Each generation thinks it’s better than the present one. It’s a natural tendency, looking with nostalgia at the past through rose-colored glasses while conveniently forgetting the negatives, and a self-centeredness based on the belief that it "did things right."
As we all know, the claims of "old-timers" of "when I was your age, I walked five miles to school through 2 feet of snow" are wildly exaggerated. And many aspects of today’s society, which many older folks see as "things going to hell in a hand-basket," are, in fact, remarkable accomplishments.
But while technological breakthroughs have made incredible improvements in our day-to-day lives — achievements unthinkable just 20 years ago — that has come with a price. Modern conveniences that require no effort have, in large part, killed personal initiative and work ethic. Coupled with insane helicopter parents who literally hover over and mastermind every move of their children, a generation of wholly dysfunctional individuals is coming of age.
They have grown up in a protective bubble, completely insulated from everything that isn’t orchestrated down to a tee. But as they step into the real world — be it school, the athletic field, or job market, they are woefully ill-equipped to deal with the slightest adversity, let alone a bona fide crisis.
So the only "solution" they know is to remain defiantly entitled, demanding anything not to their liking be changed, canceled, and banned — or else.
For perhaps the first time in American history, it is becoming painfully apparent that things were indeed better in the past, as the country’s march toward self–destruction continues.
Consider just a few examples that never would have occurred just a few generations ago:
• Students in a high school class were given different roles to recreate the atmosphere of slavery in America: Slaves, prohibitionists, slave traders, politicians. But the exercise, which would have brought tedious textbook lessons to life, was abruptly cut short because several students broke down crying, storming out of the room because they felt "bad" for "offending" the black students in the class. So now, we can’t even teach history to college-bound young adults for fear of rattling their ultra-acute sensitivities. And if you can’t teach history accurately, the truth soon becomes forgotten, and we all suffer.
• In what has become a commonplace occurrence, especially on the soccer field, players routinely fall to the ground after minimal or no contact. The invariable result? All players take a knee while coaches, refs, and especially parents, all charge the field to render comfort to the fallen "warrior." After a ridiculous amount of drama, the player rises, and, after receiving the obligatory applause, more often than not stays in the game, all smiles, and is running full speed five seconds later, his ego all better, and hurt feelings soothed.
That’s not to pick on those who sustain true injury, but in the vast majority of cases, the "wimpification" of America is on full display, as this coddled generation shows how much it needs — in fact, craves — such attention. Not that long ago, young athletes played with the small hurts, and would have been embarrassed to make such a scene — and would disown any parent who came onto the field. Short of physically being unable to continue, their pride would push them to keep playing (and we’re obviously not talking about serious injury, such as concussions). But in our "it’s-all about me" society of no shame, today’s kids revel in the misplaced accolades they receive. And it’s getting exponentially worse.
• School Halloween celebrations are increasingly being cancelled because a small minority of students and parents feel "uncomfortable" and offended by the traditions of that holiday. It’s not enough that they simply don’t participate (and who are we kidding? Halloween hasn’t been a "religious" holiday for at least a century), because that would be live-and-let-live. No, they have to push their grievances on everyone, bullying all who disagree, and demanding longstanding American cultural traditions be summarily dismantled. And in the ultimate act of cowardly appeasement, more and more administrators are capitulating rather than fighting, fueling the "offended" movement to push their agenda that much further next time. Prior generations would never have rolled over like that.
What the hell is happening? Why, despite Middle America recoiling at this level of craziness, is nothing being done to stop it? And where are the parents and leaders, calling out the loudmouths propagating such madness?
The answers are that A) some are afraid of being labeled insensitive, offensive and bigoted, so they keep quiet, waiting for someone else to do the heavy lifting; and B) many more are part of the problem, even those who may publicly rail against such things.
And we are reaping what we have sown, as it has become ingrained in tomorrow’s leaders to be politically correct, massively entitled, immensely coddled, ultrasensitive, and incredibly narcissistic.
The recent actions of our political leaders show exactly where our children get their attitudes.
In just the last few weeks, the Haverford Republicans, breaking more than a quarter-century campaign tradition, refused to debate at a League of Women Voters forum. Same for the Chester GOP, whose candidates for mayor and city council bailed at the opportunity to discuss the issues with their Democratic counterparts. And the Democratic candidates for Delaware County Council, at the last minute, completely blew off a scheduled League of Women Voters forum, forcing the event to be cancelled. Talk about narcissistic! And so much for setting a good example, keeping your word, and honoring civic duty as candidates.
On the national level, the two Republican frontrunners, Donald Trump and Ben Carson, refused to participate in a debate that was scheduled for three hours, stating that two was their absolute limit. Really? Regardless of whether that time frame was too long for maintaining the attention of viewers, no candidate running for the most powerful position in the world should be so wimpy that he could not endure an extra 60 minutes for the American people’s benefit — so adeptly pointed out by Carly Fiorina.
Voters want character and heart in their leader, since they know the president’s stamina must be unrivaled. So what does it say that the top two Republicans not only espoused weakness, but perhaps more important, demonstrated an entitlement attitude that if they didn’t get exactly what they wanted, they would "run away" and not participate. That used to be called selfishness and being a brat, which we taught our children not to be.
When our leaders don’t practice what they preach, it makes instilling the bedrock values that made America the greatest nation in history virtually impossible. And if that doesn’t change, we will lose yet another generation.
John Hughes, the prescient 1980’s film director, got it so right in his more-relevant–than-ever movie "The Breakfast Club," as teacher Richard Vernon talks with the janitor Carl about the future:
Vernon: "You think about this: When you get old, when I get old, these kids are going to be running the country."
Vernon: "Now this is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night. That when I get older, these kids are going to take care of me."
Carl: "I wouldn’t count on it."
Neither would I.
Chris Freind is an independent columnist and commentator. His column appears every Wednesday. He can be reached at [email protected]