Where are the courageous young?
by Charlie Leck
I was reading Tom Friedman's column on Wednesday (October 10) and found that he touched on something that has really been bothering me lately. Here's how he put it.
"I can report that the more I am around this generation of college students, the more I am both baffled and impressed… I am impressed because they are so much more optimistic and idealistic than they should be. I am baffled because they are so much less radical and politically engaged than they need to be."
That it! That's exactly what I've been trying to say about young people and about young clergyman. Where are they? Why aren't they outraged? Why aren't they on the streets demanding change? We've had a skunk of a President for over 6 years, running a frightful and dishonest administration that dragged us into a war based on incorrect information, lies and misinformation, and there is no outrage from the nation's youth and from the nation's clergy who are supposed to be prophets.
I am old now and I am supposed to be in my conservative years. I feel more liberal, progressive and radical than I've ever been. I'm damned tired of our nation going to war over the slightest of excuses. I'm disgusted that there is no outreach and diplomacy in times of international disagreement. I'm ashamed at the lack of support our country gives to the United Nations and its missions and objectives.
In the sixties, when we were young and filled with energy, dreams and hopes, we took to the streets to solve some of our shameful national errors. We disrupted the economy and the comfort of ordinary citizens in order to have our voices heard. We changed the nation's course and altered its direction. We were called disloyal and unpatriotic punks. We knew better! We knew what real patriotism was!
And that's true. Patriotic citizens have a duty to rein in bad and excessive government. We can't go along with stupid and unjust wars. We have a patriotic duty to stand against what is wrong, unjust and outrageous. The war in Iraq was wrong! The way it was sold to the America public was unjust. The conduct of this war has been outrageous.
"No matter that patriotism is too often the refuge of scoundrels. Dissent, rebellion, and all-around hell-raising remain the true duty of patriots." Barbara Ehrenreich
Yet where are the young today? Where is their anger, their outrage? Friedman calls them Generation Q, the quiet generation. He speaks proudly and positively of them and about the manner in which they seek to serve the nation and mankind:
"…they are also going abroad to build homes for the poor in El Salvador in record numbers or volunteering at AIDS clinics in record numbers. Not only has terrorism not deterred them from traveling; they are rolling up their sleeves and diving in deeper than ever. The Iraq war may be a mess, but I noticed at Auburn and Old Miss more than a few young men and women proudly wearing their R.O.T.C. uniforms. Many of those not going abroad have channeled their national service impulses into increasingly popular programs at home like "Teach for America," which has become to this generation what the Peace Corps was to mine."
Yet, as Friedman says, they are too quiet for their own good when they ought to be "spitting mad" at what debts and problems my generation is leaving their generation. Why are they so unconcerned?
Friedman asks why they aren't all over the current candidates about the war – and global warming – and reforming social security – and the deficit – and the possibility that they'll all be "working in China in twenty years."
The real question Friedman is asking of the young: Where is your courage? Are you too afraid to stand up to the bullies who have created these problems for our nation? Are you afraid of the struggle?
Have the young not read about Mickey Schwerner, Andrew Goodman and James Chaney? Has James Meredith been forgotten? Do they know about Kent State University? Do they know about Bobby Kennedy? Are the sixties forgotten?
I'm proud that my youngest is serving her country through her participation in the Teach for America program; yet I quietly wonder why she and my other kids aren't angry as hell. Why aren't college kids taking to the streets, demanding radical change? Why aren't they on the street in front of the White House, giving the President the finger? Why aren't they disrupting presidential debates, demanding real answers to real questions?
Do they lack the courage?
I remember being taken to jail in Canton, Mississippi, for jay walking. It was 1964 and it was hot in Mississippi. An officer of the law sat in a chair across from me and held a heavy, leather wrapped piece of iron in one hand and slapped it rhythmically into the palm of his other hand. I sweated profusely and felt like I would pee in my pants; however, I knew I was being terrorized and that both right and might were on my side. Thousands of us were sweeping over the state, courageously taking down racial injustice. Some of us would be trampled and some of us would die as Schwerner, Goodman and Cheney did, but we wouldn't be defeated.
And in '68 we poured into Chicago in the summertime and defied the angry Boss of the city. He sent out the heavy duty troops to confront us, but we got our message into the convention center and more than one Democrat rose and demanded that the Mayor cease and desist. We were right and we knew it! We were the courageous patriots and we knew it.
"The voice of protest...is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum...is bidding all men...obey in silence the tyrannous word of command."
Charles Eliot Norton
And where is America's courageous clergy? These are men and women trained to be prophets as well as priests? Where is their prophetic voice? Why are they silent? In the sixties it was a huge cadre of brave members of the clergy who led the movement into Mississippi and who took first to the streets to end the horrible war in the jungle? Have we no more prophets? Are they silent because they lack courage?
The Q-Generation is desperately needed at the front!