Top photo by Tim Forkes
Call this my annual reflection on the state of the world as another birthday approaches. In less time than it took our government to realize we spent far too long in Afghanistan, we have watched the “Greatest Generation” die off and be replaced by the most selfish and closed-minded bunch of people the earth has seen. Yes, I am referring to my generation, the one where someone once sang, “I hope I die before I get old,” only to see us to never burn out, but instead, merely fade away.
If what follows offends you, I do not care. If you are liberal, label me a conservative. If you are conservative, label me liberal. For that matter, call me anything you want if you disagree because it seems that is what we do in our society rather than taking the time to ponder what those who believe differently think. And guess what? It is my generation to blame for this.
I know, thinking can be difficult if you are close minded. Chances are, if you are under the age of 30, our schools never taught you how to think. Instead, they offered up a one size fits all approach to your education and hoped you were never offended by what was covered. It’s something my generation is responsible for and something for younger ones to correct.
If you are over 60, you probably have no desire to maintain an open mind. After all, you have lived a fuller life and know more than what the younger generations know and are quick to say so.
I find it odd that a generation that protested Vietnam, demanded the expansion of civil rights, and dreamed of a world where we all lifted one another up because we believed it was the right thing to do has turned out to be a bunch of whiners, hoarders, conspiracists, and finger pointers. At our best, the great generation before us was replaced by the most mediocre one ever.
Are you still reading? Before labeling me, just know I have played my part in this dumpster fire long enough. I like to think I became more enlightened rather than steadfastly sticking it to my neighbors, friends, and colleagues. Fortunately, I like to think if I can change, anyone can. Given the advancements of medicine and our government’s insatiable desire to keep us breathing as long as we have money to be taxed, another gift from us, there is time for our generation to consider what our lasting imprint will be on the planet we leave behind.
I like to believe that if you were raised with the benefits that came with growing up in a comfortable home in white suburbia, it is not expecting too much to do what you can to leave behind a better world than we inherited. Believe it or not, better does not mean whiter. It’s like when you go camping. You can leave your site set up better than it was for you so the next person, no matter who he or she is, is thankful, or you can stick it to the next camper who comes along and leave them with a sour taste.
Our planet is in worse shape than what we inherited. Too many refuse to accept the science behind global warming because it is easier to cling to prehistoric sources of energy. We have failed to convert to more environmentally friendly energy sources over the decades despite warnings, embargos, and horrific price increases and as a result, we are scrambling to do what may be too late or impossible to do before our planet reaches a breaking point.
As I write, all the inland areas of California are on pace to hit record temperatures. I am not talking about record highs for a certain date, but all-time highs, like over 130 degrees in the desert, 120 in the inland empire, and over 110 in Los Angeles. We will rely largely on the same utility grid that has long passed its ability to provide power to the 40 million or more people in this state. We continue to count on the same Colorado river for our primary power to southern California despite the doubling of our population over my life. That aqueduct that is supposed to deliver water from northern California is in a state of disrepair in many parts and even if it were not, it is difficult to deliver water that does not exist in the equally parched north state.
It’s not just a California problem. Texas faced disaster this past winter when their energy grid went missing during a winter freeze. The east coast can’t keep up with their demands during heatwaves, nor’easters, or hurricanes. Do you think concrete structures simply collapsed in Florida because God deemed it or perhaps was it sped up by a changing weather pattern and made all the worse by leaders turning a blind eye to the enormous task of fixing a problem? Now they have no choice in Florida. From what I see, we have no choice as a nation unless we want to die in horrific manner, whether it be by a building collapsing, heat stroke, raging fires, winter freeze, flooding, tornados, or most any other natural disaster which grows worse with each passing year.
It’s bad enough we have refused to do a damn thing about our gun problem. Thoughts and prayers are sent while people breathe a sigh of relief it has not happened in their community. The same approach is not doing us any good with natural disasters and it has not freed us of our dependency on oil because we can’t be bothered to demand change. Whining is easier. We will storm our nation’s capital because we can’t accept an election result that was fair but are too self-absorbed to do anything lasting for those coming up behind us.
We spent over one trillion dollars in Afghanistan. Twenty years and an entire generation growing up to think war is how to solve our problems and all it did was leave a nation to fend for itself. I suppose some think one trillion dollars was worth the price because we got the head of Usama bin Laden.
Was he worth it while we have failed to move forward into the 21st century? Were the lives of American men and women who served and died there in vain while serving the interest of our military complex, or did they die for something much greater? Before answering, you might want to ask the citizens of Afghanistan what they think, or do you not care?
Add in the cost of one-third of our wealth going up in flames while our CEOs and Fortune 500 companies were bailed out at the cost of millions of jobs, jobs that never came back, and you create a culture that now points fingers, disrespects people at the drop of a hat, and pretty much craps on anyone who thinks differently while our elected leaders and company heads laugh at us for being so easily manipulated.
I have coached enough athletic teams over the course of my life to know teams filled with players who point fingers, tune one another out, and piss and moan about their sorry state never accomplish a damn thing. Society is no different. The wealthiest nation in the world has turned into the most selfish bunch of people and failed miserably to accomplish anything of lasting importance. Our legacy will be forgotten at best, that is if it does not destroy us all.
We enjoy a glutinous life while we fail to do anything to help others who die from a lack of basic needs. We gloat over the suffering of others while whining about being a victim of politics. We hoard instead of give, chase fame, wealth, and power, rewrite what we refuse to accept, and point fingers rather than offer a helping hand.
These are not Christian values. They are also not liberal or conservative values nearly as much as they are cancers that grow with each day that we refuse to do anything constructive to eliminate them because we refuse to work with others who are less than 100% in alignment with our way of thinking.
My generation will never fully know what we could have accomplished for the good of others because of the years we wasted. My hope is we learn soon from our horrible mistakes and make up for our selfishness with the time we have left. There is still time to make a positive difference.
We may be old dogs in the eyes of younger generations, but by making the choice to change for the better, we leave them with the idea it is never too late to grow, learn, and change for the good of others. However, we first must own our failures to move forward. I know, finger pointing is much easier.
Jim is a life long resident of California and retired school teacher with 30 years in public education. Jim earned his BA in History from CSU Chico in 1981 and his MA in Education from Azusa Pacific University in 1994. He is also the author of Teaching The Teacher: Lessons Learned From Teaching. Jim considers himself an equal opportunity pain in the ass to any political party, group, or individual who looks to profit off of hypocrisy. When he is not pointing out the conflicting words and actions of our leaders, the NFL commissioner, or humans in general, he can be found riding his bike for hours on end while pondering his next article. Jim recently moved to Camarillo, CA after being convinced to join the witness protection program.