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“I just want to do what’s right, even if it doesn’t feel right,” Eileen Prescott, a character says in Jere Myles’ book ‘Murder Behind Closed Doors.’ As we review the various things happening in our country today as we raise the next generation, let’s think about how we are trying to raise the next generation. Let’s consider the generation that has put us in dire straights. Did we feel right as we did what we thought was the right thing?
We are the offspring of the greatest generation. Many call our generation, the ‘baby-boomers,’ the ‘me’ generation. Those born shortly after the Second World War and shortly before the Vietnam were brought up in the shadows of the ‘Greatest Generation.’ Our parents survived a real Depression and helped defeat the ethnic cleansing in Europe. Our parents loved us; gave us everything they possibly could afford. They suffered hardships they wanted to keep from us. In the process of providing for their families, these moms and pops instilled in their kids a desire to have a good education. They taught us right from wrong, boycotted and protested to give us a better opportunity as exemplified by Reverend Claude Black, an iconic figure in San Antonio, who regardless of how he felt, did things that would better his surroundings and live long after him. He understood with a passion that feeling right, didn’t always trump doing the right thing.
What happened? How did we get in dire straits?
Our generation took what was given them and didn’t appreciate it as much because they didn’t earn it. It was given to them. Many grew up with a sense of entitlement, finalizing ideas that were truly ‘me’ focused, rather than what they could do to make things better for others. Rather than taking the privilege many of us had, many of us maneuvered ourselves into debt because of greed; many of maneuvered ourselves out of the competition for an education because it was too hard; many of us failed to realized we lived in a country that when the constitution was challenged, They work hard to see the behavior toward the involuntary immigrants who were our ancestors be changed. They fought battles and gave us the spoils and we became spoiled. Court cases, legal battles, and in some cases horrific crimes were committed either to sanction these rights or to keep many from getting equal rights. Our parents did not back down, rather forged the way for us, and what did we do?
Some of us did the right thing, even if it didn’t feel right. We staged ‘sit-ins’ or boycotted local Woolworth stores so we could get served at the counter. Others chose to burn our draft cards rather than serve our country, because it felt like the right thing to do. Our government acquiesced and today serving our country which used to be a pillar of democracy is no longer a requirement. Our generation lost ownership to the one true umbilical cord to what makes us free—some form of service.
Ask yourself? How many of us have sacrificed to help the next generation, called the Echo Boomers, achieve parity to what our parents gave up for us? How many of us felt it was better to get what we wanted rather than what we could afford, or took to the time to understand the value of what we need versus what we want. Is that why so many of us are moving back to live with our parents because we didn’t grow up? Is that why some of us have our parents raise our kids because kids can’t raise kids, and many of us never learned to be the parents our parent were?
When are we going to start doing the right thing for the right reason like equipping our kids to be on their own? Failure is a just a detour on a trip toward destiny. Sometime we have to let our kids fail so they realize a hand-up is not the same thing as a hand out. Then let them wash their own clothes, pay their own insurance, walk their own mile? How can we truly expect to be a country that can lead if the children in charge can’t even balance a check book, plan a budget, or get an education without depending on someone else? Just because it feels right doesn’t mean do it!
Our kids should not be known as the generation of ‘bailouts.’ People should get what they earn, and when people earn bonuses for hard work they should be paid, rather than chastised by the government. Good people should be paid, not idolized and patronized like sport stars and movie stars. Doesn’t this sound right? So what am I missing here?
What I’m missing is outrage. Outrage toward our government which should realize the less you work for something the less you appreciate it. Outrage among average American citizens such as you and me who are being bled to allow lifestyles we can only imagine as our financial system tanks. Outrage from those who have worked hard to get what they have, by learning hard work pays your mortgage, and by spending less than you make, you might be able to buy most of the things you need without any help.
The egregious behavior of greed and envy got this country where it is now. We have tossed away the rubric that made our school system a beacon in the world where we turned out leaders like Martin Luther King, Shirley Chisholm and Caesar Chavez, as well as educators like Escalante and Phyllis Wheatley. We lost the rubric that gave us teachers who taught because they believed in teaching, and felt they could make a difference doing something they loved. We lost also a similar rubric that gave us doctors who made house calls because they worked hard to uphold the oath they took, and it was a vocation to serve, not a vocation to be rich.
We lost it, and along the way, as Maya Angelou once said, became “vulgar and ugly” as we look to addicts, abusers and adulterers as heroes rather than people who made this world better than they found it, like Reverend Black and others of his generation. The challenge facing us today is to find a way to grow people to stand up for what’s right; otherwise we are headed for a decline worse than those the Romans experienced.