Last week I extended a challenge to the youth of America by issuing a blanket indictment of the Baby Boomer, Gen-X and Gen-Y populations and our collective response to the Sept. 11 attacks. The column elicited a strong, direct response from several readers and inspired a spirited dialogue among a handful of friends. Some of the retorts were strident, others didactic. All were thoughtful, challenging and from a raw and profound place.
After swimming in 9/11 coverage and exploring parts of my psyche previously left untouched, I am admittedly incapable of tendering something meaningful and new. So I submit to you, instead, excerpts of the many responses I received:
• For several years, I’ve been listening carefully to stories of previous generations and have learned a lot of lessons. I’m ready to take all these good seeds that people have planted all over the world—past and present—and nurture them to create a better world.
• Unfortunately, movement building has not happened for my generation and people do not think it will ever happen. The apathy is quite pathetic. I have become highly cynical myself and have just a little hope for a new type of movement through social media and non-traditional organizing. The more I engage in politics, the more I realize that it is not left-right or conservative-progressive. Rather, it’s top- down.
• Our generation is torn right now between indulging in some well-deserved self-pity as individuals, and feeling guilty for wanting to always have things our way. Not an easy line to walk. But we do the best we can.
• I’m back from the ’60s/’70s to disabuse Jed of a few myths. In my twenties, when I used to hear the expression, “Don’t trust anyone over 30,” I’d retort, “Hey, I don’t trust anyone under 30,” because I knew how self-involved a goodly number of my contemporaries were. Most would rather “turn on and drop out,” and go to Woodstock rather than march on Washington, D.C., to protest the war. Many didn’t know where Vietnam was until their low draft number potentially put their asses on the line. How many lamented the deaths of millions of Indochinese or asked the question whether a rice farmer would rather live under Communism or a steady rain of napalm?
• America’s real troubles seem to be shrouded from public inspection, and most people would not be able to comprehend the levels of corruption and manipulation that are occurring behind the scenes when all we really hear about are the results that are self evident.
• This is a potentially dangerous endeavor to expose some of these people or the systems they hide behind in order to steal America blind. I wish you luck and encourage you to be smart about who and what you expose.
• I think your article is as radical as it can be with your signature on it (for now). Why have Gen-X and Gen-Y let this happen? It should be called GEN-ME. How many 25-year-olds were living at home in the ’60s and early ’70s? It is frustrating that in the Viral Age we cannot motivate a youth-based revolutionist movement because of the lack of a strong common cause. The answer is: you need to create one. It must be specific. It must be easy to understand. It must be NOW.
• Capitalism did not cause the current economic calamity because America no longer practices capitalism. Rather, America has devolved into a fascist state as defined by government control over or partnership with business. There is not a business that is somehow devoid of government interference. In fact, today, all Americans are but subjects of the government. Government takes the fruits of our labor and tells us what we can eat, smoke or inject into our bodies. Government effectively runs our lives.
• It’s easy to criticize, condemn and complain! Where are the concrete answers? You just can’t throw out there “it’s time to revolt” rhetoric anymore! How about alternative political candidates creating a new “common sense” political party, or boycotting Exxon, etc.? I felt the article was typical of the media: well-written hype about what’s wrong and almost no answers about what to do.
• We were not all high at Woodstock, and a very small minority benefited from the 1980s boom years. Most of our generation had to work very hard and still did not achieve what our parents had acquired when a loaf of bread was 38 cents. Perhaps, you should take a closer look at the collective consciousness of our society, and then you would discover that our malaise is not due to any single group, but to a total pandemic human acquiescence and rejection of the conscientious values of the one and only generation that had the gumption to fight the status quo.
• My heart breaks for all of those whose lives were directly impacted by that awful event of 9/11. But I also know that it was the launching pad for a whole series of bad decisions on so many levels in this country. Decisions that, a full decade later, do not seem to be reversible. I don’t know. It’s just so sad and so unbelievably distressing. I hope that America wakes up. Because you are right: the vast majority of the American citizenry are now locked in a somnambulistic torpor that is simply mesmerizing in its complexity and deadening in its completeness.
• Baby boomers didn’t become hippies and free loving because of the Vietnam War and racism. It was because they didn’t have to do anything to survive. It was handed to them by their parents who did all the sacrificing before them, so they wouldn’t have to. They gave them the ability and the time to go roam for sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll and have no responsibility. Baby boomers didn’t get amnesia later in life; they grew up.
“This is a potentially dangerous endeavor to expose some of these people or the systems they hide behind in order to steal America blind. I wish you luck and encourage you to be smart about who and what you expose.”