We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Sunday, September 4. 2011
Last year, at the invitation of Family Security Matters, I penned a reflection on 9/11 that focused on my experience with the first 10-years of my son’s life, 9/11 With My Son. This year I told the editor I had nothing to add. However, I do, but rather from others.
My son Jason, now 11, has the habit of taking a subject that interests him and applying himself to becoming the world’s greatest expert. He did that with the Titanic, and then the Harry Potter series, and now with 9/11. The underlying theme seems to be the magnitude of the events and their impacts. The sinking of the Titanic belied the security of technology in the face of a natural iceberg. The unfolding of Harry Potter’s adventures belied the safe childhood we parents struggle to create as children face supernatural evil. 9/11 combines these elements. 9/11 belies the security that we thought insulated America from the bloodthirsty hatred rising to pure evil that we thought only happened remotely in a disconnected elsewhere.
Several prominent blogs have featured links to an essay in the New York Times by Edward Rothstein, Amid the Memorials, Ambiguity and Ambivalence. Instead of our media and the cultural elites it celebrates being confused or even searching for American guilt, Rothstein suggests, “a Sept. 11 commemoration might well be a celebration of democratic culture’s enduring presence.” John Podhoretz at Commentary’s Contentions blog calls Rothstein’s essay, “The most important essay you’re likely to read this week,” for its critique of “the conversion of 9/11 from an act of wanton destruction and murder to a moment requiring an examination of our own sins.”
Roger Kimball, editor of the New Criterion, celebrates its 30th anniversary by offering an essay that delves deeper that Rothstein’s restricted newspaper word count. In this, Roger Kimball’s New Criterion exhibits its unique value. As Roger Kimball writes in his introduction to the 30th Anniversary Issue,
Michael Lewis leads off the New Criterion September issue with America resumed: 9/11 remembered, The first entry in its series "Future tense: the lessons of culture in an age of upheaval." Lewis explores the whys behind the cultural confusion that Rothstein highlights. One must, must, read it all, for its exploration of how America’s arts have failed to capture the transformative lessons of 9/11. Some excerpts:
Last year, my son Jason offered this comment on what he’s learned from 9/11: “I’m glad the US has people who will fight so another 9/11 or worse doesn’t happen again.” This year, Jason adds: “There are heroes who help others escape. There are greater heroes who rise up regardless of dangers, as the police and firefighters did in the Towers.” Jason adds, "Screw al-Quaida." My son watches and listens to all the cultural detritus on TV and radio. Despite the best worst efforts of the profiting cretins he is exposed to, my son Jason’s quest to understand the facts of disasters and the best of people has independently led him to the conclusions that Rothstein and Lewis bemoan our cultural elites avoiding.
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This is a very interesting topic - one on which I'd like to add my thoughts.
Your son, like my sons, and others with parents who challenge them, shows interest in learning, as well as trying to find the best in a situation. I wish my sons would show MORE effort in this regard, but what they have puts many others with their entitled viewpoints to shame. Or others with their reliant viewpoints...2 sides of the same coin in my opinion.
Neither the entitled or the reliant care much about 9/11 in the sense of "who put themselves on the line". All they really care about is that it was horrible, but let's get past it and focus on getting what we deserve to have or should be getting.
Meanwhile, your son has come up on his view of service naturally - from a father who has a sense of what it means to be a part of a country that has offered him many opportunities. I, too, stress this with my kids. But there is another factor that is starting to impart itself on our kids - the "required" volunteerism. All kids in my sons' high school MUST do a VOLUNTARY community service. The concept is noble - teach kids whose parents HAVEN'T imparted the idea of service upon their kids that service is important. But the problem is that it is no longer voluntary....it's MANDATORY voluntary. I know, the hypocrisy is not lost on Maggie's Farm readers, but I'm trying to point out that while I tell my kids that service is important (we've worked at soup kitchens, and my elder son is going to join ROTC in college next year), it should be a choice, not something forced on you.
As a result, the kinds of service have been watered down. There are kids who are "mentors" to handicapped kids. This means they sign up for something they rarely do, but get to put it on their college resume - the handicapped kids know that John Doe is their mentor, but see him all of 1 hour out of the year. John, meanwhile, is wooing some girl with his tale of "volunteerism" and how he "cares" for this kid.
They have a twisted view of heroic service and effort. They don't realize that the people who went toward the danger during and after 9/11, while others ran from it, did so out of not just duty, but also desire to help. To play a role. To be something others clearly are not.
In enforcing the mandatory volunteerism, we are cultivating a crop of children, soon adults, with a service oriented vocabulary, but a self-interested mindset. They belittle those who put in little in the way of visible service, while they are, in fact, seeking what they believe is "their right" to have. They want service from others, for THEM. This is the new entitled and reliant classes we are facing.
Your son, and my sons, will be called upon, time and again, to show themselves to be great in the service of a growing legion of wastrels. We see this each day with the unknowing masses clamoring for "make the rich pay" (surely this is a good thing, within the context of overall tax reform that broadens the base) while not caring a whit for the fact that making the rich pay will only reduce the deficit by a tiny amount. Ask them where the big cuts should come, and not one can discuss this - simply pointing out that the rich don't pay enough.
I commend you for teaching your son the importance of these things and events, and I commend him for the effort he puts into it. But I simply don't see similar effort on the part of other children today. Oh sure, there are some. And there are some doing good things with their mandatory "volunteer" work. But it's not real effort, and it's not a real improvement on the psyche of the American young.
It's something that is designed to teach them to be good servants, and nothing more. The question I ask is: servants to who, or what? And that is the real problem.
Well said Rick - and you're absolutely right. Mandatory volunteerism is military tradition - as in "I need six volunteers - you, you, you...." It doesn't work in the civilian world. :>)
That isn't volunteering - as you said it is just a check mark on the college resume and it makes the administrators look good when it comes to BOE review time. Mandatory "volunteering" does have it's place - back in Woodstock, we had the Hyde School (high school) which was a private school dedicated to the more "difficult" kids. Their mandatory volunteering was part of their character building and in large measure it works - for them.
One of my teen aged Granddaughters once asked me if I was drafted. for Vietnam. I answered no - I volunteered. Then she asked me why and I had to say that (1) the military runs strong in my family and (2) I had been highly influenced by a science fiction novel "Starship Troopers" in which national service gained you privileges that civilians didn't have (which strangely actually came to be). Being a patriot ran strong on both sides of my family so it was a natural thing to do. She then said, well you could have gotten killed and I replied that life doesn't give you any guarantees and that one could be killed falling down a set of stairs. It was about patriotism (misplaced as it was), sense of self worth, adventure, being part of something bigger than you, sacrifice - it was just the way I thought about my family, my country and my world.
She just flat out didn't understand it. And I have no way to adequately explain it to her in terms she might understand given today's society.
I have instilled this in my boys, as best I can. My elder son is ready for ROTC, since I can't pay for college. I'm pleased he feels it's a good idea because "it offers an assured job after graduation".
Sure it's not patriotism in the strictest sense, but at least he gets it. I've pointed out that his mother isn't liking the idea because "government can make decisions to do things that we don't like", and I agree. But in the end, it's about duty and the one thing he knows is that nothing comes for free. He knows the risks and accepts them.
He also knows there is value in the decision (a la "Starship Troopers...a movie he likes for schtick, but I've told him the story of the book, too, so he gets the value).
I agree with Bruce that as long as kids like this exist, we'll be OK. But I disagree that OK is where we need to be. We are a nation dying from the inside out - just like Rome did, just like Greece did. We've extended ourselves to a point beyond which we collect the value for the extension, and we've allowed our youth to become increasingly decadent. I don't mean this in the manner that Communists called us decadent - they were far worse. I mean it in the sense that for those I've described as entitled and/or reliant - they simply seek to focus inwardly on "what's in it for me", without looking at the payment that has to go along with it.
With rights come responsibilities. Our nation loves its rights, hates its responsibilities (or for a subculture, some want to force THEIR version of responsibilities on each citizen in order to "win" rights). I prefer the method taught my son - make a choice. You can have your rights, but accept that how you gain them is going to vary based on your opportunities - but make no mistake, EVERYONE has the same opportunities. We simply don't all have the same ability to take advantage of those opportunities in the same way.
9/11 should have put alot of this in perspective. It didn't. For many, it became a lottery ticket. For others, it became emotional baggage. For many others, it is simply a date with some kind of meaning that is lost on them. Finally, for a select few, it was a chance to look at our nation, its people, and try to seek out what made us great and what can keep us great.
"Even those artists who felt unaccountable patriotic stirrings found themselves utterly unable to make artistic use of them."
Well, here's an exception, I think: Hero performed by Michael Israel in New York - YouTube http://j.mp/nFGHkU