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Laughing in America: a Millennial's answer to Mourning in America

When I watched the "Mourning in America" ad skillfully crafted by Fred Davis's "Strategic Perception" firm, I didn't feel sad. Unlike the people who distinctly recollect the 1980s, the new commercial doesn't fill me with bleak sadness and despair. To the contrary, it makes me, well, laugh.

I'm speaking as a Millennial, of course. The commercial portrays me as one of the people who is supposed to be getting married right around now, 6,000 every day -- something my grandmother keeps suggesting in equally subtle ways, training a parrot to follow me around and repeat, "Why are you still single?"

"6,000 people a day," she will call me to say, as soon as she sees the ad. "Those sound like good odds. Maybe you should try just standing outdoors more, so they know you're supposed to be included in the sample."

But the ad seems unnecessarily depressing. Life today is great, especially for my generation! It's like the '80s, but with fewer shoulder-pads and less meaningless optimism.

Don't believe me? Let me describe my typical day.

"What a beautiful mourning," I think to myself, climbing out of bed. I brush my teeth, get dressed and lug my portion of the national debt down the stairs. It seems to have grown overnight. I take it out for a walk, waving at my aging neighbors.

"Mourning, Alexandra!" they yell. "How's the not-expecting-to-be-better-off-than-your-parents' generation going?"

"Great!" I yell back. "I love being part of a smaller workforce that's expected to pay for your generation's health care and retirements. It makes me feel needed."

"Happy to help," they say. "We're planning to replace all our hips with cyborg hips."

"I can't wait!" I respond. "Send me a picture when you're done so I can feel good about where my money is going!"

I have a large wall at home of pictures like this, framed portraits of the heads of large banks, a few dazed-looking pelicans, and the entire U.S. Postal Service. Sometimes I go find people who rely heavily on welfare and encourage them to spend less of it on necessities such as food, housing, and educational materials, and more on awesome things such as cars that turn into robots or life-size, animatronic sculptures of Darth Vader. "All I'm saying is, some of it used to be my money," I point out. "At least consider it."

This is when my portion of the national debt goes on my shoe, and I have to hose it off. "Bad Debt!" I say. China walks by, briskly. "Looking good, China!" I shout. It ignores me. It does that a lot lately. I think it even stopped following me on twitter, which is like insulting me in addition to injuring me.

I take my portion of the debt back inside. It liquidates all over my assets. I change the bottom of its cage, which reminds me of a visit I'm supposed to be making.

I walk down to the hospital and sit beside the bedside of the print newspaper industry. It's in the ward between Civil Discourse and Books. "I'm dying," it croaks. "Nonsense!" I tell it. "You've been saying that for years now, and you're still here!"

"I mean it this time," it says, coughing weakly and producing some in-depth coverage of Bristol Palin's appearance on Dancing With the Stars.

"Stop it," I say.

"Hey, it gets people's attention," it says apologetically.

As I walk home from the hospital I noticed that the terror alert has turned from green to orange, signaling the start of fall. I stride through the industrial fog, inhaling thick lungfuls of carbon dioxide, as several endangered birds plummet from the sky and fall dead at my feet. "I'm dying, too!" the earth shouts. "You have to deal with this!" "Shut up, Al Gore," I respond. "You're just trying to bring me down." Someone wanders past and divorces me for no reason.

It's shaping up to be a beautiful day!

I get it, Citizens for the Republic. America isn't nearly the way it was in the '80s. Maybe it's not morning in America. Maybe it's just 2:30 in America. The American dream isn't dead. It's just -- sleepy, groggy, and wants a nap. We need some Five Hour Energy, or whatever the policy equivalent of that is.

True, most of us don't think our lives are going to be better than our parents' lives. But my generation is largely, well, okay with that. Our parents' lives seem fine. What more do we want? Golden toilets? Those unnerve me. Besides, we're increasingly coming up with our own definitions of success. So what if our new vision of success looks suspiciously like "living in our parents' basements without jobs"? We're in on the joke. That's why we do things like get really excited about Alvin Greene or Christine O'Donnell or decide not to vote at all. It's hilarious! Don't you see me laughing? I'm laughing all the way to the bank! I have to go there now to withdraw my life savings. What can I say? My share of the national debt needs feeding again.

By Alexandra Petri  | September 22, 2010; 3:30 PM ET
Tags:  Alexandra Petri  
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Everyone is laughing at it except your very own Kathleen Parker, who's still doing her penance for an earlier pro-Left article. Do you ever ask her why she panders so shamelessly to the same people she denounces? If not, you should.

Posted by: TwoTermObama | September 22, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Dana--Great article. I was prepared to hate you when you mentioned not remembering the 80s, but I loved your wit and astute observations. Im glad you were simply ignored by China--I was robbed of 600 USD in Suzhou--I'd rather be ignored. I'm gay and have no children who will live in my basement, so I have a more benign view of things--But seriously--whose basement will your children live in? I hope it's a basement like the one I had as a child with a window. We need to experience the sun, and vitamin D seems to be deficient in many of us. Should we take supplements or just walk around outdoors? Difficult questions. Anyway-just remember that most of us don't get enough fiber. Can you believe Ann Coulter still gets invited to speak on talk shows and news programs? I'm so glad I'm gay because otherwise I might find her attractive--talk about cognitive dissonance. Anyway--love and light to all.

Posted by: jeffreywetterman | September 22, 2010 7:19 PM | Report abuse

I will tell Alexandra the same thing I would tell Dana Millbank: They both think they're a hoot but Jon Stewart should not be concerned about his day job.

Posted by: bbface21 | September 22, 2010 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Funny stuff.

But I hope you aren't serious about the five hour energy cure.

Posted by: cprferry | September 22, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

What a dumb article by somebody who obviously delights in being blind and ignorant. Keep laughing it up, honey. In 25 years, when the USA is in the same boat as Greece is in today, it won't seem so funny.

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | September 22, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

I love it that the people who claim to be so concerned about the debt that our generation is inheriting are the very ones who caused the debt in the first place with unrealistic expectations for taxes and who refuse to give up any of their entitlements. It's a lot like the people who constantly hate on DC and NY then use 9/11 and terrorism for political gains. But hey, it's the young people who are the problem, right, because we're not quaking in our boots in fear at every change that comes around?

Posted by: justin_timberwolf | September 22, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

We know it made the left laugh and jump with joy. The ad is the country the left has been wanting from Obama. Now we're talking. Yes, yes, yes, Obama. More, more, more. This is what we're talking about. Get even with America for making us live in a capitalist and free market society. Destroy the economy and make America look like a third world country. The ad correctly portrays the mind of Obama. Only a leftist would laugh at the ad.

Posted by: houstonian | September 22, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

Thank goodness we have the republican and the tea parties to tell us the sky is falling. And here I was thinking it was just raining. What a foolish leftist am I.
Once we figure out how to get the car out of the ditch that Bush and company put us in let's turn the car around and go back to the 80's and exhume Reagan with some good old fashion voodoo economic

Posted by: exbrown | September 22, 2010 10:47 PM | Report abuse

It's a propaganda piece, plain and simple. Worthy of communists back in the Cold War days.

Posted by: kgblankinship1 | September 22, 2010 10:52 PM | Report abuse

Alexandra, brilliant. Thanks for pointing out that political parties like to think they speak for everyone but they don't.

Who decided that every generation should be wealthier and have more toys than their parents? But you point out something very important. Life isn't all that bad here in the ole USofA.

Recession and all, most people live pretty well. Don't let the haters get you down. They are always freaked out by those who see the glass as half full instead of half empty.

Posted by: arancia12 | September 22, 2010 11:42 PM | Report abuse

Though I agree with you on a lot of your points, allow me to disagree, strongly, with your underlying assumptions about the national debt.

First, the structure of Social Security hasn't changed since its creation during the Great Depression. The working population contributes a portion of its earning to the elderly, so they don't have to live in abject poverty (50% poverty pre-Social Security; 10% post-Social Security). The people who are now retiring have fully paid into the system, and, even outside of moral concerns, have fully earned their retirements.

Second, the Healthcare Reform Bill has actually decreased the structural debt of the United States. In the long run, it will save us money. A public option would have saved even more money. A single-payer system would be the most efficient. For example, England's single-payer system gives equal or better outcomes (for everyone, not just the rich) than the U.S. healthcare system, for half the cost.

As for the Great Recession, it has its roots in the lax oversight of financial institutions--like AIG, Bear Sterns, JP Morgan-Chase, and Goldman Sachs--and the resulting housing bubble. It was a result of 8 years of Republican control of the Executive branch, and 30+ years of free market zealotry that rejected any controls over The Market (like forbidding interest-only no-paperwork "Liar" Loans), no matter how sensible.

Posted by: pseudo999 | September 23, 2010 11:39 AM | Report abuse

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