I have a bit of a fever (getting over the flu), so pardon me in advance if this essay becomes rambling and strange.
I rarely read about the candidates for President, whether it be on the blogs or in the traditional media.
I stated elsewhere, in some essay or comment, that if I had my way these elections would be unlike any we’ve ever had. They would be somber and there would be no cheering and funny hats and souvenirs. They would be sober and sad, because we are going through terrible times. There would be a gravity to the national discourse that wouldn’t allow any kind of show-biz breathlessness we’ve all seen too much of, nor the kind of cheerleader as supporter that has made many of us turn away from the dreaded “candidate diaries” at several progressive blogs.
I find it surreal that is not the case, even as I’m aware my view is only mine and there’s reasons why others wouldn’t feel that way.
Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America-finally-past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us. So much has happened in America in the past seven years, let alone the past 40, that we can be forgiven for focusing on the present and the immediate future. But it is only when you take several large steps back into the long past that the full logic of an Obama presidency stares directly-and uncomfortably-at you.
At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war-not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade-but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war-and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama-and Obama alone-offers the possibility of a truce.
The post at We Could Be Famous continued by talking about the Baby Boomers and how Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, and many of the “Old Guard” leaders didn’t fit today’s times.
So that got me thinking about generations.
I remember when I was very young, around 13 or 14 I said to my mother, “you know, you might be exactly right that doing this-or-that will get me in trouble, will hurt me. But I have to find this out for myself!”
I have never forgotten saying that. As the youngest of six children I always promised myself I would never “talk down” to those younger than me.
So instead I talk down to those OLDER than me! Ok, just kidding.
I have not always kept to that vow, because there’s nothing more horrible than seeing someone younger do something you know from your own experience is going to land them in nothing but trouble, and still keep your mouth shut. Oh, that’s not easy.
But telling and experiencing are two different things. So I do usually keep my mouth shut.
I am no fan of Andrew Sullivan, I think he is shallow. But e’s post got me thinking about generations and my own feelings as someone of the prior generation.
So I figure, there’s two things here.
One is to let folks lead their own lives and make their own choices and trust they know what they are doing. When it comes to the generations after mine, I try to be respectful of that and realize that I have no authority over them just because I’m older. And the fact of my greater experience only comes in handy if I use that skillfully and share it rather than pound the kids over the head with it (which is also fun, but only if it’s a family member who’s used to it, heh).
And that leads me to the second thing — transmitting some continuity between the generations, which is everyone’s responsibility, young and old.
Many of us intuitively knew this when we were younger and we were drawn to older people to hear their stories. Maybe it was because we were going through our own identity crises, maybe it was just intense curiosity, I dunno.
And there are older people who intuitively know how to transmit that information — as stories, not as lectures or scoldings. I have played both roles and have not always been wrong in the latter characterization.
There are also both young people and older people who just don’t give a damn. They just don’t.
But that’s ok as long as there’s a certain number who do. Because when certain kinds of generational transitions occur, those generational transmissions are necessary, it’s time to build a continuity so that each generation has some sort of connection with the ones before and after.
I couldn’t say why that’s important because I’m too feverish, but even in my delerium, I know it is.
Bottom line — I have no fears that there are both plenty of older people and a whole hell of a lot of very groovy young people who will do this task at this present transformational time (lol lol on that word!).
And bottom bottom line to those young adults of today from the 18-40 age bracket: I absolutely trust your judgment, intelligence and compassion. Make your voice heard!