Thursday, October 11, 2007

Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

As much as I usually like Thomas Friedman, he's way off track on this one.
Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy didn’t change the world by asking people to join their Facebook crusades or to download their platforms. Activism can only be uploaded, the old-fashioned way — by young voters speaking truth to power, face to face, in big numbers, on campuses or the Washington Mall. Virtual politics is just that — virtual.

And why should they be rallying?
But Generation Q may be too quiet, too online, for its own good, and for the country’s own good. When I think of the huge budget deficit, Social Security deficit and ecological deficit that our generation is leaving this generation, if they are not spitting mad, well, then they’re just not paying attention. And we’ll just keep piling it on them.

The funny thing about it is that all of those were merrily progressing in their own way while Friedman and his ilk were tramping around on public property and leaving broken signs on DC streets, turf prints on the Mall, and half-smoked joints in the Reflecting Pool in protest against them. Furthermore, ironically, the generation that will have the most impact on all of those is Friedman's -- since they're the ones, given their numbers, who will be the deciding factor in whether or not we can reduce Social Security benefits, cut Medicare, and rein in costs created by the numerous other promises they made themselves while in power.

Perhaps what Friedman is forgetting is that every generation learns from the mistakes of the one before it -- and in Generation Q's case, what they've learned is that volume is no substitute for action. You work up the same sweat screaming and marching as you do building a house or teaching underprivileged kids, but the end result -- sore legs, throats, and lungs versus a family's home or smarter children -- is far better for the latter than it is the former.

Too often I see this reflected in the gay community -- people complaining that "the young folks" don't know what they had to go through, how we should be camping on sidewalks, picketing offices, getting thrown out of hearing rooms, peeing in holy water fonts, and how the fact that we don't indicates that we're apathetic and don't care.

I would posit that we're just too busy helping people elsewhere.

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