As mankind has marched through history from its earliest days right up to today, there has been one thing that was true. The youth of mankind is usually going to be a little more “radical” or different than the generations that came before them.
If this were not true, there would have been virtually no progress in our species, and we would probably still be using stone tools instead of our modern technology.
It is also true that young people have swayed politics. This has been true throughout time and history in just about every corner of the world. The problem is that young people are not all in one corner of the political spectrum.
Like their parents and older generations, young people are a very diverse group of people. And, just because they all share their youth, it does not mean they all share the same values.
Some young people need a cause. Something that will spark their inner fire to work towards something. Some are inspired just by the idea that they can make a difference in the world. But, they are not all the same, and we are unwise to treat them as all the same.
Back in the 1960s, we had the baby boomer generation, which later was called the “hippie” movement. According to what you read today, all of us were in favor a making love and not war. All of us were left-wing “radicals” trying to trick our parents into believing communism was the best way.
That is a false statement. As a matter of fact, I knew far more “conservative” young people than I did left-wing radicals. But, everyone believed it was just the opposite. You have to remember, our fathers fought World War II. They were very patriotic and many of us were questioning their values.
The fact is there were far fewer radicals than conservatives. I am often asked if the 60s were so radical, how come today’s conservative movement is made up mostly of “old angry white guys”? That is because, these old angry white guys were the conservatives of our time.
It is crazy how things will morph over time. For example, Woodstock seems to have become the image maker for many people of my generation. If you listen to all of us old farts, you will soon discover that about 10 million people attended the Woodstock concert. Of course, that never happened, but over time it has become “cool” to say you were there.
I refuse to look back at those times and talk about the “good ole days”. Because they really weren’t all that great. I remember the protests, the riots, the civil unrest. I remember the cusses hurled at those who “didn’t fall in line”. There were lots of “good times” but there was also lots of “bad times”.
I remember my parents talking about the “good ole days” of their youth. I have come to the realization that we like to use that term because it was in those days we are most comfortable.
However, when our youth questions us about those days and the times that weren’t so great, we become defensive because our comfort zone has been attacked. Maybe that is why we see things on Facebook like a picture of an outhouse asking if anyone “remembers using one of these”. Really? An outhouse is the best thing you can remember?
I bring all of this up because today we have a new generation of young voters. These are our children, or in my case, our grandchildren. The political pundits keep talking like these people are a “voting block” like they are all the same.
Today’s young people are no more one “voting block” than our generation was. In order to win their vote, we need to speak to them, and especially listen to them to determine what is important to them.
Because of Bernie Sanders we know that a lot of them are interested in income inequality, the environment, and college debt. We are also finding out that the movement towards acceptance of the LGBT community is coming from these people. Like our generation, our values are not necessarily their values.
Still, if any politician wants to win their votes, you will have to earn them. On the other hand, it is also important for young people not to tune out of the election just because you aren’t “thrilled” with the candidates.
You need to remember that today’s election is also about your future. The winner this year will try to get legislation passed that will affect the future of our country.
For example, if we continue to pollute our world as we are today, many parts of Florida, and other coastal areas of our country will disappear. They will be flooded by the sea due to rising sea levels. If you happen to own a house on the beach, you are probably going to lose the house to the ocean.
I do not buy into the current bullshit being said about your young people. Things like they are lazy and don’t care about anything but themselves. I strongly disagree with those characterizations.
Our young people are just as interested, just as motivated, and just as smart as any generation before it. In many cases they are more so that our own generation.
But, just like our own generation, no one wants to listen to those “damn kids” anyway. They should be glad we were able to provide a living for them to mooch off. The same nonsense we heard 50 years ago.
We are also hearing the same old tired slogans from the day. Like “America, love it or leave it”. Maybe not in those exact words, but in the same context like “if he doesn’t like America maybe he should try another country” if someone dares “protest” something sacred.
Not the exact same words, but the meaning is very clear. If you don’t act according to the way I want you to, then you don’t love America and you must leave.
We fought that sentiment 50 years ago. It is up to today’s youth to fight that sentiment again. It is up to today’s youth to fight against all of the “isms” that eat at our hearts and destroy our democracy.
I find the majority of young people I speak with to be intelligent, loving, and caring. They really don’t understand the hate towards others just because they look different, believe something different, or love differently. They don’t understand why we can’t just accept people as people.
Unfortunately, just like every generation before them, this new generation will tune out if we don’t listen to them. The usual rhetoric about this being another election between the “lesser of two evils” tells the electorate that everything is just status quo.
That is a lie. There is always something that makes one candidate far more qualified than the other. It is our responsibility to sit down with young people at universities and other places to hear what concerns them. It is our responsibility to help them mold the world to their way of thinking.
Conversely, young people need to understand that they will inherit what this generation leaves them. If they don’t like the way things are going, they need to get involved and help elect the candidate that most agrees with them.
I am not going to say this is the “most important election in history”. Every election is always the most important in history because every election will influence future history.
When I was young, I didn’t want to hear about how bad things were. I wanted to hear about how you were going to do something to cure our problems. What you planned to do the uplift our nation and our people.
Today’s youth are no different. They don’t want to hear about deporting millions of people. They don’t want to hear about hating others for who they are, what they are, or who they love.
The youth of every generation questions the status quo. They challenge the “way things are”. They wonder what was so wonderful about the “good ole days”.
I say to them to keep questioning. Keep challenging. Keep refusing to accept things just because “that is the way it always was.” I also say to them to participate in the process even if you think it is boring. You can and should be our heroes.