I have heard repeated comments lately from members of an older generation that this generation has no morals, no standards. It has caused me to reflect on what this means. I suppose because it was inculcated from an early age to be seen and not heard that I find great difficulty in speaking up to my elders when I hear comments that I find offensive. I was also taught that it was improper to discuss sex, politics, and religion in polite company. So when my beliefs are assaulted it is in my very nature to weakly smile and hold my tongue. I do not think, nor would the commenters admit, that their opinion of “this generation” includes me personally, nontheless I take offense. What I want to say to them is:
Is it moral to support a political party who supports abortion rights on one hand, yet also supports universal healthcare, food assistance, housing for the poor, and the right to higher education, once the child enters the world? Or rather, is it moral to support a political party who claim to be pro-life and are opposed to supporting that very life once it draws its first breath; a party that agitates for perpetual war, for the death penalty, and for unlimited rights for gun owners?
Is it moral to support a political party who strives for peace through diplomacy and promotes strength through the use of soft power? Or is it moral to put our nation on a perpetual war footing; to use our military to fight wars of agression; to ask our soldiers to serve multiple deployments without considering the mental and physical toll it takes on them; to continue war for a decade and a half without paying for it; to inflict misery on innocent men, women, and children, to salve a bruised ego; to withhold medical treatment or funding for returning veterans for the invisible wounds of TBI or PTSD when 22 (one every 65 minutes) die every day from suicide?
Is it moral to support the human and civil rights of people to marry whom they choose. Or is it moral to deny some of God’s children the privilege of joining their souls together no matter their orientation? If we acknowledge that we are ALL made in God’s image and that man was not meant to be alone, why is this right to be denied to a segment of our population?
Is is moral to support the human and civil right to participate in the struggle for a living wage and the right to organize under a union? Or does morality dictate that workers take what they are given and be satisfied, that in today’s world, they are lucky to have a job? Is it moral that wealth is concentrated in the hands of one percent of our population and that, by virtue of the power they control over our elected representatives, they determine what the other ninety-nine percent will earn, what protections they are afforded, and how they will be supported in retirement?
Is it moral to support a small, sustainable, green, lifestyle without being derogatorily called a tree-hugger? Or is it moral to consume natural resources, not only our own but those around the world, at an unsustainable rate; to extract oil and mineral wealth from the earth while causing enormous environmental damage; to garrison the world to secure these resources for our own use; to support corporations and brutal regimes that strip natural resources and wealth from a country and leave their own people impoverished?
Is it moral to find a humane solution to our immigration “problem”, where the workers, employed by large corporations and agribusiness, can do so legally, with wage protections and benefits afforded Americans? These individuals do tasks no American would lower themselves to do, under horrible conditions and at appalling wages. Or is it moral to want to round up eleven million people, many of whom have children who are American citizens, and deport them? Remember, immigrants are hired by companies that want to maximize their profits and do so without scrutiny. And, lest we forget, and most certainly we do, this IS a nation of immigrants.
I was born when Eisenhower was president and there was a thriving post-World War II economy. My Dad worked hard for a living, when I was born he delivered dry-cleaning. He later found employment that provided him a good living wage, union protections, a pension, and the solid guarantee of Social Security. My Mom was able to stay at home and do all of the things Moms did back then. I knew absolutely no want. To me it was an idyllic childhood with unlimited possibilities and the expectation that one day I would go to college. With the election of John F. Kennedy as President there came youthful optimism, fueled by science and technology and the prospect of landing a man on the moon.
The promise was truly shattered after President Kennedy was assassinated. Although civil rights legislation was signed under Lyndon Johnson we were slowly becoming mired in a Southeast Asian conflict and racial tensions would flare. Soon JFK’s brother, Robert, was assassinated, then Martin Luther King, and the world spiraled out of control. My generation was handed the Vietnam War, Watergate, an economy that has been stagnant, in terms of wages, for more than forty years. We were handed job insecurity, the loss and security of a pension in most jobs and the possibility of an insolvent Social Security program. My generation has seen the destruction of unions, the escalation of the cost of education, the shrinking purchasing power of the dollar. My generation has seen the gains of the civil rights era eroded by the bigotry, bitterness, and hatred of a nativist, Confederate-flag-waving segment of the electorate whom one could politely call low-information voters. My generation has seen the rise of a breed of politician who is more focused on gaining power, retaining power, and using power to advance the agenda of the monied interests of those elect who bought him his office. Once that politician is out of office he continues to wield power in the corridors of Washington from his highly paid position with a lobby. The era of statesmen has long been dead and the lowest, most base, and least informed partisans control the levers of power.
My children, the next generation, have inherited the residue of what my generation was given. They have not inherited the glowing optimism of my generation, they have not inherited the expectation that they will go on to college without incurring huge debt, they have not inherited a government focused on doing the will of the people and achieving great things. They have not inherited an economy in which their wages keep pace with inflation, and their retirement will be secure. For the most part, they do not enjoy the protections of a union. They have inherited a country where science and technology is derided and sneered at by our leaders. Yet, I see in my children and many of their generation, a willingness and openness to serve others, a return to an attitude charity and compassion for the poor, people of color, and people of any sexual orientation. I think that they are moral and that they do have standards. There is hope that when it is their turn to rule we will be in better hands.
If my generation, and that of my children, is deemed immoral and without standards by the previous generation, then I am proud to wear a big, colbalt blue “I” on my chest.