Sunday, April 1, 2018

Dear Children, We Have Failed You.

A common theme surrounding the current hysterical calls for gun control is that adults have failed, and it's time for the children to come up with the solutions.

Never mind that only about 10% of the participants at The March For Our Lives were teenagers. Never mind that the organization and funding came from adults.
Never mind the endless adoring coverage from the legacy media.
Never mind the "spontaneous walk-outs" organized, encouraged and in some cases mandated by the schools.

The narrative is clear: the kids should take over and show the rest of us how it's done.
Because we the adults have failed.

And, in truth, we have.

My generation grew up during the tail end of the Cold War. We watched the Berlin Wall come down and the once-unstoppable Soviet Union fall apart. Those were heady times. People smarter than us spoke of the end of history. Freedom was on the march throughout the world and there was no stopping it.

Sure, there have been quibbling at the edges as to the causes of the fall of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev received the Noble Peace Prize. Ronald Reagan's iconic "Tear Down This Wall" line has gone down in history even though most of the mainstream historians steadfastly refuse to give him any credit. But for the most part, especially as more details emerged from behind the Iron Curtain, everyone has accepted the fact that human progress towards freedom had been inevitable all along.

Those on the Right took it as validation that Western system of government has stood the test of time. Those on the Left decried the resources spent on the military and celebrated the peace dividend.

It was all good.

The mighty enemy was gone, its ideology defeated.

We could, pardon the expression of unfortunate origins, declare victory and go home.

And so we had.

With no visible external threat to worry about, we had our chance to give our children the best, most prosperous future that we could.

We obsessed over child safety. We baby-proofed our homes, searched out the safest crib designs, took hours to perfectly install that car seat and endlessly fretted about chemicals and allergens in baby food.

We read all the books, and we were going to get it right. Because, unlike the prior generations, whose worldview was colored by wars and ideological strife, we could afford the luxury.

Our error was as tragic as it was, in retrospect, obvious.

We'd become complacent.

We allowed our political leaders to take more and more control of our lives while we weren't paying attention.

Worse, and most unforgivably, while spending all our energy on keeping our children safe in body, we forgot to protect their minds.

We left both their entertainment and their education to the professionals, but we never stopped to check who those professions were, and, let's face it, had always been.

With the parenting books telling us to "trust the child," we hesitated to correct and question the ideas our children acquired from an early age. We thought a four-year-old crying that we were killing the planet, or a five-year old refusing to eat a hamburger was precocious and adorable. Our children were so smart! So advanced! They cared so much! Of course, they would surely outgrow the silliness and recognize the reality. Let them explore the ideas and think for themselves. After all, that's what modern schooling was about: teaching the children to think for themselves rather than forcing them to memorize all the boring facts.

We didn't so much miss the warning signs as we chose to ignore them.

In part, it was lack of time, what with both parents working as hard as they could to make sure we could still afford that house in the suburbs, where our kids could go to the best public schools. (And those "free" schools don't come cheap, but who can quibble with yet another local tax increase that would be going towards better education?).

But mostly, and let's be honest here, we simply didn't want to rock the boat. We didn't challenge the school curriculum, or whatever ideas individual teachers chose to feed into our children't minds under the guise of education. After all, we wanted to stay in good graces with the teachers and the school administrators. We wanted our children to have the best grades and the best behavior records. We were looking forward to filling out those college admission apps and having to ask teachers for recommendations. So why bother to challenge the status quo? What can one parent do against the whole educational system?

And so we waited and hoped. Our kids were smart. They had all the resources. Surely they would not be satisfied to simply read the books and listen to the teachers? They were bound to rebel eventually, to start asking questions, just like every generation before them?

Our hopes were in vain.

The new generation is "rebelling" not by asking questions, but by mindlessly repeating what they've been taught. They march hand in hand with their radical elders, demanding for their rights to be taken away, while claiming to own the future.

And make no mistake about it, we of Generation X bear much of the blame.

But all is not lost.

I, for one, refuse to wallow in generational guilt and to leave the world to the screeching multitudes of the brainwashed. We can acknowledge with brutal honesty what went wrong and refuse to double down on our mistakes.

We can teach those willing to be taught.
We can fight those who need to be defeated.
(And we would do well to learn the difference.)

What we can't do is despair and step aside.

There is a scene in my dystopian novel Chasing Freedom where a young man is wondering what it was like to live in the days when freedom was taken for granted, and how it all went wrong.

We know the answer to both.

What we do with that knowledge is up to us.

Dear children, we have indeed failed you. But rest assured, we are not giving up. Join us, and help us fix this broken world. You have nothing to lose but the chains of nihilism, hate and despair thrust upon you by those who wish to keep controlling your minds.

Don't let them.
Choose life.
Choose freedom.
Choose the future of your own making.

Let's get to work.