Sunday, June 29, 2014

Millennial wisdom

Of course every teenager thinks he/she knows everything. That whole subject of the teenage brain with risk-taking, poor impulse control and judgment isn't lost on any parent of a teen, even if that teen is basically a really good kid.

Even the really good kids have to live a life of a series of cautionary tales after multiple warnings. For instance, this past week, EB lost her phone. And since we all live and die without being in touch every. single. second. of every day, this was a devastation of epic proportions.

So anyway, EB will be getting a used phone in the next few days and has promised not to complain (yeah, right). She didn't qualify for an upgrade and I wasn't going to get her a better phone as a reward for carelessness and foolishness. After all this will be the second replacement. She broke the first one, because, of course, they don't listen when you tell them to put a good case on it and put it away. Needless to say, this one will be her last one for awhile, so she had better use it wisely.

Now when I'm not ranting, raving, and pulling my hair out (why aren't all parents of teenagers bald?) about her utterly irresponsible behavior, I am marveling at the wisdom that comes from this next generation. This year marks a lot of anniversaries in this country, some of them vestiges of a disgraceful past. This is the anniversary of Freedom Summer when the Civil Rights movement really took hold in the south, where voting rights were fought for, where young volunteers were murdered, where the world cast its eyes on how a country treated its fellow citizens based solely on color.

The United Nations of EB's friends will only know about the Civil Rights movement through history books (if it's even taught) or documentaries (if they bother to watch). This is also the 45th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, which is said to have started the fight for gay rights. For many of us of color, this is a lesser known history lesson. I never heard about it in school and a generation ago, gay rights weren't even on our radar.

But they are on everyone's radar now. Same-sex marriage, the right to openly serve in the military, the rights of federal benefits, the end of discrimination in employment and housing because of sexual orientation or gender identity is the Civil Rights movement of Earbaby's generation.

And we've talked about it. A recent conversation started when we were listening to Ricky Martin's Living la Vida Loca. She knew the song and I mentioned that when it came out people didn't know he was gay. He hadn't come out yet. She was shocked. Not that he was gay, but that coming out was a big deal. As I've said before, EB's school has a Gay/Straight Alliance, she has friends and classmates who are gay or bisexual, and her attitude has been "I don't understand what the big deal is." Now I'm quite liberal on this subject, and I have always preached real acceptance of others. Not tolerance, acceptance.

She's growing up in a time of firsts. The first African-American president. We live in the first state to embrace marriage equality. There are first openly gay professional athletes, who are on the active roster and not feeling the pressure to wait to come out after their playing days are over. Many people fear that normalizing sexual orientation will make homosexuals seem, well, normal. Oh horrors! If we actually treat everyone the way we would want to be treated (read that in a book somewhere didn't I?), well, maybe there would be fewer bullies, suicides, suffering, hatred, and eventually war.

When I told EB that homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder until the 1970s, she was aghast. She believes anyone who thinks that is the disordered one. She, in her own wisdom, "just doesn't understand what the big deal is." The idea of treating someone as less than because of who they love is as foreign and ludicrous a concept as the idea of making someone drink from a different water fountain or ride on the back of a bus because of the color of their skin.

The Millennials don't have it all right. They still rely too much on social media, don't understand the concept of privacy, text too much, read too little, and aren't as aware of what's going on in the world outside their own small sphere. But they do have a better sense of fairness and justice. They understand that diversity helps everyone in the long run. They know if two people love each other and are old enough and wise enough to get married, it's not anyone else's business and the imaginary moral fiber of our country won't be in tatters.

They get that discrimination is disordered thinking. There was something in a book somewhere, the same one about loving your neighbor as yourself, that said something about a little child shall lead them.

Sometimes wisdom really does come out of the mouths of babes.

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