Remember the old saying from the playgrounds; the notorious line your mom used to recite every time you came home after being bullied by one of your classmates?
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
A gracious yet simple expression that’s easy for any kid to memorize and understand. Physical violence may leave you scarred and broken, but words are just that — words. Nowadays there seems to be a lot of whining when it comes to political correctness.
To avoid offending anyone at all costs is a spineless quality that lacks credibility and gumption. If your message can be weakened or changed to the point of steering clear from any confrontation it might summon then likely it wasn’t a worthy idea in the first place. Opinions are meant to challenge people and their thoughts; to be internalized and given deep thought. The idea of one person’s opinion enraging an individual or entire subculture to the point of protest and activism is silly. An opinion is merely an idea formed from one person’s experiences and inner struggles—exclusively belonging to that person. Don’t be offended by people’s thoughts, instead seek to understand them by placing yourself in their shoes. See what makes their clock tick. If a person is bigoted to the point of being truly hateful, let them be. The universe holds something far more terrifying for an individual than any righteous lecture you could bestow upon them. A disagreement of opinion should not be something that sparks hateful dialogue or harsh sarcasm, it should be studied. The inherent differences between us are beautiful examples of free will — the idea that people can have extremely polarized views on the exact same subject.
Laissez-faire–which translates from French as ‘let us be’—is the mantra of libertarianism. As long as I am not hurting another person physically, nor am I physically altering their property then no crime has been committed. If you are attempting to protect people from themselves by law or decree; let us be. If my actions have impacted your feelings but not your person; let us be. A speaker merely chooses words so if my words have scolded you to the point of offense, the problem lies within you, not me. I believe that a person only takes offense to something when it goes directly and logically against something that they believe in. When someone’s knowledge or beliefs are challenged their initial response can often be to reject any notion that triggers the fear of being proven wrong. The pride and ego that causes this behavior is concretely lazy and withholds a person from the understanding and growth that comes from knowledge.
The division of our population by social agents like media and marketing groups is a cleverly thought out tool that’s used to distract us from a bigger picture. LGBT rights, abortion rights, women’s rights, civil rights, marriage rights, gun rights. The discussions on these subjects are so terribly asinine it’s enough to make a person’s head spin. We should not be arguing these watered down issues as they are essentially of the same conversation—human rights. We all wish to do what we please, when we please, and for whatever reasons we please. It is really that simple. So let’s stop with the subculture movements and the marches for all of our different causes. There is only one cause worth fighting for at this point—liberty. It’s the notion that a man or woman is free to do as they please within reasonable boundaries. We are being aimlessly split up into our groups and movements when we should be uniting for the same cause. Whatever social cause you may think is the most pertinent or virtuous is nowhere close as important as the degrading of basic human rights and liberties going on by authoritative institutions.
Attacks on free speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, freedom to assemble, freedom of gun ownership, freedom to petition government, freedom of peace from unwarranted searches and seizures, freedom of not self-incriminating, and most importantly, the granting of powers to individual states that are not leased in the Constitution are all exponentially more important than any freedom or rights being withheld from minority groups. The stripping of these rights is a trend that endangers every single person, not just a certain group.
Statist, religious and corporate tyranny over all people is now the greatest threat to the sovereignty of free individuals; the freedom to do that which we please free from unwanted intervention from any second or third parties is getting dangerously thin. So stop being offended and start opening up. Stop arguing, start listening. Quit scoffing, start relating. The true definition of a fool is someone who thinks they help a cause, when in reality they harm it.
Staring aimlessly at a glowing computer screen I began to wonder to myself, what the hell happened? Only five alarmingly quick years have passed and somehow that space feels like a lifetime ago. I was just entering my freshman year in college at Minnesota State-Mankato in the fall of 2008. I was amazed at the levels of awareness and consciousness that were harbored by a growing number of acquaintances. Left and right I was encountering intriguing ideas and thought-provoking conversations. And no conversation was bigger at the time than the presidential election taking place in November; one that pitted a longstanding Arizona senator against a little known senator from Illinois. The country was hungry for an alternative outlet that reflected its ever-changing demographic. Those of voting age had marginally different candidates to pick from that offered two seemingly separate viewpoints. But looking back, has the trajectory of our nation’s stability veered from disaster, or is it still on the brink of it?
We should all still remember the story because it was an important turning point for our country. In January of 2008 the stock market endured a sharp crash that affected prices and prosperity throughout the nation. We were still fighting senseless wars in the Middle East for reasons that we didn’t understand. The last part of George W. Bush’s second-term was turning into a lame-duck that was increasingly impeded by political feuding and inaction. The national debt was now being viewed as a serious indicator of how poorly our country was being run. Over a million people lost their jobs in 2008 leading up to the election. Employment for college educated workers declined as well leaving a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth about the state of the economy. Plus there were a few interesting social arguments to be made at the time. The cases for cannabis legalization and same-sex marriage rights were beginning to become more main stream. The premise of government surveillance and wiretapping had snuck into the conversation as well. People were even beginning to wonder what role large corporations should play during times of economic hardship and steep unemployment. Economics, defense-strategy, new social dogmas. The election of 2008 was arguably the most important election since Bush v. Clinton in 1992. The public was hungry for change. Change. What a powerful syllable. “Out with the old and in with the new,” is what we were craving at the time. And the election presented us with two starkly different candidates that reflected exactly what was on our minds when we stepped into the ballot box.
John McCain (R-AZ) and his running mate Sarah Palin, the first republican vice-presidential nominee, represented the old guard. They stood for the broken policies that had bogged down the economy and the countries growth. They weren’t even on the radar as an option for most of the people I knew. Barack Obama (D-IL) and his running mate Joe Biden, however, came across as something different and fresh. He talked about social uplift; bettering the middle class and making it easier overall for social mobility to grow. He spoke of the importance of unity and teamwork. He called on the left to work with the right, the young with the old, black to work with white and so on. Obama had glided into the picture at a time where you couldn’t flip on a news channel without hearing some kind of anti-Bush rhetoric; much less find a conservative voice in the dormitories of a state-funded liberal arts college. He listened to Jay-Z, struggled with cigarette addiction, was still paying off student loans and understood every mantra expressed by the everyday working man. Needless to say, he was the coolest presidential candidate most of us had ever seen. But the biggest thing he had going for him that year was that he wasn’t a republican. As far as most of the public was concerned George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, and any other republican for that matter were entirely responsible for the whole mess we were in. Strangely enough, I voted for Bush rather than John Kerry in a mock election for civics class in 2004.
Feed the hungry, tax the rich, give to the poor, employ the jobless, shelter the homeless, provide care for the sick, educate our children; the credo of liberalistic statehood appears—on paper –to be so virtuous and noble that it’s curious the democrats have ever lost an election. Personally, Obama’s promise to end the raiding and confiscation of cannabis dispensaries in states with medicinal legislation was enough to garner my vote. To me it appeared to be overdue justice in an increasingly unjust world. If the millions of residents in an entire state had voted to enable something, what right did a couple of hundred men and women in Washington, D.C. have to strip them of their choice? Obama roared into college campuses and town halls with celebrities and entertainers of all kinds. Broadening his appeal among young voters while his well thought out speeches attracted voters from the more sensible middle-age demographic.
According to the Roper Center, Obama carried an unbelievable sixty-six percent of the 18-29 year old electorate in 2008, roughly two-thirds, and given that the same age group made up about 18 percent of the voting population, it’s clear the young people of these United States paved the way for his eventual—and surprisingly easy –presidential victory. Perhaps people were just tired of the way things were going under a republican president. Maybe some folks wanted to give a nod of their cap to the first serious, black contender for the White House (yes, take offense, Jesse Jackson). But I think most of us had been swayed by his eloquent speeches, like the one he delivered at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, and the way he could strike a chord with the average citizen. The victory was viewed as a victory for the new way of thinking in the modern age. Obama’s first main achievement as president occurred shortly after he took office; shoving the cleverly named ‘Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act’ (Obama-care) through both houses of Congress before penning it into law on March 23rd, 2010. Being under the cut off age of twenty-six for staying on your parents’ insurance I foolishly backed the legislation and was quick to confront anyone who thought otherwise –even going as far to suggest that some elements of socialism would be good for the country and that anyone who contradicted Obama’s views was a racist. I had been duped by the cult of personality; fighting to uphold something which I didn’t even truly understand for the sake of my own pride. What a tragic sap I was.
It wasn’t until a couple of years later that the proverbial wool started to slowly recede from over my eyes. Nothing substantial had occurred or passed through Congress since the clobbering the democrats took during the midterm elections of 2010. Despite numerous news outlets reporting the contrary, our economy didn’t feel like it had recovered at all. Unemployment was still unbearably high. We were still fighting two wars in the Middle East. So too did his promise of ending the DEA-style raids on medical dispensaries turn out to be false. When his agenda was thwarted by his opponents in the House of Representatives, Obama resorted to demonizing rich people, calling for Americans to unite against corporate interests. Even I was a mouthpiece for such a move. I believed that a man should be forced to give more to the common good if his tax return showed he could afford it. But then one fine day, a friend of mine pointed out the inconsistency in my logic. He brought up how Obama had once promised to bring Wall Street to justice for what they had done to “Main Street” following the most recent stock market collapse. He then proceeded to tell me that instead of sending them to prison, the larger, more bureaucratic banks had been bailed out by the taxpayers, and that none of the CEOs or major players had been arrested or charged with any crime pertaining to the market crash. That bit of information was the beginning of the end for the paper tiger that guarded Obama’s pedestal.
Shortly after this awakening, I began to immerse myself in any and all information on why Obama hadn’t kept his promises. It turns out that Wall Street, with its banks and investment companies, was one of Obama’s biggest donors. It turned out that unemployment wasn’t getting better despite news outlets telling us differently. Although we had been told that they were pointless wars of aggression, the fighting in the Middle East continued while there was no drastic reduction of troops ever produced. Gasoline prices had been over three dollars per gallon for so long that it became routine to empty my savings at the local station. Food prices soared while housing prices and credit ratings began plummeting. What’s worse is that I discovered the fines that would be weighed against a person if they refused to enroll in health insurance after 2015. How could the government levy a fine against a person for not doing something? Isn’t that the definition of fascism? Forcing an average, innocent citizen to do something against their will?
If you are not aware of what the ‘National Defense Authorization Act’—or NDAA –is, then I will step back and wait for you to run an internet search before you rejoin me. Got it pulled up? Great. Long story short, it is a military defense budget that occasionally also includes new rules, codes and statutes. On the final day of 2011, President Obama signed into law what was, at the time, the newest edition of the NDAA. Except this time, with the incoming flux of newly elected republican congressmen approaching in a few short months, the democrat-controlled Congress added a few provisions that they knew would be overlooked and disregarded when debates began to fire up again on Capitol Hill. This newer version allows for the indefinite military detention of civilians, which includes U.S. citizens, without the writ of habeas corpus or due process of law, violating the Bill of Rights in utter defiance. This use of indefinite detention, we are told, is only for use in cases involving terrorists. However, the legal definition of the word “terrorist” is constantly changing under the feds’ watchful eye. The legal precedent for indefinite detention cited by this piece of malarkey masquerading as legislation is the ‘Authorization for Use of Military Force’ (AUMF). The AUMF was signed into law on September, 24th 2001, thirteen days after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. So in all honesty, the NDAA, one of the most influential and expansive laws of these United States, one that spits in the face of over two-hundred years of constitutional law, is backed by legislation that was penned out of fear a mere ten years beforehand in the wake of devastating tragedies.
The evidence has quickly piled up and it’s become blatantly apparent that all the information I have uncovered leaves a daunting truth; one that glares you straight in the eye. Obama lied– about a lot, actually. The economy isn’t fixed. The wars are ongoing. We’re meddling with new countries every day. People aren’t working. The national debt has increased exponentially. Prices are still rising. The current socioeconomic system is neither more equal nor fair. Corporations are still raking in profits at the expense of the average citizen. Innocent people are still being spied on. Obama sold us out to the CIA. Health care is more expensive and confusing now than it was then. The number of welfare and unemployment applications increases from month to month. The list goes on and on. So did we really vote for change? Or did we vote for a devilishly clever marketing scheme that was paid for by the same rank-and-file tyrants who have clogged the system for the last fifty years?
I don’t know who made it uncool to be intelligent. I can’t tell you why my peers are more interested in “The Bachelor” and “Teen Mom” than the current state of affairs in the world. I can’t begin to imagine why we view our lives through a 2×3 inch high-definition screen rather than the 360-degree lenses that are dug into our skulls. But demonizing an entire generation just seems wrong and apathetic.
I am told that we are from ‘Generation-Y.’ Constantly wondering and searching for any underlying layer of truth that seems to escape us. We were born into the beginning of the greatest technology boom our society has ever seen. In elementary school we were started off with some of the original Macintosh desktop computers. We played “Oregon Trail” and “Number Crunch” to hone our skills. We learned to blindly operate a keyboard by placing a piece of cardboard over our hands. And then something wonderful began to happen.
Screens that once displayed only faded black and seaweed green now began to display a full array of colors. E-mail became the new rage in personal communication. Personal cellular telephones picked up in popularity as they became less bulky and more affordable. Even the internet was getting better.
But we were only kids. We had no control over these miraculous advances. The technology we have at our fingertips is no more convenient to everyday life than the advances made in the 70s and 80s. Can we really be at fault for utilizing these advances and focusing on more overlooked aspects of life or wanting things to be better for our children, the same way our lives have been better than our parents?
We hear a lot of “back in my day…” references from our elderly counterparts in reference to how ‘easy’ we have it nowadays. We’ve been told that we are entitled, lazy, selfish, and whiny. But we are the generation of “do your best and try your hardest.” We received ribbons or medals for getting ninth place out of ten competitors. We were always told that hard work, regardless of the outcome, was more important than winning. We have been cultured to accept mediocrity. We have been conditioned to need a pat on the back. And none of that is our fault.
Our grandparents, members of the “Greatest generation,” that spawned from WWII, worked their asses off in a growing, modernizing world to give their children a better life. Their children, our parents, were entered into a world of serious economic uplift and prosperity. Social mobility was almost guaranteed if you worked hard. Gas was cheap, food was cheaper and according to most stories I was told as a child, the police didn’t really give a damn about too much back then. Our parents gave us lives they could only dream of. Yet now we are being blamed for the culture into which we were born.
What has changed you ask? The rise in taxes, gas and food prices, and education costs has not correlated with the rise in the average wage. Our dollar goes nowhere near as far as the dollars our parents earned, let alone the dollars our grandparents earned. We see this. We feel the inequality and greed in the system. But we do not understand or accept it. We are constantly asking “why,” because nothing about this world makes sense to us. And that’s a good thing.
Why shouldn’t we utilize the technology we have? Why shouldn’t we be afforded more free time to get in touch with our spiritual self? If “hard work” is truly rewarded as it should be, why do people at the “top” earn their living from the brow sweat of people at the “bottom”? Why shouldn’t we as a society work less and spend more time with our loved ones? Why can’t we afford everyone a place to live, food and energy to consume, and an opportunity to educate themselves? Why is the entire world based on the idea of profit? Why aren’t we doing anything substantial about homelessness, hunger and chronic poverty? Why is “that’s how it’s always been” still an acceptable response? These questions have answers and I will gloss over them in future posts.
But for now we, as a generation, are here to change the course. A gift of like-minded souls sent by the universe to right the ship, if you will. There is an enormous amount of social upheaval and change going on this country and we are directly responsible for it. We understand that, if we don’t fix things, we are on a collision course with the end of our society. Our generation, born 1985-1995, is larger than that of the baby-boomers. The mainstream media does not want you to be aware of this. We ARE the key demographic of the future. I think we understand– in the same way as the hippies of the sixties –that some people just aren’t meant to fit in with everybody else. Some people are here to stir the pot and shake things up. But more importantly to further human understanding and compassion.
So what do we do? I say we keep our subscription to the Socrates-school of philosophy and continue to ask, “why?” As long as we continue to do that we will become a populace of free-thinkers and articulate intellectuals. I see a much larger end game for our generation than subservience to corporate interests and private entities. And it’s all happening so quickly that if you blink you might miss it. We are the new ‘Greatest Generation’ and we will not be deterred from bettering our world. I no longer see it as a question of “why,” but rather as a question of “why not?”