Respect my generation…

Let me start off by saying that I don’t have a problem with authority figures. I don’t buck authority whenever I get the chance. There have been times when I admitted to not being fond of the police, but I still have a great deal of respect for any non-corrupt man or woman that protects and serves with pride and dignity. I’ve had my fair share of battles with teachers and coaches, but I don’t feel that I’ve ever crossed a line. Yes, I’ve had plenty of arguments with Karen, but I always acknowledged how much she meant/means to me.

I’m fully aware that there are members of my generation that can have their attitudes summarized with one word: unruly. However, that is not the prerogative of all of us. We are not all hell-bent on making the lives of those around us harder. Regardless of what people of previous generations may think, most of us do not think that we are “all-knowing”, and don’t feel entitled to everything, while wanting to do nothing in the process. It’s absurd to think that we set out to screw up every opportunity given to us. Most of us are not infatuated with gangster rap, not content with moderate success, and we understand that it’s up to us, and nobody else, to make our future more than the coming hours, days, weeks, months, and years.

Still, we are labeled as rebellious, reckless, uneducated, thugs, promiscuous, carefree, brash, et cetera, et cetera. Talk to enough people that are 40 and older, and eventually you’ll hear “When I was younger…”, “These young people nowadays…”, or “I swear this generation…”. We are not held in high regards in those statements, most often. This unnerves me to no end, and is truly disheartening. It’s sad because these are people that should aim to mentor us, guide us down a better path, and be there for us in whatever way they can, rather than cut us down at every turn.

One example of this can be found in sports. You will often hear older and retired players make disparaging remarks about the current generation of players. They opine that current young players are only in it for the money, don’t respect the game or their predecessors, don’t work at their craft, and totally disregard their fans. Obviously, this is true when it comes to a few athletes, who have been criticized for their behavior recently.

We’ve seen the Allen Iverson press conference in which he openly mocked anyone who feels that he should attend practice everyday. We’ve heard Latrell Sprewell say that he would not play for the Minnesota Timberwolves because he didn’t like their contract offer of $30 million over 3 years. Due to make almost $15 million for the upcoming season, he backed up his stance with the reasoning, “I got my family to feed.” Anquan Boldin, now a wide receiver on the Baltimore Ravens, demanded a trade…because he wanted a contract extension that his previous team, the Arizona Cardinals, wasn’t ready to give him. Chris Andersen, a power forward for the Denver Nuggets, was suspended by the NBA for two years for violating its substance abuse policy. Other athletes in other sports(especially baseball)have been suspended for the same offense. We’ve seen Zinedine Zidane(an Algerian playing for the French national team)headbutt Marco Materazzi(Italian)during a soccer match, after Materazzi allegedly called him a terrorist. Those that watch hockey either saw or heard of Marty McSorley hitting Donald Brashear over the head with his stick, or Todd Bertuzzi blindsiding Steve Moore, causing him serious injuries. Although these are individual cases, it seems as if older, former players and even older sports fans attribute this behavior to the fact that this is a part of our generation’s way of living.

It’s very easy to say that you didn’t play the game for money when there wasn’t much to be made. It’s easy to put down an athlete that demands a trade when trades were unheard of decades ago. The same goes for free agency, signing bonuses, and endorsement deals. Include violence, to an extent. Conveniently, many of these older people leave out the fact that Ty Cobb was a racist, Wilt Chamberlain and Babe Ruth were womanizers, the 1919 White Sox threw the World Series for money, Pete Rose gambled, committing baseball’s cardinal sin, Mickey Mantle was a drunk during his playing days, and Jim Brown and Ted Williams weren’t the nicest people around.

One claim that I have huge problem with is the notion that we’re spoiled. I’ve never understood how older adults could complain about how today’s youth is spoiled when they’re the ones that made us this way. I vividly remember seeing many of my elementary, junior high, and high school classmates wearing the latest pair of Jordans, $250 Coogi sweaters, girls with $300 Coach bags, and guys with $600 leather jackets. Of course, we asked for them, but if we heard “no”, I’m sure that it wouldn’t have killed us. Say what you want, but if somebody agrees to buy you something that you want(especially when you’re in high school, and think popularity is everything), most times, you’ll accept it.

In addition, most of these “marketing execs” aren’t 20-25 years old. The people that spend hour after hour trying to figure out how to sell their product at inflated prices sure don’t have a moral compass, yet we’re the ones that are ridiculed and insulted because we happen to be the chief consumers. I understand that superficiality and materalism seem to run rampant now, but the only thing we’ve been spoiled by are a plethora of ways to express ourselves. Don’t be upset with us because we’re not living in the monotonous 60s and 70s.

As for implications that my generation doesn’t value ourselves or society, I’m afraid I have to call bullshit. Really? Are you serious? Granted, we didn’t have to deal with Jim Crow, or the civil rights issues of the 60s and 70s. Yes, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan are what many people my age will tell our grandchildren about when we’re of that age, but they pale in comparison to World War I and II, and the Vietnam War. Men aren’t losing their lives in coal mines, and women have every opportunity to be successful, unlike the obstacles that men and women faced in the US many years ago. For the most part, we have it slightly easier than our parents and grandparents did.

Yet, at the same time, I feel that it’s harder than ever to simply survive. In what is supposed to be the greatest nation on Earth, we are struggling to get jobs, pay for college, and clear debt. Gangs populate neighborhoods, we’re losing friends everyday, and(due to our own irresponsibility, for the most part), are bringing children into this world when we’re still, honestly, children ourselves. Consider the political climate of this country, and you have a recipe for a rough future.

If we stand up for something, we’re seen as rebels and disrespectful. I know more than a few 40-, 50- something people that have gushed about “free love”. How easy it is to be a whore when you don’t have to worry about the ramifications of your actions. We don’t enjoy the same luxury. With the STDs present, we can’t afford to give ourselves to anyone that’s available. Penicillin doesn’t cure any serious ailment besides strep throat, to my knowledge. Neither can we afford to melt our minds with hardcore drugs. It is a “kill or be killed” world now, from sports to corporate settings, and we simply can’t waste years of our lives being intoxicated, inebriated, or incapacitated. I know that this doesn’t apply to every person twice my age, but again, it’s amazing how these things can be glorified, depending on who you speak to. How do you think a 2010 Woodstock would be perceived?

Yes, there are members of my generation that cause me to shake my head in bewilderment. I find myself dumbfounded at what some of my peers stand for. Gucci Mane, Tyler Perry, gang warfare, illiteracy, dishonesty, and irresponsibility are just a few of the things that have me feeling like we don’t understand as a generation that we’re capable of so much more than perpetuating negative stereotypes. That doesn’t give anyone the right to make a blanket statement about my generation, though. It seriously pains me to hear older people constantly make generalizations about my generation from their self-righteous thrones. After all, they were our age once, and their beliefs and actions were called into question by their parents and grandparents. So I’m a little confused by all of the shock about our decision to live life the way we choose to. And for some reason, some don’t believe me when I say the generation gap is steadily widening…

P.S. I miss Karen!!!

P.P.S. If you were offended by this post, you might want to reevaluate your way of thinking…


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