The kids who survived the attack at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida have made national headlines since the murderous rampage that took the lives of seventeen of their fellow classmates.
At first, these students were seen as courageous, articulate souls standing up to the beast of bribed government policy.
But once Big Money had a chance to reassess, they spun these kids as “crisis actors” brought in by liberal directors. And when that didn’t stick, they were called foul-mouthed kids who didn’t know their place in the world and who disrespected authority.
And maybe they are. Teen angst isn’t a new concept, after all.
But what these Parkland kids, and kids across America are doing goes beyond standing up to corrupt authority in the wake of epic tragedy. Despite how Big Money wants you to believe that they’re stupid by calling them the Tide-Pod-eating generation, kids today are the most well-informed people their age in the history of the planet.
And they’re not going anywhere—except to the polls.
Unfortunately, what these kids don’t yet understand is that politicians are human, humans are fallible, and when it comes to politics—people will say virtually anything to get elected only to do whatever Big Money wants in the end. Because when someone offers you money in exchange for favors, humans are fallible enough to take it. In general.
Still, this shift in power, thanks to advancements in technology and information sharing, is an amazing thing to observe. You can feel it happening.
And I’m a little jealous.
When I was a kid, we were told to stay in our place. To keep quiet. To defer to our elders on literally everything. We were raised to call our friend’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Last Name. We were taught to get in line, get on board, and be happy climbing the ladder like everyone else. The promise was that when we became older, we’d have some authority, power, and influence. But until then shut up and listen.
And we didn’t have much choice in the matter. At least not in the conservative, deep south where I was raised.
I remember in high school coming home from work frustrated one afternoon after a shift at a retailer. My mother asked what was wrong. I explained that there was an older guy at work who didn’t do much of anything, but was paid more. She explained to me that this was because he had earned it. He was older and had paid his dues. And one day, I too will have that privilege.
So all I had to do to get what I wanted in life was simply survive until I’m old? Are you kidding me?
Yeah, I never bought into this idea. By the time I was a teenager, I was already fed up with the system and at sixteen decided to leave home to seek out greener pastures. I was a punk kid, for sure. But it was more than me wanting to cause chaos for attention. I was beginning to see the system for what it was and wanted nothing to do with it. Only, there was no place to go.
I eventually made it back home, graduated high school, and joined the military. Then I spent the next four years intoxicated to a point where I didn’t care much about anything other than getting paid and getting laid. Which was fine too, I guess.
During my time in the military the fire from my teenage years died down. And when my enlistment ended at 22, I was back in the system as a man who was too young to get anything done, but too old not to play along. After failing to find a job where I could climb the ladder, I spent the next five years wandering the country as a full blown alcoholic–working where I could find it and laying my head where I felt safest for the night. Then, just as I was about to give up on everything at 27, I had an epiphany that saved me from myself.
Since then my life has gotten markedly better. Not perfect, but way better. And yes, I’ve had to succumb to working the system the best I can.
After cramming four years of college into one, I found work in advertising as a copywriter and did well. But deep down the fire from my youth still burned. Now in my late 30s, I realized that the promises from my youth simply weren’t true. My age didn’t guarantee anything. And the older I became, the more I saw the world changing before my eyes.
Young people were taking control of their lives in ways that wasn’t available to me—again, due largely to the advent of the information age. And I was totally ok with it, as it meant that renegades like me could potentially find our way after all–even at an advanced age. So I became an entrepreneur and have been on a roller coaster (like most entrepreneurs) ever since. And yet, my age has had nothing to do with the modicum of success I’ve achieved.
I’m now raising teenage daughters to believe they’re as strong as anyone. Because they are. And the more I see the world changing, the more I believe that the chains that once kept women down are beginning to break away.
And being young is no longer a barrier for entry to taking control of your life.
Sure, part of me is a little jealous–I can’t help wonder how it might have been had I been born later. But a bigger part of me is in love with this revolution, and I’m proud to do my part to release powerful young people into the world. People who have an important say in the direction of not only their own lives, but in how our nation is run. Maybe even the world.
I’m now in my early 50s and somehow still feel that fire from my youth. Ask anyone who knows me and they’ll tell you it’s there. As a result, I feel kindred with young people who are willing to challenge the status quo. Like the children of the 60s, they are uniting in important ways. Leading the way to a fairer, more equitable future for all of us.
An important thing that kids today need to understand is that most politicians currently in power at one time aspired to do good. If they can somehow avoid the same pitfalls of people who currently take bribes to write policy that affects all of us but benefits few, then the future looks bright.
Here’s to youth. And to a healthy dose of recalcitrance.
I hereby nominate this as the theme song of the #NeverAgain Revolution – We Fight, by Dashboard Confessional