I don’t recall if I have mentioned before in my blog this story about what happened in Canada… A couple of years ago our family took a cruise from SF to Alaska — wonderful trip, one of our best vacations ever. On the return, the ship made port in Victoria, BC for part of a day — our first time visiting there, only about 5 hours, but so enjoyable that we returned to Victoria this year.
Karen and Lara went on an excursion to Butchart Gardens while Erik and I stayed behind and walked around town, visiting the Royal BC Museum among other attractions. Good father-son bonding time. At one point, as were were walking and enjoying the nice weather, out of the blue Erik commented that he would like someday to move to Canada. “The U.S. has too many problems,” he stated matter-of-factly. Hmmm, interesting…
He did not say much more about that, and I did not delve into it with him. Teenagers can be very impressionable especially when traveling and seeing other places for the first time — I know I was, and to some extent still am. In fact, I don’t remember him making any more comments of that type since then. It’s hard to know what he’s thinking much of the time.
Last night Erik, Karen and I were watching the documentary Inside Job about the financial meltdown of 2008 and beyond. Very sobering and depressing, spot on. Erik was doing something on his laptop much of the time, but apparently he was also paying a lot of attention. We paused the movie a couple of times so that I could explain a few basic economic principles that I figured he probably didn’t know and that might be helpful in understanding what was going on. It’s OK, I was an Economics major as an undergraduate; I remember enough to be dangerous. He will actually be taking a semester of Economics in the spring of this, his senior year. Cool. But I digress…
After the film was over, he said to me (I am paraphrasing), “You know, I was thinking, I’d like to live somewhere else, not in the U.S. Maybe Switzerland.”
“Yeah. I don’t really like this country.”
“I’ve been learning lots of things, like in mock congress. I don’t like the politics in this country. I don’t like the two-party system.”
“Yes, I know. I understand what you’re saying; I feel the same way sometimes.”
The conversation went on for a awhile, and I tried my best to impart some fatherly wisdom. I said it is good that he is thinking about such issues. I told him I would support his decisions, but that he should not worry about this country’s problems right now; first, he should simply focus on finishing high school and getting a college degree. Even so, he is worried about this. I also counseled him that the grass is always greener on the other side. Blah blah blah. He indicated that he understands all that.
When I think about this, it is kind of a big deal on several levels. First, it impresses me that he is giving serious thought to the big picture of what is happening in the U.S. and the world. Again, that’s good. Second, he is talking, not for the first time, about moving out of the country and potentially renouncing his citizenship. That would be an extraordinary step. I advised him that he has a choice: he can leave, or he can stay and be a part of the solution and try to make things better. Yes, people can be very fickle, and this could be a passing whim. However, I know him pretty well, and he has never been prone to whimsical statements. It is fairly obvious when he is joking, and he did not seem to be joking. Furthermore, I am willing to assume, for the sake of argument, that Erik is not the only one among his peers who feels this way.
So, my point is, what does it say about our society if the teen generation is already on the path to cynicism and negativity about the future of this country? Shouldn’t we be concerned that reasonably intelligent, conscientious individuals such as my son are considering throwing in the towel before they are truly in the ring? Here is my son taking a serious look at what is going on and clearly demonstrating doubt that the battle is worth fighting. He said, “I don’t want to go into politics, so I don’t think I can make a difference.” That is quite an alarming statement, in my opinion, coming from a 17-year-old who is a good student, a boy scout, and generally has a good attitude (except with respect to his younger sister, ha ha).
As I write this, I realize my son is opening himself up to criticism. It would be easy to respond, “Where’s your fighting spirit? Show some backbone! When the going gets tough, the tough get going!” Etc., etc. And that is a valid reaction; I don’t deny it.
That is not how I am approaching this.
My take on it is, he is already realizing that (a) he did not create any of this mess into which his generation is stepping, and (b) there is big, wide world out there, and maybe the USA is no longer the best place to live. He admitted to me that he understands that every country has problems and that ugly politics are common among all nations. Nevertheless, he is considering taking his chances.
The stereotype is that the younger generation is the one with enough energy and idealism — and perhaps just enough naïveté — to confront all obstacles. We expect that, don’t we? We want to say, “Where is that youthful spirit, where is that can-do attitude?” Whereas, admit it, the older we get the more we give in to cynicism and jaded thinking, don’t we? (And I consider myself an optimist!) I think at some point, the older generations get tired, and we want help (even if subconsciously) from the next wave.
Bottom line, apart from why my son may be feeling this way or some sort of morality about whether he has permission to feel this way (he’s my son, and I give him permission), the fact is, the USA does indeed have serious problems, and the generation in power (M-m-m-my G-g-generation) cannot continue to screw over future generations by dumping all of this crap on them and putting them further and further in debt. We have got to do something, and fast, before we completely squash their hopes!
Like my son, I have never wanted to go into politics. Filthy business, full of corruption. And yet… for the first time ever I am realizing I have a moral obligation to get involved, even if that means running for office in some capacity. I have no ideas, no specifics. I’m just sayin’. Somebody has to step up to the plate. One extra benefit of that could be the example it would set for my children: never give up.