Monday, May 22, 2006

Caught on the Fringes of Lazy Populism and Ruthless Capitalism

“Now there’s spiritual warfare and flesh and blood breaking down.
Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain’t no neutral ground.”

- Bob Dylan – “Precious Angel” (1979)

I’ve attended two high school graduations so far this season. One was a technical marvel, with a long video presentation of baby pictures morphing into the high school seniors seated before their adoring parents and friends. The graphics were slick and the message a bit subtle, but after a few minutes of reading and watching the tea leaves I got it. The educational system had done its job. We’d given it our children and it had turned them into young adults, ready to tackle the world. In keeping with the tenor of the video presentation, the two young valedictorians strung together a series of clichés worthy of a good politician or a Calvinist convinced he’s doing the will of God.

The second, which we attended last night, had less pizzazz, but matched the earlier event cliché for cliché. The valedictory addresses were short, with about half the time taken up with muted complaints about three years of school food and the other half with cuddly Winnie the Pooh quotes. Rural Kansas had done its job. Twenty-nine young adults from Olpe, Kansas had, as the saying goes, made the grade.

On the way home last night I mentioned to Nancy that graduation ceremonies had changed quite a bit since 1960 when I made my way into the world of adults. The tone of everything back then was serious. We were being confronted with the fact that we were now to be full participants in a troubled world. It was going to be, we were told, our job to build upon the foundation our parents and grandparents had laid for us. While they hadn’t secured every liberty or solved every problem, we recognized they had advanced noble causes. Now it was our time to shine, to make the world a better place. The clichés offered were far from being cuddly. The words of Lincoln and Walt Whitman, rather than Winnie the Pooh, were the rhetorical launching pads for our adult lives.

As I watched last night I had to remind myself to be gracious to the class of 2006. Most of them had entered the high school doors as open slates, ready to be educated. Unfortunately, most had left as budding nihilists. They’d come in empty and left empty, with only a few clever catch phrases to show for the time they spent in the lower levels of academia. A few years of college education will, for the vast majority, make their nihilism complete and socially acceptable. What else would, or should, we expect of the class of 2006? All they really did was cooperate with the indoctrination. It wasn’t all their fault.

What’s in store for this year’s graduates? Troubles, I fear. Have they been prepared to confront them? No!

I gave a lot of thought to this as I made my rounds this morning. The more I thought about it all, the worse it got. In the end, near the University, I came to the conclusion that this is a generation caught on the fringes of lazy populism and ruthless capitalism.

What do I mean by that? It means that this generation of graduates is armed only for self-aggrandizement. On the one hand there is a “whatever floats your boat” philosophy that allows them to be untroubled while the vultures gather. The peril is all around and this generation’s response is almost always the same. Osama’s still hiding in a cave near Tora Bora. “Whatever.” Kim Jong-il is drinking expensive cognac while his people desperately forage for grass to eat. “Whatever.” Musa Hilal and the Janjaweed are murdering hundreds of thousands in Darfur. “Whatever.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is close to having his finger on the nuclear trigger. “Whatever.”

On the other end of the fringe is the economics of this generation, which is an odd combination of greed and retreat from responsibility. The more this generation has been given, it seems, the more it wants. The operative language of America two generations ago was about responsibilities and earning one’s way in the world. Today, the language of the class of 2006 is about rights and entitlements. This is a generation with little interest in earning anything. It’s a generation that feels, rather, that it is owed.

Yes, the vultures are gathering. And, the class of 2006 refuses to see them sitting on the fence posts of the world. Most of this year’s graduates don’t even know where Iran is, or North Korea, or Darfur. If you were to ask most of them who or what they Janjaweed is they’d probably say something clever like, “It’s the next generation of marijuana, Dude.”

I wonder how close the fence posts will have to be to their homes and “stuff” to make them notice. Not long ago Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sent a scathing letter to George Bush, scolding him and proponents of liberal democracy. It was eerily reminiscent of Nikita Khrushchev’s “we will bury you speech” of my generation. In his analysis of the letter, Hillel Franken, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, noted that:

“All of this can be seen partially but still somewhat dimly in Ahmadinejad's emphasis on Christian hypocrisy, which may in this context mean two things: violations by self-professed Christians of the standards and teachings of historic Christianity, or the violation by historic Christianity of the true teachings of the Prophet Jesus. The latter is a traditional Islamic view of the defect and even crime of historic Christians. In calling upon Bush, as Ahmadinejad does emphatically, to embrace the “teachings of the prophets,” he is calling upon him not only to abandon liberal democracy but Christianity as well--to embrace Islam, to which all the world must ultimately submit, and which is gathering momentum in our time.”

This is only one of the vultures the class of 2006 will have to face. When the time for confrontations with him and others inevitably comes, will they be ready to face up to them? When the time comes and the sound of the rattling of sabers is heard will their response be little more than a few cuddly quotes from Winnie the Pooh? If so, the vulture’s response will be sardonic laughter as the sword is raised. Or, when the devil’s at their doors, beating his way inside, will “Whatever” be the last words we hear from this generation? Based on what I heard over the past few weeks it just might be.

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Good versus Evil


The Class of 2006

1 comment:

A Friend said...

Actually, they quoted Dr. Seuss, in Olpe...not Winnie the Pooh... and believe it, or not, Dr. Seuss was a man of great creativity and depth of thought...and He was smart enough to put his thoughts to rhyme, so that his words would hold lasting appeal!
While I'm sure that none of these Seniors knows all that the world has in store for them, I can say that I have had the privilege to get to know several of these graduating Seniors over the past few years, and I think you are selling them short!
Several of these kids have lived through, and overcome, great hardships in their short lives... and they've been able to rise above the adversity in their troubled lives and still hold on to their dreams. Yes, they are teenagers. Yes, a lot of them have made wrong choices and stupid mistakes... but, as I looked at the graduating class last night... I saw these kids with eyes of hope! I saw them as the overcomers that God has created them to be! I chose to look beyond the acne and the tears and the giddy laughs and corny see the hearts and souls of these kids...and God sees each one of them as valuable and precious!

Some of these kids have lost parents to death. Some have been through the trauma of recent divorces of parents. Some were raised in single parent homes. Some have had parents sent to prison. Some have had parents charged with sexual assault. Some have been sexually assaulted. Some were assaulted by a priest, while in grade school. Some have parents who are alcoholics. Some have close relatives who are drug addicts. Some have brothers or sisters in Iraq or in the armed service. All have lost a fellow classmate to death. Many have lost loved ones to cancer within the past couple of years. If you only knew the things some of those kids had been through... I don't think you would be quite so quick to sell them short. Graduation is a time of celebration. It is a time to focus on accomplishments. There is plenty of time for these kids to look at the troubles of tomorrow! Let them enjoy their day!
The Olpe Valedictorian is a enrolled in a pre-med program in college. She is a young Christian lady of strong moral character and a never die work ethic! She has a heart of compassion and will reach out and help anyone who is in need! Don't be surprised if she comes up with a cure for some deadly disease in the future! The co-valedictorains are also Christian ladies of good moral charcter and very strong work ethics. Yes, there were tears last night... but, if you had any idea the struggles and trials that one of them had been through, you would not be so quick to render judgment. Both of these ladies are overcomers and both have bright futures ahead of them. I'd be proud and honored to have any one these 3 girls on my team, in the midst of a world emergency!
Besides the ones that received recognition last night, you should have heard all of the honors that this class received at honors night last week! Yes, they are young... and there is still much wisdom to be gained...but, these kids still have the important things that past generations had... the things that make them overcomers! Most, if not all, of them have faith in God. They have common sense and the ability to think outside the box. The majority of them have a strong moral foundation and aren't afraid of hard work. Most of them have been working since they were kids. Almost all of them have held down jobs through high school. Most of them have bought their own cars and are at least helping to pay for their college education. A lot of them have been very involved in community service their whole lives. They may quote Dr. Seuss and use words like "stuff"... but, it's not because they are stupid... Truthfully, I think it is just easier for them to turn off stuffy adults with their "dumbed down" words, because they don't think that these adults really care about what they think or have to say anyway. But, believe me, these kids do have a lot to think and a lot to say and God is going to use this generation in a mighty way over the next few years! They may listen to music that we don't like and have piercings and tattoos and habits that seem weird and strange... but, they know how to speak the language of the "world". My question is... Do you? .... Do I? The quotes of the past generations will mean absolutely nothing to the vast majority of today's world ...most of them could care less! However, a large majority would listen to Dr. Seuss and actually smile and feel warm and good inside! Dr. Seuss will open doors that Walt Whitman will not. In today's society, most people wouldn't have the slightest idea who Walt Whitman was!
Jesus is coming back soon... and the fields are ready for harvest. These kids have lived through the heartaches and trials that many of the people in the world are living through. Some have overcome and some are in the process of overcoming. They have held on to their dreams and they are right where God wants them. He is going to use them in a mighty way!...They have been called and destined for such a time as this!
So, sit back and watch... hold on to your blog pen ... and be prepared to be amazed.... Remember! God often uses the things that seem foolish to confound the wise! His ways are not are ways... His thoughts are not our thoughts...but they are higher than ours... and one thing is certain... God loves each and every one of those kids that graduated last night. He has given each of them talents and abilities. He has called them and prepared them for such a time as this! I'm excited to see what pland He has for each one of their lives! Instead of being discouraged and downhearted, why don't you pick out a few of them and start praying for them every day! Follow their lives... watch as they go through the trials and tribulations in life....and watch God's purpose being fulfilled in their lives! Try looking at them through God's eyes! It's a much sweeter picture! (((((((HUGS)))))))