reSolve to rEvolve

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The New Baggage--Emotional or Material?

Eleven years ago, when I graduated from High School, this country was a very different place. My graduating class of 1995 had endured all the typical growing pains of the proverbial high school experience and as all teenagers do, we felt that the world revolved around us. My hometown of Oklahoma City was not unlike most medium sized Midwestern cities until it was catapulted into the national media by the Oklahoma City bombing in April of 1995. This event marked my life profoundly and caused me to evaluate my perceptions and beliefs about safety and security. I didn’t fear that my school would be bombed, or my airplane would be used as a weapon to destroy a building, (that seemed the stuff of movies and way too far-fetched) but I realized for the first time that one man’s fervor can wreak havoc on a great number of lives.
Of course I had studied in History about such events and surely the atrocities of the Nazi Germany had demonstrated people’s capacity for evil, but in my naiveté and idealism, it seemed that reason and rationality had ensured more harmonious living. We had the United Nations to buffer and mitigate potential skirmishes between nations. Reflecting back, I realize that one had to look no further than Ireland to see that harmonious living was not the order of the day, but America was quiet and I took that to mean sound.
This childish take on society was fostered by the culture at the time. Fashions were much more grown up and my friends and I could often be seen wearing clothes that seemed like junior versions of our mother’s clothing, than what is often true today, where mothers have a hard time finding clothing that is not cut and tailored to fit a teenaged body. Advertising seemed to reach out to adults unlike today where hitting the youth niche is paramount.
There was a perceptible shift soon after graduation. One could argue that it was me that had changed, but I still would contend that it was the times that changed. In the consciousness of teens today are school shootings, September 11th, the possibility that friends may go off to war, and perhaps an understanding that America is not loved by all. It may enrage them, bore them, or enlighten them, but it is there nonetheless. In a society where currently youth is King, I wonder how all of this will affect them. Will they rise to the occasion and be active in the political landscape? Will they be better prepared and more savvy in negotiation and compromise? Do they have a more sophisticated edge over their immediate predecessors, or will they look at the world as an unfriendly place where material goods can assuage the worry and satisfy the moment. Will their idealism have a chance to flourish?

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