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.