On holidays – except for Christmas – I’m up earlier than everyone else and today’s 4th of July was no different. But when all of the kids were up and gathered in the kitchen, I wished them a happy 4th of July and was taken aback when Middle responded that with all of the news coming out about both the extent of NSA surveillance and the Nixonian weaponization of the IRS, it was hard to find anything remotely happy about this particular 4th of July. I stood there for a minute and said nothing and then finally had to agree with him, a high school junior. After all, what future does he, his siblings and his peers have if we don’t bring this abuse to heel?
I’m enough of a history buff to understand that there are periodic abuses to power of one form or another and our history is littered with them. But I don’t recall any point in our history when the government was so technologically and physically capable of muzzling free speech, let alone dissent and how we manage to remedy it leaves me at a loss. Our young adults are stressed and who can blame them? The bulk of the stress is laid at the feet of money and economics as they bought into the polemic that the road to the middle class was through higher education, only to finish with debt and a declining middle class that can’t offer them work to support both themselves and their debt. If I laid out a bundle for World Series tickets and found that I’d wound up with a Class A preseason game ticket, I’d be stressed too. What’s detestable about my generation – the Boomers – is that we’ve forgotten the generational compact that has threaded throughout our history; our forebears had a rudimentary knowledge of history and understood that there were moments when this Constitution they’d been given required protection and support so that it could be passed to the next generation. This was the way of the Revolutionary and Civil War generations, and the "Greatest" generation of the Second World War. It was even understood by the so-called "Silent" generation who stood up to Nixon’s predations and forced his resignation in a near-constitutional crisis. But it was a Boomer who, when the Soviet Union fell, penned a book entitled The End of History, as though everything through history had come to fruition for that particular generation. Unlike the preceding generations, the Boomers deemed themselves the recipients of this form of government instead of its custodians and guardians. So we’re left in this creepy place in which most of our citizens have given up paying attention and our government responds to any perceived threat by dressing it up as a terrorist.
And there is sat for the next hour, until I came across a youtube video – hosted by Morgan Freeman – that culminates in a shared reading of the Declaration of Independence. It’s an impressive piece and one that I’m showing to the kids, especially Middle. I’m like many Americans who still believe in the premise of the nation; the trick will be to assure that this belief passes on to the Millenials and that will only happen if we first teach them and then act as guardians instead of recipients.
Happy Fourth of July, 2013.