Words to the whippersnappers.
Today, we interrupt the constant discussion of politics to vent our spleens at the under-30 generation, and at other random portions of the popular culture who have little appreciation for experience, history, manners and common courtesy, or respectful discourse backed by sustained and developed logic.
For those under 30 who do not merit the criticisms herein — and there are plenty of them — please accept apologies in advance: You are not implicated, and you know who you are.
That said…. Here are some things too many under-30s don’t seem to know, to value, or to understand:
1) A person’s level of technological proficiency is not a sign of character. Sorry, but the ability to “text” or to “Twitter” is not a window into somebody’s soul. And a refusal to join Facebook or to be “LinkedIn,” or whatever, is not an indication of being anti-social.
2) People actually still communicate by voice. It is civilized. There are reasons why people actually want to communicate by phone sometimes, or even in person. If somebody asks for a return phone call, that means they want a phone call, not a text message or an email. It means, probably, that they have follow-up questions, or comments, that are dependent on what you say to them. And it also allows people to express things, and be judged, through tone of voice. As a corollary to that, if somebody doesn’t reply to your email, it doesn’t mean they are being rude. It probably means they didn’t see the message because their inbox got too full. The proper response, therefore, to an unanswered email (after a decent interval) is, yes, a phone call.
3) Things that people did and learned more than six or seven years ago actually might be valuable. Young conservatives, in particular, often seem utterly dismissive about all the experience, the sweat, and the wisdom of everybody who built conservatism into a political and governing force — with the exception of Ronald Reagan, who the under-30s seem to revere (good) while often completely mis-citing his record, his philosophy, or his methods (bad). Yes, Ronald Reagan did compromise, often. Yes, he did communicate personally with liberals. No, he wasn’t a failure at restraining the size of government. And no, as galvanizing and admirable figure as he was, he could not have done what he did without the work and brains and courage of a whole lot of people who are frequently belittled by some under-30s.
4) Small-government conservatives and “social conservatives” aren’t necessarily at odds. For that matter, there is no automatic disconnect between “flyover country” conservatives and coastal conservatives, nor between Palin-ophiles and Palin-ophobes, nor between neoconservatives (rightly understood) and just-plain-conservatives. Corollary: The attitude of “either you’re with us or you’re against us” doesn’t work in the real world. Further corollary: Not all “moderates” are “squishes.” Some of them are weaklings with their fingers in the wind, but others actually have a coherent set of “moderate” beliefs that are worthy of respect and that, if you take the time to actually understand them, you might find more amenable to your position than you’ll ever know if all you do is castigate them.
5) Your own “personal space” doesn’t extend to all spaces where you happen to be. Just because you are a pedestrian with a right-of-way doesn’t mean you don’t have an obligation to avoid holding up traffic. Just because you have an iPod doesn’t mean you have the privilege of being oblivious to your surroundings. Just because have one of those no-hands cell phones doesn’t mean you have the privilege of talking loudly while gesticulating in fast-food lines. Just because you and a friend want to walk slowly down the sidewalk doesn’t mean you should walk two abreast with the exact spacing necessary to keep people walking behind you from passing.
6) Some subjects, and some words, and some sights, and some behaviors, are not appropriate for general public consumption. No, it’s not okay to talk loudly in a public place about your sex life. No, it’s not okay to say “cr@p” or even “$uck” around other people’s children. No, it’s not okay to wear tank tops and short-shorts on airplanes.
7) An assertion is not a reasoned argument. Nor is a series of assertions. Your opinion isn’t valuable because it’s yours; it’s valuable if you back it up with reason, with an explanation of cause and effect. And not all opinions are equally valid. And emotion, especially anger, does not an opinion make. And invective isn’t a proof of authenticity.
8) Esteem isn’t a right; it’s earned. And unlike elite colleges, real life doesn’t award you a B+ just because you show up most of the time.
9) There are certain things you must know in order to be a good citizen, among them a basic understanding of American history and civics. If you’re in college and don’t know the difference between the First Amendment and the First Commandment, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you don’t know that the U.S. Civil War was fought in the mid-19th century, or that the Constitution lists Congress as the first branch of the national government, or that the Korean War occurred between World War II and the Vietnam War, then you don’t have enough sense to be taken seriously.
10) Discimus agere agendo: We learn to do by doing. A political platform shouldn’t mean more than a political record; a promise should mean less than production; and a theory can’t replace practice. A position paper isn’t statesmanship. And short-term success is no measure of worthiness over time. Not to put too fine a point on it, but an election to office while pushing reform means absolutely nothing unless you can maintain your principles and authority to beat back the bad-old-boys after your honeymoon is over and they have re-grouped, re-strategized, and re-attacked you a few years down the line.
There. That’s enough for now. Or maybe there should be an 11: It should be only a rare occasion for columnists self-indulgently to blow off steam about the self-indulgences of others.
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