Will the Cotton Mather of the 30s Set Please Stand Up?
My baby boy, when he wants to watch TV, he sometimes says he wants to watch Caillou. When I find Caillou on On Demand and start the show, he says he wants to see Ni Hao Kai Lan instead. When I ask him which one he really wants to see, he starts crying and groaning “I want Umizoomi., wahh.” When I change it to Umizoomi, he buries his head in the pillow, sobbing “Caillou! I want Caillou!”
Give him a break—he’s two, and being terrible comes with this age, true as grits. He has that excuse. What’s the excuse of the angry Americans these days? I get the general sense of it, of course: the economy is horrific, lots are out of work, lots of terrorists still have us in their sights, we all seem to have outlandish debt to pay off, and the Mad Men season is about to end. But the anger doesn’t seem to be about these things specifically, does it? Sure, the rallies and the attitudes and the bitterness are focused on things like jobs and security and a certain way of life, but we both know it’s more primal, like “I hate everything about life now, and I want it the way it was, so I’m going to take it out on [blank].”
Naturally, the “was” we all crave was not as great as we remember fondly—that’s human nature. (For anyone who challenges this notion, just watch an episode of The A-Team now. Thank you. I win.) It probably seems better because during the was of our lives, we had less responsibilities before we had careers or starter jobs on the path to a career, we had more of the people we love in our lives, we didn’t have as many people relying on us, and we were less focused on what next.
However, I still don’t see how this translates to abject, comprehensive hatred of politics, areas of the economy, and groups of people. Wait: let me take that back a bit. Part of me can understand the older angries, losing their pensions and some of their way of life. When I’m 80, I’m not going to be eager for change, no matter how much sense it makes. And this goes for those in their 40s and older—working toward something and not getting there at the moment they’re expecting to reap the benefit of a lifetime of work, all while seeing their way in life inextricably changed: that’s a reason for pain. I’m surprised there isn’t more anger from our colleagues in our 20s: out of college, debt out the ass, supremely educated, and nary a job to be found. There’s everything wrong with that. Luckily most have Xbox for distraction, but it’s only a matter of time before they get pissed.
But we in our 30s? What’s our story for our blind rage at the world, especially that of the world that is different than us? So far we’re making our way into the media and into leadership roles, but the focus is on how cute we are, not the relevance of our ideas. That’s fair—we haven’t carved out our compact with America yet. I would like that to be in place so as we advance in years, and our mouthpieces come of age and garner massive amounts of attention, this anger is focused on actual problems, not swarthy bogeymen and devils in suits.
Here are some starter ideas for the next mouthpiece of this decade. We need a witch hunt that actually targets the bad witches, not good things with crooked noses:
- Get mad at bad facts. Why do all sides of all debates, talk shows, and casual conversation get away with research and scholarship that no junior high school teacher would accept on a social studies paper? While we didn’t grow up with Google, we know how to use it. We are the first decadal group to come of age in a world where internet, search engines, and endless supplies of information are omnipresent. Bad facts are an abomination that should be faced with extreme prejudice.
- Call out the hypocrisy of small government for supporting all people as a whole but big government in monitoring all people as individuals. One or the other, everyone.
- Question an election process that draws in these candidates. I know dislike of the candidates goes back to the Neandrathals, but come on, all Americans have to admit we gots us some losers running this year. Inexperienced boobs, spouses heading to jail, and, my personal favorite, the Nazi Panzer Division Reenactment Society candidate. Regardless of political differences I may have with some of them, I would take every single friend of mine in high school and suggest they would make strong candidates. They speak openly, they speak honestly, and they care about the right things. Is that an impossible request for my candidates? At least some of them?
- Call for public service as a requirement of citizenship. Let’s face it—sloth is rampant. A couple of years of public service would be an amazing tool for bolstering values, opening perspectives, and establishing ties to our great country that go beyond tax breaks and handouts. My good friend Scott taught me the seriousness of the national anthem—not that I didn’t appreciate it, but I didn’t value it. As I sing my anthem proudly, and with good posture, when I have the chance, I’m hyperaware of all those that don’t. The greatest country in the world should warrant some love from those that have received its love. You don’t have to listen to Toby Keith to believe that.
- Demand a racism, sexism, and xenophobism board of appeals. The –isms are tricky in that on one hand, lots of people are racist and sexist, but on the other hand the label has been used too often in the wrong circumstances, making the label extremely suspect. I know a few people, though, that are above reproach when it comes to their objective views of others. I say that all people preparing for public office should submit to the board, and then be graded on their levels of racism,sexism, and xenophobism. I’m not saying remove them from the electorate—I’m just saying let’s be open about who thinks what. This way the public has to own up to their votes a little more.
This is not a screed against lazy readers; I’m guilty of a lack of anger too. However, it’s time that we in this age bracket should be unified by more than competition in a road race. We should be rallying against what is wrong in the two major areas facing us: building up lives and communities, and creating families. Otherwise, what really matters disappears under the heaviness of clumsy loudmouths and the sadness of hating the wrong things.