You're 100 Percent Wrong About: 'Get Off My Lawn!'

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"Get Off My Lawn" has become millennial code for "Your ideas are obsolete." Angela Cappetta/The Image Bank/Getty

Listen up, because I don't like having to repeat myself: Your dad was right. About what? About everything.

OK, maybe Pop didn't have the goods on all of life's existential debates (in the event of a head-on collision, for example, an extended arm is not a suitable substitute for a seat belt). But he was pretty smart, your old man. Sure, half the time he took his cues from your mom, but that's not the issue here. And besides, he was wise enough to heed her advice, which only speaks further to his brilliance.

So how did "Get off my lawn!" ever become a term of derision? When did those four words become bro code for "You are a troglodyte"? When did a person's life experience become a disadvantage when examining different points of view? What a bizarre misconstrual of logic, an epistemological form of martial arts, where someone's most formidable strength (been there, done that) is used against him or her. And yet when a millennial tosses a "Get off my lawn!" in your direction ("Shots fired!"), your point of view is instantly compromised. You are being marked with a scarlet "A" for "antiquated," never mind the merit of your argument.

Granted, every generation believes that the one preceding it is out of touch and that the one following it will destroy the world—although today's senior citizens may at last be on to something. This school of thought has been prevalent at least since 1965, when the Who released "My Generation" and Roger Daltrey wailed, "Hope I die before I get old." Then, 50 years later, the Who went on tour and, seemingly oblivious to irony, performed this anthem.

And sure, as anyone with an older family member doggedly clinging to an AOL account knows, the AARP crowd is often impervious to innovation. Cocoon was not just a movie; it's a lifestyle.

But this idiom (a 20th-century term for meme, kids) has gone too far. On social media, where millennials admittedly enjoy home-court advantage, "GOML" has metastasized to a degree where common sense and objectivity has flown out the window. What is a window, you ask? It is an aperture, built within a wall, that opens up to a dystopian universe that remains, to a great extent, not wired. A savage and untamed wilderness. Somewhere your parents once referred to as "reality."

This great nation of ours was conceived under the notion of "Get Off My Lawn." The first shot of the American Revolution, fired 241 years ago this week, came about when a group of musket-bearing colonists took umbrage at a few hundred British soldiers taking up residence on the town green of Lexington, Massachusetts. What is "Don't Tread on Me," after all, but a Colonial-era colloquialism for "Get Off My Lawn"?

Jump ahead nearly two centuries, to a post-World War II America, when suburbs are sprouting up coast to coast. The Great American Lawn becomes a metaphor of at least modest prosperity for veterans and their contemporaries. A well-manicured lawn maintained by a well-manicured dad is the apotheosis of American civilization. Real men cut grass, while deadbeats smoked it.

The Eisenhower era and beyond, immortalized in sitcoms such as Happy Days and The Wonder Years, was a halcyon time of homeownership and yard work: mowing, raking, weeding. For a neighbor or outsider to brazenly cut across one's lawn en route to a preferred destination, well, how to explain such a flagrant offense to a millennial? It was tantamount, if not equal, to someone stepping on your Jordans or attempting to slide into bae's DMs.

And so it was in these days that fatigued fathers—yelling from behind screen doors as they sat in reclining chairs trying to "enjoy the goddamn game, for chrissakes!"—first bellowed that warning call to a generation of misbegotten youth who preferred ambulating by vectors as opposed to making right-angle turns (the way their fathers had been taught to do in basic training): "Get off my lawn!"

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Well-manicured men caring for well-manicured lawns became a sign of prosperity in the Eisenhower era. Brian Snyder

And who could blame them? If those infernal baby boomers would cut across a man's lawn, what other shortcuts would they take in life? This was a blatant breach of suburban decorum, an egregious lack of respect for the work that had gone into the cultivation of that lawn (never mind that most dads welcomed the chore of mowing the lawn, as it provided a half-hour's respite from being able to hear the voice of any family member).

Television's patron saint of "Get Off My Lawn," if one exists, would have to have been Archie Bunker, the protagonist of the '70s CBS sitcom All in the Family, Archie loathed almost every person younger or darker than he was, which was almost everyone. The show's theme, sung by Archie and his wife, Edith, was "Those Were the Days."

This was no accident. The song's lyrics wistfully recall an America where "you knew who you were then/Girls were girls and men were men." Archie, a chauvinist and bigot, probably would not have been cool with LBGT-friendly bathrooms. But he was also a home-owning World War II vet who trudged off to work each day to support his wife, their daughter and her "pinko meathead" husband. No scene of Archie mowing a lawn aired during the show's eight-year run, but he was a classic GOML genotype.

Archie's refusal to accept that the times were a-changin' was his inherent character flaw. In one scene, as Archie is being prepped for prostate surgery, he comes to the realization that the West African female in a lab coat talking to him is his surgeon. His distress is apparent, so the physician mimics a witch doctor and assures him that she will "close my eyes and hope I don't cut it off."

As silly as Archie's adamant denial of anything new based on its unfamiliarity was, is it any more ridiculous than dismissing an idea from someone old enough to remember Michael Jordan before he was a crying meme? Look at this presidential election cycle, for instance: Who had the more radical social policy ideas, 74-year-old Bernie Sanders or 45-year-old Ted Cruz?

The next time someone with gray hair (or none) questions one of your statements on Twitter or Facebook, take a minute to process the logic before hashtagging it GOML. You never know, somewhere in the near future a "Get Outta My Sandbox" meme may be lurking.

You're 100 Percent Wrong About: 'Get Off My Lawn!'