I worry about my generation. Outside of all the chaos and destruction in the world, I worry about my generation's sense of entitlement and lack of desire to learn from, or about, its history. I was driving in my car yesterday, having recently downloaded Kanye West's new song featuring Sir Paul McCartney; I immediately remember seeing stories online about the amount of young people who either had no idea who McCartney was, or even better, thought that Kanye was giving some music hopeful a chance to "make it big."
Growing up, I would have gotten a smack to the back of my head if I dared to be unaware of Paul McCartney or his involvement in the most famous band of all time! I was lucky though; my father stressed the importance of where music styles came from, who influenced the music world, and what was genuinely good music, or not. My father introduced me to Led Zeppelin (Classic Rock), Marvin Gaye (Motown), and Frank Sinatra (the Crooners), while I introduced myself to *NSYNC, Britney Spears, and the Backstreet Boys (God bless the late '90s pop era).
Music is just a small part of the problem, though; nobody is paying attention to the history of our country either. I'm a high school teacher; therefore I have an accurate pulse of "what's coming" in the next generation. The other day, one of my students mentioned having to go see the new movie, Selma, with his mother this coming weekend. He didn't seem happy or excited; whether that was due to the content or the fact that his mother was going with him remains to be seen. Regardless, my students had no clear understanding of the actual event; they only knew that it was about the Civil Rights era.
Though I'm a math teacher, I'm a complete history buff; I love learning about the past, no matter the country or time period. I find myself wondering what it would be like to have been a part of history, but I also know that we must learn from it. Unfortunately, I do not see this desire amongst my generation and the generation below me; I hesitate to generalize, but my excitement seems to always fall on deaf ears when I talk about historical events with the majority of my peers.
I identify as a gay man; therefore my thirst for historical knowledge has also been quenched from learning about events like the Stonewall riots; people like Harvey Milk and Edith Windsor; and current events, such as the overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act. I am also a member of Dignity/Washington, a chapter of a national organization, DignityUSA, which provides Catholic mass for the LGBTQ community, their family and friends. I mention my membership because the large majority of our community is over 40. I have been able to learn from those who struggled with their sexuality before me; I have heard their stories and what the world was like when they were coming out of the closet. It has given me a new respect for the more mature LGBTQ community and the ease with which I was able to come out a few years ago.
I fear that my generation has grown to feel too entitled; because historical events did not involve us, we do not see the importance of learning about them and from them. Though we have our own struggles with finding work and paying off massive student loans, we do not take the time to stop and think of those who were not ever able to go to school because of their gender or their race. We idolize musicians who are simply sampling and borrowing from exponentially more influential people from the past. In terms of the LGBTQ community, we see the strides made in the last couple of years and forget the people who came before us, who could not walk down the street holding hands with their lover, let alone marry them!
I have faith in my generation's ability to lead and prosper. Though our struggles today are much more different, and technologically advanced, than the ones that came before us, we are still overcoming our own obstacles. My only fear is that we have become ignorant to the past; therefore I worry that we will not be prepared for the future.