Tuesday, May 09, 2006

America needs you, Teddy Roosevelt

I'm a pretty laid-back mom, but occasionally I'll throw my boys a curve with an outta-nowhere mother's rant; the latest brought on by reports of their poor grades at college. Gee, how tough can it be, the slow track to a BA in "Undecided?" Hard to find time to study between marathon rounds of Mortal Kombat or whatever video game is in vogue, and the time it takes to update their Facebook webpage, or attend Texas Hold 'Em tourneys. Outside of their protected college existence lies a myriad of world problems that begs the attention of the coming-of-agers. Hello? Is anyone on your campus paying attention?, I snapped, recently. Any room for political awareness between kegger parties? Aren't you guys mad as hell and primed to take on the world? Anybody home?

When he was a freshman, my older son claimed he was advancing foreign relations through playing Halo Two online with anonymous foreign gamers, the majority being from Great Britain. He said American kids tended to be quite nasty in their trash-talk to the British players saying things like, "the English are pussies, we whipped your butts," and "America owns you." My son said he tried to present a kinder, more diplomatic image of Americans, admonishing the other hecklers to back-off.

Not that I was any more aware in my young days. Technically, at the tail end of the baby boomers, I was too young for the Vietnam Era, the Kennedys, Martin Luther King, Civil Rights. I was part of the Brady Bunch generation. When I went to college it was to become a journalist. And it wasn't investigative or international news I was interested in; I had hopes to be a talk-show host. I didn't know a thing about world affairs, but I possessed an enormous knowledge of popular culture and entertainment trivia. My generation replaced National Geographic with People magazine. Fame was the goal. I long since dropped those silly notions and got serious. I was hoping my kids would ride the pendulum back to the return of civic duty and participation. But my older son retorted, "Why should we care? We can't do anything about anything. Your generation is the one that screwed everything up. You're the ones making all these decisions that are ruining everything." Funny, I don't remember being responsible, but I guess my silence and lack of participation didn't help.

I know he has a point.
We are the marketers, the sellers, the corrupters in many ways. Our greed has left quite a legacy for them to deal with. Then we want to scold and punish them for their apathy. They have been manipulated through marketing, overexposed to violence and sex in the media and theater, over-scheduled, and micro-managed, or worse latch-keyed and ignored. Still, their time has arrived to take over. They need to be prepared. I tell my sons this. I phoned Beau at 12:30 am to read a quote I'd stumbled on, straight from my hero, Teddy Roosevelt, certain that it was meant for me to pass on to him:

"To each generation comes its allotted task; and no generation is to be excused for failure to perform that task. No generation can claim as an excuse for such failure the fact that it is not guilty of the sins of the preceding generation."

"See. see. Now what's your excuse?," I say.
I'm sure he thinks I'm nuts, but that's my job--to push just a little. And I'm not beyond looking for inspiration wherever it turns up, whatever the hour.

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