Social commentary is risky, but cultures only self-correct with it, so here we go. Looking around, especially post-COVID, post-2020 riots, post-elections – one sees disorientation, lack of context and connection, alienation and disaffection – especially among America’s youth. Absent is a grip on history, life is a mystery.
We owe it to the future, if not past and present, to dispel that mystery, offer some context, compass, orientation, and sense of place – especially to the youth. Rather than miseducation, misdirection, and pretending social tumult is the norm, those who have lived long enough know better – have a debt. We owe.
What do we owe? We owe – above all – life lessons borne of lessons well-taught by those who gave us motivation to think for ourselves, work hard, and the tenacity to hold our own in high winds, facing the unexpected confidently.
We owe context – because we have it – to those who desperately want to find themselves in this swirling world, mad with hysteria, emotion, accusation, and commotion, rather than decency, dignity, and self-respect we often got.
What do you see, when you look around at the generation “on deck” – who will soon define our nation? In many, you see solid grounding, a loving family, firm faith, and willingness to work. But in others – too many – you see bewilderment.
That bewilderment, no fault of theirs, is on us. It comes from untaught lessons, as if we can let go a kite string and expect the kite to stay aloft. That is not how it works.
After a nasty run of lockdowns and subjecting kids – of all ages – to “zoom education,” social dislocation, and a sense that dysfunction is the norm; after indulging political violence, identity politics, division with intent, and redefinition of granite as sand – why are we now surprised that we have a struggling generation?
Awash in moral relativity, without high expectations from prior generations, missing guidance that most of us got on how to think critically, value connection, work, accomplishment, confidence, compass, and contentment – they struggle.
How do you know? The evidence is everywhere. They struggle to be noticed, seen, and heard, since this is how young people know they matter, affirm they are part of things bigger than themselves, and ultimately find themselves.
Only we have not done all we could to show the way, put the big bar higher, teach them how to reach. We have not told them the untold secret: No one gets anywhere without hard work, and failure is a step to success, teaching resilience.
We have not clued them in that life is not madness or a mess, but a constant process of fresh rethinking, earnest dreams, honest attempts, failure, falls, and rising again, knowing and growing from the resolve not to give up, but to persist.
What we see is the rise of identities not premised on high learning, or how to do things well, make things better, or reach higher, dive deeper, achieve more, and accomplish real value each day – using each second well – but the reverse.
We see political and community leaders, often close to home, quick with excuses for failure – admiring the problem, not teaching the youth how to figure things out, work hard, and accomplish, in turn building strong, self-sustaining identities.
Absent that, many youths take refuge in their peers and regular redefinition of themselves – trying to be different, from radical politics, hair, and tattoos to drug use and new shoes, all fads de jour – nothing to match lessons accomplishment, what it takes, where it leads.
To be clear, every generation – multiple on the planet – defines itself with new vocabulary, technology, interaction, distraction, and attraction – but the piece missing right now is one we have collectively failed to provide, and now must.
Being different, aiming to be an individual, finding one’s own way, making use of each day as we want – is what liberty is about. But differentiation by well-taught lessons in accomplishment, how to set and reach goals, resist disorientation and alienation, favor connection, resilience, and the good that comes from them– is where we need to focus.
Social commentary is risky, because for each thought taught and observation made, other valid vantage points always exist, part of America’s magic. But sharing views on the present, disjoined as they may be, helps define the future. America’s youth need us now. We owe them our best, while we can. That is it.
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