Over the years I’ve outgrown lots of things. I’ve outgrown loud music in the car. I’ve outgrown staying up late. I’ve outgrown more belts than I care to think about. And, lately, I’ve started to outgrow politics.
I know, for a guy who has spent most of his entire life studying politics, working in politics, writing about politics and writing checks to campaigns, outgrowing the passion of a lifetime is a drastic change in focus. But what I see now on the political landscape is a changing of the guard. A new generation of people have come along and they want to control their own destiny. I get it. There were teenagers at my house. They always did think they knew everything. Now they want a shot at running the country. I say, let ‘em have it.
I’m at the age where succeeding in my struggle to see that the world moves in a direction that my life experience tells me is the better course will affect me for far fewer years than it will affect them. I’m at the age where I know that they will see changes come very slowly and meet frustrations on a daily basis. I’m at the age where I know that the world in which they will have to live should be theirs to design. And while I am at an age where I have a firsthand memory of an America they probably don’t even read about in school, I’m also aware that they don’t think THAT America is relevant anymore.
They view America in the mid-20th century as the dark ages; when there was barely a television set in anybody’s house, telephones were shared on party lines, jets were only for the military, there were very few restaurants, little air conditioning, dress codes at schools, no interstate highways, no cell phones, no computers and no credit cards. Notions such as marijuana use, abortions and nudity in films were yet to find acceptance among the socially unenlightened.
They came up in an era where parents routinely funded spring break trips to Florida for teens to engage in underage drinking, hoot and holler at wet T-shirt contests, and run wild for a week. They grew up having learned that if you whine enough you can get an expensive pair of sneakers anytime you want. They grew up watching their parents pay more attention to their country clubs, their boats, their football tickets and keeping up with the Joneses than keeping tabs on how the culture in which there children were being raised was morphing.
This younger generation learned by watching that success means getting rich. We forgot to tell them that getting rich was supposed to be a potential reward for being successful. Wealth was not the definition of success, but the reward of success. They got it backwards, and it’s our fault.
Now they want to become leaders because leaders are the centers of attention. They are frustrated that they can’t get a full makeover of their backyard after a chance meeting with some Hollywood star at Home Depot. They started out watching young people locked into a house together on a reality show, and now they think that strangers living out absurd lives of drama on camera is not phony entertainment, but the kind of fame and reality after which they lust.
They see the lives of rich and famous people as the goal they want to achieve. They are convinced that all of our talk about values, honor and duty are just antiquated ideas that time has passed by. Nevertheless, I say that the ones who are scrambling to become leaders, to control wealth and who think that they are ready to take the reins should be given the chance to do so just like they were given the chance to go to college and get a job.
Because I suspect that as old and fuddy-duddy as our ideas may seem to them now as they race to take over control of their own future, there is going to come the day when, just as they did when they went off to college, they come back home and ask for help.
I’ve outgrown politics the same way I outgrew raising kids. No, I never really gave up that responsibility or outgrew it completely. As any parent will tell you, no matter how old you get, you are always a parent and you always see your kids as children.
But there is that one period of time when we parents get our first taste of being empty nesters and get to enjoy a little peace and quiet, a little more time to ourselves. and fret less on a daily basis over how our kids are doing. I think that is about the point in life where my generation is now with regard to the next generation’s confidence that they can run things without us. I say give them the chance. I say we should enjoy the peace of the moment, and stop trying to carry the entire load ourselves.
Because I also think that it won’t be long before they will come back to us, ask for an extra dose of wisdom and then develop a much greater appreciation for what we did after they have tried to do it on their own without us.
Yeah, I might have started to outgrow politics a little bit, but let me make one final point.
The wisdom that comes with getting older informs us that there is a big difference between outgrowing your belt and acting too big for your britches. I’m going to just loosen up an notch and watch this whole thing play out.
Marcus Carey is a Northern Kentucky lawyer with 32 years experience. He is also a farmer, talk radio host and public speaker who loves history and politics. He is a prolific and accomplished writer whose blog, BluegrassBulletin.com, is “dedicated to honest and respectful comment on the political and cultural issues of our time.” He writes a regular commentary for KyForward.