Tradition: the generation gap

When I was a boy of 14 my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21 I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years. — Mark Twain

The idiocy of ageism has angered me for as long as I can remember, decades, not just in recent years.

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The doorway to sexism, racism and all other isms is here, in our childish disrespect for other generations on either side of us.

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Here is a link to the piece that published these memes and got me riled today. It’s a website called Elite Daily, which bills itself as “The voice of Generation Y”:

‘Scumbag Baby Boomer’ Meme Is The Perfect Response To People Who Criticize Gen-Y

This is my published reply, by no means intended for everybody whose birthdays fall within the arbitrary range of years defined by the author of this piece:

Shocking as it may be to some of you whippersnappers, we old farts understand how you feel and think. We grew up as hippies, peace and love and all that. We were going to change the world. At the time we thought our parents were “square” and backward. Every generation does. But we still loved and respected them. 

This is just nasty. 

Gen Y is apparently defined as people born between 1980 and 2000. Good God, some of you are in your mid 30s and still bitching and whining.

Y’all are on your own. 

Personally, I accept very little credit for my children’s wonderful qualities and no blame at all for the decline of American society, our government and our family values. 

My old fart friends and I have worked hard to live honorably and remain relevant. We succeed in varying degrees but we can only fail by the self-righteous judgment of you, whom we coddled and still love. 

You will ultimately define us, but at least have the decency to wait until we’re dead.

Live your life, fix your world and if you can’t show a little respect, just leave us alone.

And, stay off the lawn.

 

 

It’s easier to be righteous than right

When I was about fourteen years old my dad said something in passing conversation that I have never forgotten. It comes to mind more frequently these days because of an amazing phenomenon:

Though we live in an age in which information is as close as a Google search we seem to be more gullible and closed-minded than ever.

A couple of days ago I ran across a news story in the Washington Times about a handful of law students at Washington and Lee University threatening to perform acts of civil disobedience unless campus authorities ban the flying of the Confederate flag and at the same time admit that Gen. Robert E. Lee — for whom, in part, the school is named — was a racist.

Getting easily riled up over perceived civil rights offenses is a rite of passage for people growing from their teens into their twenties. It’s natural, it’s healthy and it’s cute. The only problem is, they are often wrong because things are never as simple as they seem.

Robert E. Lee was far from a racist. In fact, he was strongly opposed to slavery and publicly celebrated its abolition.

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In 1870 he told fellow Virginian, Rev. John Leyburn, “So far from engaging in a war to perpetuate slavery, I am rejoiced that slavery is abolished.” He went on to say the end of slavery was a goal well worth everything he personally lost in the war.

The law students at Washington and Lee either never heard this or just don’t care.

I wonder if they know that President Lincoln asked General Lee to lead the Northern Army in the Civil War? Forced to take sides Lee reluctantly declined so that he might defend his Virginia home, family and friends. He was tortured by the choice.

You might have learned all of this in high school history class. I did. But the students at Washington and Lee apparently value their hormonal opinions more than the complex yet enlightening facts.

And, that’s where we are today, I think. It’s easier to be righteous than to be right and everybody wants to talk rather than listen.

You might think law students, of all people, would have spent a minute or two Googling the subject of their  attack. If they had, they might have stumbled across this quote from General Lee:

“Get correct views of life, and learn to see the world in its true light. It will enable you to live pleasantly, to do good, and, when summoned away, to leave without regret.”

Which brings me back to what my father, Donald M. Williams, told me when I was a kid:

“People say you have a right to your opinion. That’s only half true. You have a right to an informed opinion. If you don’t know what you’re talking about you should shut the hell up.”