Image from Psych Central
Dear Aging Americans,
I graduated from high school in the 1980’s. At our twentieth graduation reunion, I asked my favorite teacher if he had noticed a change in the nature of students over the last 20 years. “Not at all,” he instantly responded, “same curious, intelligent kids as always.” That conversation took place a decade ago. Now, my own kids are about to start high school. It’s not a bad idea or time to renew that faith
in the very youth that part of the current political culture seems so intent on demonizing.
“Children are spoiled and weak now. In my day youths were strong and tough – not like today!” Sound familiar? That was Cato the Younger, whining about kids in the first century B.C. Yes folks, for as long as there have been generations, there have been generational gaps, with the old belittling the new. It’s easy to remember that youthful time in our lives when we were more easily contented. But don’t fool yourself into believing that multigenerational lie: life wasn’t simpler or better then than it is now. We were just less burdened and more care-free.
At the moment, we’re living in the time of the Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y, Millennials and WWII’s “the greatest generation,” whose accomplishments the current 71-year-old president seems intent on usurping, despite possessing none of the self-sacrificing qualities that made them “great.”
And yet, “Never trust anyone over 30” was once the slogan of *your* generation: the one that’s now collecting social security, joining AARP, and hunting those special senior citizen discounts. My, how times have changed. Or, as Cato shows us, maybe not. The old despising the young is as old as history itself. It has simply never been so weaponized as in our current political climate.
Each generation embraces its own brand of conservatism, which in its broadest sense means to preserve the status quo. And the new generation will always challenge it. There is always a seminal event or issue that defines each generation that will soon come to power.
The Millennials’ response to the Parkland school massacre is this latest generational shift. You have no say in the matter, regardless of what your opinion of gun control is.
Past generations’ inability – perhaps refusal is the better word – to do anything about gun safety will soon come to an end. And with most generational shifts, there is an element of hypocrisy. The “greatest” generation and baby boomers’ reminisce about growing up in neighborhoods where no one had to lock their door. But they’re the ones who created the relaxed gun laws that brought us the culture of violence that led to everyone having to lock their doors.
Fox News, whose prime demographic is the older American, fosters this sense of resentful nostalgia, manufacturing vague feelings about returning to an imaginary country that never existed. It is the condescending “again” in Make America Great Again. “America was once great – because of us. Not like kids today are making it.” Here’s the truth: it was always great, and it will continue being great, even if none of us will be around to see it 100 years from now.
Do you really believe that America’s best days are past? That’s an admission that you’ve done nothing to better the futures of those that will come after you. Don’t concern yourselves with the times that lie behind us. Worry about the president that lies in front of us. Or should I say, to us.
Instead of praising your own generation’s greatness, ask yourselves what America’s future descendants will think of those in your age group who empowered a man like Trump to become president, and how much of their future opportunities will be diminished because of him. If anything, Trump is merely the personification of “Get off my lawn!” Is that how you will be remembered?
You fell for the lie of MAGA. After all, if you’re the greatest generation, then every generation that came before you and each one that will follow is by default inferior to you. If that’s your mindset, it’s easy to hate the youth of today – in particular, the Parkland students who earned your vitriol by doing nothing other than muster the courage to speak up against gun violence after an excessively albeit legally armed nut job tried to kill them.
They’re the future. You have no choice in the matter. If the laws you created are inconsistent with their vision of what their America needs to become, they will be changed regardless of the issue. Just as our predecessors changed those laws their forefathers passed that no longer fit the eighteenth century. Or nineteenth. Or twentieth. Twenty-first century weapons will not be bound by eighteenth century laws. The framers of the Constitution foresaw the changing needs of our Nation and ensured it could be amended. It already has been, 27 times.
In short, the millennials will deal with the problems you left them, much as you did with your ancestors’ when your generation first came into power. Some solutions they’ll get right, but it can be expected that new problems will be created that a future, unborn generation will have to fix. That’s not just history. It’s humanity.
Even that oldest of books – the Bible – exhorts: “Let no man despise thy youth” (1 Timothy 4:12). After all, they’re the ones that will write the future history books.