Remember the classic 'Everyone Loves Raymond' episode where Robert complains (and exposes the ongoing storyline) that when the family went on a road trip, they thought so little of him that after driving off and leaving him at a gas station rest stop, it took them hours to notice he wasn't in the car.
Robert represents the universal second child in most families who grows up feeling discounted, neglected, overlooked and in some ways abused. In many families the first born tends to be an overachiever, and as in my family, the second born, an under achiever. No matter how much I achieved, it was always in second place to my brother (i.e., 'Raymond').
But more currently, Robert represents the sense of abandonment felt by many of us Boomer Generation parents. Our children, it seems, don't need us anymore.
It may hold true for others in the family line, I don't know because my brother and I were the only two children. But one thing about our family, that I always cherished, was the respect both of us had for the authority and leadership of our parents. I now know that my older brother felt slighted as a young man. Even though he excelled in everything he tried, scholastically, in organized sports, and later in business, he secretly felt that 'Mom' loved me more. He revealed this painful truth to me after both of our parents were gone and in a moment of nostalgia fueled by a half dozen beers.
I would've bet she felt the opposite, but overall we both knew how dear we were to both of our folks and that they would never fail to be there for us in a time of need. They had always attended every milestone event, most all if not all sports events, graduations, awards ceremonies, you name it, if it had to do with my brother or me, they were there. Both of them.
Up until their last day on earth, I would never hesitate to get their point of view, their recommendations, to tap into their vast wealth of knowledge and experience before I made any major decisions in my life. I may not always agree with them, but I also knew they had developed their perspectives with many more years of experience, and I would be a fool to discount that.
Do the vast majority of Millennials feel the same about not only their parents, but the entire 2000 year old generations of human existence that preceded them?
I ask because everyday it seems the news is filled with startling social changes that fly in the face of history. I feels like our children are leaving their parents behind at the reststop. And it isn't clear as to whether they will ever discover that we are not in the car with them.
We are all passengers on the Planet Earth as it travels through time and space, but those who are now holding the steering wheel seem to be driving us all over a cliff! I hate acting like a backseat driver, but when you are sitting in the back and the driver is not looking ahead, it is dark and he has no headlights on, and we are barreling down the road at 100 miles an hour, on a road I know ends at a cliff, what am I supposed to do?
Lets take the Institution of Marriage for example. One of the oldest institutions known to mankind. The social tool used to bind males and females together to stabilize the incredibly important and difficult function of procreation.
Arguably one of the most enduring social constructs, marriage is endemic to all civilized societies. It extends to every corner of the planet, regardless of race, creed, color or religious association. Cultures with non-traditional organizational structures, non-religious groups, and even prehistoric tribes living in complete isolation, practice marriage rituals. Literally hundreds of previous generations have exalted, venerated, even worshipped marriage.
Every scientific study ever produced about marriage shows it has mostly positive effects on the individuals involved, on the offspring, and within the community. Marriage supports the idea of community cohesion, peace and stability, and integration of people of different backgrounds and cultural variations. It helps communities, schools, churches, and social networks build identity. It supports the protection and nurturing of children.
It might just be the most important cultural institution in the history of Mankind.
So now, our children are convinced that it should be abandoned and a new, much different template that they have devised should replace it. I am not interested in making judgements, just in pointing out the implied disrespect and dismissal of timeless cultural institutions that we are witnessing at an alarming rate today.
Lets look at Patriotism. Can I mention it, or would that be too incendiary? Am I displaying my parochialism? Is it inherently warlike to express an allegiance to my country? You would think so if you listened to college professors, or many of the leftist Millennials who have been taught at the institutions of higher learning in America, and I might add, throughout the Western World. What was inculcated as a social and civic bond at the earliest stages of our lives is now characterized as a tool of male mysogination, white privilege and the exploitation of the poor to send minorities and poor boys to war over oil and white owned corporate power worldwide. Traditional symbols of patriotism like the flag, or wearing military uniforms, or a lapel pin, are often targets of derision and shame expressed by young people who have an idealistic view that if we just gave up our borders, lowered our flags, avoided conflict, and showed less pride in our country and it's 'dubious' accomplishments, there would be less rancour and war.
Then there is the concept of American Exceptionalism: the term is deemed to be an arrogant, self-serving construct to elevate the United States to a pinnacle that is undeserved, incendiary, and condescending. It ignores, however the obvious facts that America has been and still is the beacon of Freedom around the globe. That America has saved more people from totalitarianism than all other counties combined. That the presence of American military might has for over one hundred years secured and provided security from instability, violence, and genocide for most of mankind.
It ignores the obvious fact that without exception, countries that have engaged in war with us inevitably end up better off after their defeat than before. No other world power can make that claim, which in itself qualifies America for the brand of Exceptional.
Our culture embraces a 'Blame America First' mentality because it is supported by a Marxist leaning cabal of University professors and intellectual elitists. President Obama, a Harvard graduate, spent much of his first term traveling around the World apologizing for America's 'mistakes' in the past. He epitomizes the growing consensus that America is responsible for most of the misery in the World because we have been arrogant, selfish and insensitive to other nations and cultures. Our consumer mentality, resulting from unfettered capitalism, has 'raped' the World of its resources, contaminated the environment, warmed the globe, and institutionalized racism and poverty.
The sad truth is, how can you blame our children for feeling this way? Since kindergarten they have had this stuff pounded into their head at all levels of their education. All they hear about is end-of-humanity calamities, most of which were engendered by their own Country and by implication, their own parents. That would be you and me...
Then there are the Institutions of Higher Education teaching Global Warming as 'settled science.' Our schools follow a simple curricula; the world is under threat from warming caused by people who drive too much, corporations who poison the environment and their customers through a coalition of international drug companies and medical professionals, enslave their them to overpriced and dangerously untested drugs, people who brutalize, enslave and eat animals, people who smoke, armies who kill for oil, and all of this orchestrated by white men who make all the wrong decisions for women, and abhor homosexuals.
Yes, I am a white male, so maybe I am a little paranoid, but if I were the head of an Asian family, I would be worried. You guys pay too much attention to scholastic accomplishment. You abuse your children by demanding too much respect. Your extremely high rate of high school and college graduation is taking advanced educational opportunities away from inner city kids who need it most. Your selfish!
The War on Women is worrisome. Since I am married to a woman and I have a recently married (uh oh) daughter, I am defensive about anyone attacking women. The problem is, it is I who is 'prosecuting the war on women.' I am the threat to their opportunities, to their self respect. It is all us white male parents who are guilty of denying women equal pay for equal work, the pride of professional career accomplishment. Us old white guys are wrecking the lives of those that we promised to cherish and protect and those that we helped raise.
How can this be? Not only are us guys now the minority on the planet, but we have been totally emasculated by our youth culture. Men are increasingly becoming irrelevant, and so is our counsel. When was the last time a male was promoted to Chancellor at your local University? Have you seen a male doctor lately? Hope you don't have to go to court soon, because you will probably have your fate decided by a female Judge.
It is counterintuitive isn't it? Watching the incredible ascension of women in the workplace speaks loudly of the failure of the War on Women. It has obviously been a colossal flop.
Don't get me wrong, I love women. My Mom was a women! So was yours. We all have much in common, but you wouldn't know it by all of the divisive issues confronting our culture today.
It seems like as much as we thought our Baby Boomer Generation had wrestled with racism, sexism, poverty, war, and social injustice, it sure feels like we have found ourselves caught in a tide pool of disintegrating values, divided and antagonistic racial tensions, and an explosion of civil unrest, wars and cultural conflicts all around the World.
All of which can be blamed on our Military Industrial Complex. Us older folks know about the history of wars. The totally barbaric battles and campaigns of Middle Ages. The brutal and stupid waste of human life during our Civil War and then again on a more massive scale in World War I. The sickening and more modern worldwide destruction of human inventory of World War II. We learned about this in school, and through the media, movies and later TV. We listened to the stories of our forefathers and read their letters to home, their snapshots and their news clippings. We cried when our contemporaries were killed and maimed in Korea and Vietnam.
We cried when they died because we knew they gave so much and we lost so many.
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder... When we were called to go to Viet Nam, many said no...those who didn't were damaged for life by the experience and then they were spit upon when they came home. Instead of venerating the young men and women who gave their freedom to protect ours, many were persuaded to paint them as animals sent to destroy and terrorize innocent people of color. They returned to a nation at war with itself, and they were made out to be symbolic of everything that was 'wrong' with America.
Now along comes a generation who has no real time experience with war. What they have been told in school is hindsight that is filtered through political lenses often hostile to America. The closest connection they have to real battle is Viet Nam or the Wars in the Middle East, meaning it is you and me that give them that perspective, and for many of us it was so unpleasant we either don't want to talk about it or we talk trash about it. In the high visibility TV enhanced worst possible scenario, someone goes off with an AK47 in a bell tower.
This current generation of thirty and forty somethings, and to an even greater degree those in their twenties, really believe war is preventable and that the only reason it occurs is because rich people get richer from it. That is what they have learned from college, from angry and disillusioned minority groups, and media outlets like KPBS, and is reinforced everyday by the mainstream media and Hollywood.
That is their answer to just about everything. If rich people didn't get richer from war, poverty, racism, disease, suppression of women, and hatred of homosexuals, then the world would be one big Sesame Street romper room.
My concern is simple: how do we reverse this insidious tendency to dismiss all of the lessons of history that our Youth Culture ignores? How do we convince them that preserving, and respecting the cultural institutions that have proven to be valuable and important is just as important as taking credit for inventing the newest (unproven) template for sustaining the human race?
Where did we go wrong? How did we manage to destroy our own credibility in just one or two generations? Of course we made some of the same mistakes, that goes hand in hand with evolution of the species. All generations have to make many of the same mistakes the previous generation had to make to learn. But why try to reinvent the wheel? Not just come up with a better wheel, but toss the old one under the bus before you have any significant real world experience with the new one?
So as I sit in the backseat of my offspring's beautiful, hi-tech, hi-mileage automobile, and I note that the youthful driver is not watching the car in front of him. That he is busy using his cellphone to text inconsequential messages to his similarly bored and disengaged friends, and as I note the road signage that indicates we are rapidly approaching a dead end, in the dark since the driver has not turned on the operating lights, and since we are barreling along at near 100 miles per hour, you will excuse me if I make a few rather insensitive and loud suggestions.
I am wishing that I had been inadvertently left behind at the last gas station.