation," said the same retiree from the above tweet, in reference to her annoyance over her cruise being canceled. "As long as someone was feeding me and changing my bed, I would be fine...People are too worried. The flu has killed more people than the coronavirus, and people haven't been as concerned over the flu."
Her sentiment, full of passive disregard for whatever low-wage workers need to risk their own safety feeding her and changing her bed in the face of a pandemic, is exactly why so many younger people hate the older generations. Oftentimes, it seems like they only care about themselves, other people be damned.
So while boomers may be fuming over the Boomer Remover meme, perhaps they can use their quarantine time for a little introspection. Regardless of whether anyone is right to use such a divisive, dark meme during such a trying time, the anger behind it is more than justified.