Snowflake Nation

by Bob Shannon

I enjoyed your recent post about identity politics in Richmond’s LGBTQ community. The hysterical and unhinged behavior we’re witnessing, I would argue, is a symptom of a much larger social malady, namely Americans’ inability to deal with everyday stress.

We are bombarded with self-promoting messages from the mental health industry, the pharmaceutical industry, and public safety officials who say we need “help” in dealing with stress that by any historical measure would be considered laughably slight. Modern life has made us soft. How many of today’s Americans could have survived when daily struggles of finding food, water and housing consumed peoples’ existence? Today’s sheltered youth are not learning to cope with disappointment and failure.

In 1994, a classmate of my oldest son committed suicide after his girlfriend had broken up with him. This high school kid was popular, good looking, the starting QB on the football team, and a standout baseball and basketball player. At first I wondered what kind of pressure could have driven the young man to such an act. Then I thought about students in my era who had surmounted equally challenging circumstances. During high school a half dozen girls broke my heart… but I simply moved onto the next one. It never entered my head to take my life.

What has changed over the intervening years? Why did a young man with such promise take such drastic action over a setback that young people have had contended with since the beginning of time?

A week or so after the young man’s death, I visited the high school on another matter. As I drove through the parking lot, I was struck by the number of new cars — many of them sports cars more expensive than the vehicles I drove myself — the students were driving. I wondered: Had we raised a generation for whom things came too easily?

An increasing number of high school and college kids have their own credit cards. Their parents give them cars. Some never hold jobs in high school. We have made their lives too easy. No wonder many of these “snowflakes” melt under the slightest challenge. No wonder that the minor grievances you cited in your article morph into the exaggerated behavior.

I laugh when I think of an e-mail I once received that had a picture of an 18-year old-from 1944 and an 18-year-old from 2016.  The 1944 photo showed a G.I. with camo paint on his sweaty, dirty face and a rifle slung across his back. The 2016 photo showed a punk with green/pink/purple hair, 30 ear rings and metal strewn across his face. Quite a contrast.

Have we bred the last two generations to be whiners? I believe so. But the problem is not confined to young people alone. The sense of entitlement has spread across American society at large.

Saul Alinsky said that the “white middle class must be co-opted ” in order to collapse the system. Evidence of such co-opting can be found in white, middle-class seniors who insist Medicare is something they earned. I have given seniors the cold, hard facts: No one, even counting employer contributions, has paid enough into the system to offset the very large outlays that are likely to incur in the final two years of life. Few are open to such a message.

All Americans have a sense of entitlement these days. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get citizens — or in the case of minority transgenders carping about their treatment by others in the LGBTQ community — to toughen up and take responsibility for their behavior.

Thank you for having the wisdom, courage and insight to bring these unpleasant truths to the public attention.

Bob Shannon lives in King William County.

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7 responses to “Snowflake Nation

  1. Thank you Bob for your very fine post.

    You paint a vivid picture of contrasts. For example:

    “I laugh when I think of an e-mail I once received that had a picture of an 18-year old-from 1944 and an 18-year-old from 2016. The 1944 photo showed a G.I. with camo paint on his sweaty, dirty face and a rifle slung across his back. The 2016 photo showed a punk with green/pink/purple hair, 30 ear rings and metal strewn across his face. Quite a contrast.”

    This contrast can by brought to life when you read the letters home of a young Marine who had fought on Saipan, Tinian, and Iwo Jima by his 19th birthday. Here are his feelings before he joined the Marines:

    JERRY BROOKS: THE BUILDING OF A WORLD WAR TWO UNITED STATES MARINE:

    Jerry Brooks never forgot what the Japanese did to the Chinese people during the 1930s. It started when he was 12 years old, a newly minted Boy Scout, sitting in the dark before the Saturday afternoon movie matinees in his hometown of Wichita, Kansas, watching newsreels showing Japan’s 1938 Rape of Nanking, China. Struck by how proud those solders appeared to be and how they never got punished for their atrocities, young Jerry concluded that they filmed their evil to ‘show the world how powerful Japan’s military was’. This Jerry never forgot. He was 15 when the Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. He never forgot that either: how the American ships exploded and sunk, and sailors died in flames on oily water strafed by Japanese planes. After Pearl Harbor, the news of war came into Wichita every day over the radio. The big sea battles all over. Dolittle’s raid over Tokyo. The Marines battling to hold Guadalcanal. Every day young men left Wichita to join the fight, leaving Jerry behind. He couldn’t join the Marines until he turned 17, finished the 11th grade, and got his dad’s permission.

    Finally, in June 1943, the Marine recruiter sent Jerry’s enlistment papers off, but Jerry still had to wait for the Marines to answer back, telling him where to go and what he had to do. He later called this last wait “the longest summer of my life.” Until he got his Marine letter, his dad could change his mind and send him back to high school until he turned 18 in 1944.

    So everyday Jerry worried, watching his dad listen to the radio tell how hard it was for Marines battling up the Solomon’s against the Japanese. In early August Jerry’s best pal Richard left. Now Jerry worried that he’d miss the whole war. Two days latter his letter arrived. Report August 14, 1943 for induction in Kansas city, Kansas, the Marine letter instructed.

    Young Jerry Brooks couldn’t leave home fast enough, to go join the US Marines.

    JERRY’S INDUCTION INTO MARINE CORPS IN KANSAS CITY, KANSAS.

    ON August 15, 1943 JERRY BROOKS posted his 1st letter home.

    “Dear Mom –

    Kansas City sure has a swell park, zoo, and swimming pool, and there are a batch of hills (mountains) and also whiskey. Yesterday, the Navy examined five of us 17 year olds for the Marines, a division of the Navy. I passed. So did four other guys. Then, last night in Kansas City, I and those four other 17 year olds stayed at a big hotel. Today, right now, I am in charge of all the other four going into the Marines. We’re all at Fort Leavenworth now. That’s outside Kansas City. We’re getting red tape taken care of. Us boys will enlist until the war’s over plus 6 months, not for 4 years like everyone else. Twenty three older guys left here today for Navy and Marine training. We go back in Kansas City to get sworn in tomorrow. I am running out of paper (I borrowed it) now so I’ll quit and I’ll be home soon. Jerry”

    Once sworn into the Marine Corps, Jerry returned home to Wichita briefly then he boarded a train on August 27th and left Kansas for the first time ever. He was headed west for Marine Boot Camp in San Diego, California when he wrote home:

    “At Wichita there were no empty seats aboard the train at all. People were standing up all over the train and sitting on the floor or wherever else they could. A day or so later we stopped at Albuquerque and I got an empty seat. I stayed awake all night both first nights, gazing out the window. And Mom, you should see the amazing majestic splendor of the magnificent mountains, gigantic rocks, beautiful red river valleys and gorges, the towering cliffs, rolling plains and great ranches. The sun shines endlessly down upon the vast desert with its cactus trees, glowing rocks and sand hills. As I marveled at all this splendor and beauty I thanked God that I live in America.”

    ON August 29 JERRY, coming down out of the mountains into LOS ANGELES, saw an ocean for the first time in his life. And, once in Los Angeles, he changed trains for his trip down the Pacific Coast to SAN DIEGO:

    “Mom, if you think all that countryside was wonderful, you should see the colossal ocean. It is so large and beautiful that I could not even begin to describe it to you, so will not try. Just as soon as I got in Los Angles, why I was lucky enough to catch a train for San Diego. No one met me at the station either. And you should see the California coast. Out here on the coast, they know that there is a war going on. Everything here is camouflaged. It is completely camouflaged. And you should see the ships. There are cruisers, battleships, destroyers and they are large – Whew. Enormous bombers take off every 20 minutes, and also seaplanes (and) army transports, TWAs and army trainers. And now, here I am in San Diego, five hours late at Union Station. I am going to eat all I can hold, and then I’ll take a bus to the training camp. I had a swell trip. Don’t worry about me … I was never happier or felt better in all my life.”

    More than 40 of Jerry’s fully illustrated letters sent home from Marine Corps Depot San Diego Boot Camp can be found at:

    http://2ndarmoredamphibianbattalion.com/bootcamp/

    Here is an extract from his last letter home, more than 200 letters later. This was written to his father on September 1st, 1945, the day he learned the war was over, and he would not be invading the home islands of Japan. He was 19 years old.

    “Dear Dad –

    I haven’t written any special letter to you for quite a while. So now I figure its about time as I do have a few things to discuss with you.

    First – how about you? I mean, what are your chances of holding down your job when this depression hits? Think you can pull through again or not? At any rate, I believe we should be salting away as much dough as we can, to be able to withstand the coming storm. I believe that if we pull together on this thing, we shouldn’t have to go through the ordeal of mortgaging our home again. And, as long as I go to school in Wichita, a good bit of that fifty bucks per month I get from the US Government GI Bill can go in our kitty – Okay? So much for our problem of financial security – what concerns you also concerns me and in reverse order likewise, too – right Dad?

    Second – my education. I entertain every ambition to become a lawyer and aim to do my dead level best to succeed. I’d like to wind up my schooling at Northwestern up at Chicago. A year or so at U.V. then several at K.U., and the remainder at Chicago. This of course is to develop into a reality only if ideal conditions, financially and otherwise, are present. You and I know that a legal education requires several years at school. We also know that I shall have to help myself through financially even when receiving assistance from the GI Bill, and certainly more so after that assistance is terminated. We know that many men have worked their whole way through and so I can certainly do my best in this line also, as I’m not one bit better than the next man. I seriously figure on being about 27 or 28 or perhaps 29 before I graduate even, much less get settled in my profession to be … Dad, due to this fact … I aim to get and figure upon getting hitched up before reaching this age. I do hope you will see my side of the issue. Of course, there are extremely good reasons and arguments against it … I realize this, but figure if a man can find the gal he really wants for life before his education is complete, he may as well go ahead and tie up and finish his education as a “hooked” character.” You and I know very well that we are only young once. I honestly believe that by the time a man is 23 or 24, why he is old enough to exercise common sense and yet not too old to grasp and hang onto his youth for a while. I figure I’ll be a junior in college at this time of life with one more year to complete at K.U. or W.V. (whatever the circumstances have warranted at that time). After that I’ll go to Northwestern for my final degree. So you see, Dad, I’ll be about half-way down the road concerning schooling, but marriage shouldn’t ruin me. Rather it may even help me, if I can get a gal a bit like what you got. Also, I want to be a lawyer right there in Wichita if I possibly can. Some day I want to have my own home and every thing right in Wichita. I’ve been around, not nearly as much as you were in the last war, but I’ve seen quite a few places Dad and none appeal to me as much as home does, believe me. … I’d love to spend the greater part of my life in Wichita near you too. Don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have you to consult when I get all fouled up. I’d need you always and you know it.

    Third – problems arising upon my immediate return to civilian life. We both want a car of course. But, as you say, it will be wise to be prudent on this matter. We have done without a car for many years and we can continue that so as to get one that is really worthwhile – second hand cars – phooey … If a car is worth buying it is worth buying one that we know is as good inside as it appear on the outside – right, Dad? We can’t use a big one. A small one will suit us better each and every way from all angles. I simply can’t see becoming involved in bad debt before of necessities even, much less luxuries. I believe you agree on that score, don’t you Pop! Now about the garage – we two can build it ourselves. This old stuff of hiring some other Joe Blow is bunk when we can do it ourselves. Come Spring we ought to build it … Another thing dad – how about us planting a tree in the back yard that will provide shade in later years. I really think we need at least one tree in our backyard, don’t you? …

    Not getting off the subject Dad, but today is the first day of world peace and to hear the folks all over the world by radio celebrating and rejoicing it makes me cry. It seems almost to good to be true … when they play the national anthem and the various service songs, it makes a guy feel like a million dollars. On the other hand, when I think of the guys that I actually saw fall never to rise again, I wish so much that there was some way we could show our appreciation. I’ve been with kids who were my own age, 18, and I’ve seen some of those kids die horrible deaths, but they died like real men. It seems that the average fellow worries more about how his folks will take it, rather than actually dying. I guess there is only a certain point that pain can go and no further, beyond this point it becomes all numbness. It seems that just at the end that the pain goes away and things begin to fade away, and, in each instance, that I’ve ever known, the dying man always passes away with murmurs of or about his savior on his lips. Most of these men are pretty rough and tough. But they’re about as meek as a lamb when dying. I guess the assurance of eternal life is really what makes death so much easier than one would believe. You know Dad, you may think I’m lying, but I was so positive of getting knocked off before dawn once that I could clearly envision Mom getting the government notice and promptly fading away. I could remember little Jimmie Teten too and I figured that in a matter of hours I would see him and Uncle Will. I wasn’t afraid. I don’t know why but I wasn’t. Yet I was so positive of death. Lou’s rifle would not work. My bolt was fouled up because of all the sand in it. When shells half smother you up in the sand, why your weapon is only usable as a ball bat. But more than once one man has secured a nip or two that way. I had a batch of U.S hand grenades and a whole batch of Nip grenades that I got off a dead Nip officer … plus I had two combat knifes and one bayonet, a Nip bayonet that was mighty sharp. So you see I still had a lot of potential power, but even then a guy can’t get them all when they come like flies. Several attacks came but never got us. But if they had thrown all their strength in one rush, why old J. B. wouldn’t be writing this today, Dad. I could never be a doctor. It hurts me clear down to the bottom of my shoes to a see a guy in deep agony. One night it almost drove me mute with a guy was so badly hit that it was only a matter of minutes before he died. He kept screaming for a corpsman, and they were all dead themselves, the cry of a dying man cam be horrible … I hope we never have to go to war again, but I’m not too optimistic about those type of miracles. How about you Dad? …

    Now where was I – oh yeah – Sam just brought my mail – one from you two, one from Jo Ann, and one from Lois Geis … ”

    The young Marine who wrote that letter was 19 years old, the son of a barber, a young man with an 11th grade education.

  2. The young Marine who wrote that letter was 19 years old, the son of a barber, a young man with an 11th grade education.

    …coming from a kid who had not yet finished high school himself.

    A high school diploma meant a lot more back then than it does now.

  3. Well said Bob.
    Besides the snowflake effect on our youth, its trickling down to all age and socioeconomic levels. My current pet peeves are the new nanny-state cross-walk laws and TV news weather forecasts.

    As a freshman hay seed at VCU in 1978 one of the first skills you had to learn damn fast was dealing with city traffic. Crossing multiple busy streets just to get to class was an essential life skill and the herd was thinned pretty fast.
    Now everyone blindly walks out into cross walks staring down at their phones completely oblivious to oncoming traffic. Electric vehicles are particularly dangerous especially in parking lots. What used to be an fairly easy ritual of hanging at the curb, timing the traffic flow for a sprint or steady walk across now is a formal occasion missing only the drum roll. We’ve regressed back to the school crossing guard (minus the guard).

    Evening news weather forecasts are almost as bad, dictating our every hour of the day. What to wear to the bus stop, what to wear at lunch, what to wear on the way home. Its pathetic.

  4. Trouble is, if we label all of this as snowflake stuff, it comes across as criticism that only galvanizes the sense of victimhood. If there is one cultural shift that I think everyone, right and left, can agree has occurred, it is the shift away from individual responsibility to the preference for a collective responsibility. True conservatives should bemoan it, Lefties applaud it. What I’ve found most striking through the painful Kavanaugh hearings is that the voices of women who are angry about their own experience with sexual harassment or some degree of assault are rising in a collective, a movement. They are using the micro experience of 2 people to amplify a macro frustration.

    I’ve never thought that our kids are spoiled by being given fine things, they are spoiled when reality is removed from their lives. When a kid leaves his homework home and for the 5th time a parent runs it to school, that child is being spoiled. When we tell our kids that everything they is exceptional, that they can be anything they want, when we ever let them experience the discomfort of failure, we spoil them. It’s OK to tell a child that maybe soccer isn’t their thing, how about we find another activity? Parental misdirection is well-intended love but does disservice.

    What did the Greatest Generation get from their parents?

  5. Bob:

    Welcome to the Rebellion. I appreciate that you took the time to write the article published today. I like what you wrote with one significant exception…using the young quarterback’s suicide to make a point about the softness of today’s youth. The young man who took his own life didn’t do so because society was soft or because he was a snowflake. He killed himself because he was mentally ill. Breaking up with his girlfriend may have been what pushed him over the edge but he had far deeper problems than a failed romance.

    In an otherwise excellent column I feel that I have to call out the use of a young man’s suicide as an example of societal softness. How would you feel if the young man’s parents read your column and recognized your description as that of their son?

    Keep up the good work but please beware of mixing apples and oranges. Snowflakery and suicide don’t belong under the same roof, in my opinion.

    • I do agree with my friend Don, that B0b’s reference to the young man in 1994 could have better been more narrowly drawn, but I disagree with much of the rest of Don’s comment.

      Yes, it is true the traditional mental illnesses such as Bipolar disorder, clinical depression, and Schizophrenia play important rolls in suicides today like those illnesses have in the past. Nevertheless, the explosive increase in US suicides today, up some 26% over past 20 years, and over 50% in some locales, is the result of far larger issues today in our society, including its softness and its permissiveness, and the irrational, mindless and soulless demands it imposes on our population, that create an inability to cope across large swaths of our citizens.

      Take my comments earlier on this blog regarding our youth:

      “William Deresiewicz’s 2014 book, “Excellent Sheep, the Mis-education of the American Elite,” tells of “toxic levels of fear, anxiety, and depression, of emptiness and aimlessness and isolation” experienced by large and growing numbers of undergraduates at elite schools. He describes how undergraduates are too often the left overs from “stressed out, over-pressured high school student(s)” that elite institutions now demand.

      The American Psychological Association summarized a recent survey under the headline The Crisis on Campus: “Nearly half of college students reported feelings of hopelessness while almost a third spoke of feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function during the past twelve months.”

      Excellent Sheep also reports that college counseling services are being overwhelmed. Nearly of half of students seeking help now suffer from “severe psychological problems,” triple the number two decades ago. A Stanford Provost who convened a task force on student mental health in 2006 wrote: “Increasingly we are seeing students struggling with mental health concerns ranging from depression, anxiety, eating disorders, self-mutilation behaviors, schizophrenia and suicidal behaviors.” A college president wrote: “We appear to have an epidemic of depression among young people.”

      Many pathologies arise in high school among students striving to meet the admission requirements of elite colleges. Many are overwhelmed when they get there. Many never recover. Said one student: “For many students, rising to the top means being consumed by the system.”

      Why? Why is the mental, emotional, and physical health of so many of America’s elite students in apparent collapse? Why is this phenomenon so under-reported?

      Professors and instructors tasked to mentor these undergraduates in college often suffer the same maladies as their students. Evidence mounts that today’s higher education system inflicts emotional, professional and financial harm, and related injustices, upon the tenured and non-tenured faculty teaching at America’s most prestigious institutions. Here, too, we find toxic levels of fear, anxiety, depression, emptiness, aimlessness and isolation, particularly among those most vulnerable: the graduate and post graduate instructors, non-tenured track professors, and younger professors seeking tenure.

      When those who do the bulk of teaching and mentoring of undergraduate students experience undue stress, dysfunction, obsessive-compulsive behavior, hysteria, and depression, something is terribly wrong.” End Quote
      See my February 17, 2017 post on the blog, titled How Higher Ed Is Failing Faculty and Students.

      HOWEVER, today’s rot in our society now infects an ever larger portion of America’s citizens, whether they be the ruling classes or middle aged white males in rural towns and countrysides, and increasingly so in women throughout our nation. And we seem to be clueless in understanding what it is going on, causing this plague of hysteria that has exploded all around us.

      Of course, the great Russian Solzhenitsyn explained all this to Harvard in his speech there at Harvard in 1978. Yet Harvard remains clueless still. As does UVA, and all our other major universities, who today collectively specialize in breeding, festering, and spreading this plague that does us so much harm.

      For example, see another earlier post of mine on this subject:

      “When commenting generally on this subject beneath Jim Bacon’s recent posted article “How Long Must Parents Wait,” I spoke at length on the writings of Solzhenitsyn’s relevance to this subject. In those comments I posted this extract from his Harvard speech:

      Excerpts from Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 speech at Harvard:

      “To an outside observer the most striking feature is that the West has lost its courage, both as a whole and separately, in each country, each government, each political party, and (each institution but) … the decline is particularly noticeable among the ruling groups and the intellectual elites, causing an impression of a loss of courage by the entire society … there are many courageous individuals but they have no determining influence on public life.

      Political and intellectual bureaucrats (in America) show depression, passivity, and perplexity in their actions and in their statements, and even more so in their theoretical reflections to explain how realistic, reasonable, as well as intellectually and even morally warranted it is, to base state policies on weakness and cowardice.

      And the decline in courage is ironically emphasized by occasional explosions of anger and inflexibility on the part of those same (cowardly) bureaucrats when dealing with (others who are weak), or with currents that cannot offer any resistance. But they get tongue tied and paralyzed when they deal with (others) who are powerful and threatening forces, with aggressors and international terrorists. (Here) one should point out the from ancient times decline in courage is () the beginning of the end.

      (While) the majority of the people have been granted well being (beyond) their fathers and grandfathers (wildest) dreams … (there is) the constant desire to have still more things and a still better life, a struggle that imprints many western faces with worry and even depression … (and leaves) an active and intense competition that permeates thought without opening space for free spiritual development.

      American statesmen who want to achieve something highly important and constructive has to move with caution and timidly as there are thousands of hasty and irresponsible critics around him … from the beginning laying dozens of traps. So mediocrity triumphs.

      (Meanwhile) destructive and irresponsible freedom (enjoys) boundless space. Society has little defense against the abyss of human decadence, for example the misuse of violence against young people, and (entertainments) full of pornography, crime, and horror. Life so organized () cannot defend itself against the corrosion of evil. So evil has come about gradually (as if) born from a humanistic and benevolent concept that there is no inherent evil in human nature, as if the world belongs to mankind and all defects of life are caused by wrong social systems, which must be corrected.

      (In the American press) there is no moral responsibility for deformation or disproportion (nor is there any responsibility) to readers or history. There are few examples of any obligation to correct mistakes … it would damage sales. (And) because instant and credible information has to be given, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill the voids, and none of them will ever be rectified; they will stay in the readers’ memory.

      (So) the press can stimulate public opinion and miseducate it. (In America) the slogan is that everyone is entitled to know everything. But this is a false slogan, the characteristic of a false era (as the people should have) the right not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, and vain talk. (Instead) hastiness and superficiality are the psychic disease of the 20th century, (particularly in the (media), and surprisingly given the alleged freedom, the western press mostly gives emphasis to their own opinions (and prevalent group think).

      The west does not admit the intrinsic evil or man nor does it see any higher task that getting happiness on earth (so) worships man and his material needs, (at expense of spiritual needs) as if man has no superior sense, … (thus) providing access for evil (as) mere freedom does not in the least solve all problems of human life and it even hides a number of new ones. So man’s sense of responsibility to God and society grew dimmer and dimmer. And as humanism in its development became more and more materialistic, it made itself increasingly accessible to speculation and manipulation, first by socialism then communism.”

      Thank you again Bob Shannon for your insights.

  6. I’m kind of with DJ here. We have 40+ thousand suicides and another 40+ thousand deaths from opioids and to classify these folks as “snowflakes” seems pretty brutal… people who decide to die have a lot more going on inside than an inability to deal with “stress”.

    It’s a very lonely world out there for way too many people… and when the pain gets too much – they take the only action they know to relieve it…

    people who commit suicide have descended to the depths of hell and do not know how to escape.

    but I do appreciate Bob’s view and encourage him to continue to contribute.

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