When we talk about change, and some politician, personality, or plain old next-door neighbor flips on something it is always a big story. Whether they become Christian from Atheist, slide from Republican to Democrat, or insert miscellaneous sports team rivalries, we collectively gasp because it is such a very rare occurrence – and often a self-serving one. But in reality, true change is just so damn rare isn’t it? People follow along with what they have always done and believe what they have always believed because it is familiar and comfortable. Only a few break from the herd at a time in each generation and chip away at the status quo. Which is why when it comes to change the truth has been and will always be this unflinching truth – We, the younger generation are all just waiting for you old people to die off already.
Don’t get me wrong, we love some of you. And in truth it is much more admirable to change one’s heart and mind amid conflict – when it isn’t easy – than it is to grow up supporting a cause when it is much more socially acceptable. A majority of the United States Senate now supports gay marriage. Ring the bells, it is officially popular now to support gay rights. Those on the anti-gay agenda are leaping off like rats on a ship named “Political Career.”
Many of you that are a part of the older generation had to stand tall for civil rights when it meant a broken window, arm, or worse. So it puzzles one that the very same generation would fail to stand up for other marginalized groups.
This truth isn’t limited to gay rights. It is a finger pointed at nothing other than this sad truth: Progress does not chiefly come from changed minds – it grows and is fertilized by the death of old ideas and the people who held them. This is a truth that comforts me while terrifying some of you – That the bigots of the world can spout all the hatred they want, but in fifty years they will be gone and replaced by a much more tolerant group of individuals. And they will have achieved nothing in the grand scheme of things other than to hurt people they never knew and slow down needed change. You are not a wall to progress, you are a thick mud and the sun is currently blazing hot. The wheel is slower but turning all the same. Then the cycle will continue, and we too will be replaced by another generation more accepting, wise, and of more-mixed ideology than we were.
Why does this happen? Because our empathy switches are broken in this country. We rarely change our minds about anything until it directly affects us. It is our greatest flaw, and the source of nearly every problem in this country from budgets to social issues. The rich do not empathize with the poor, the healthy with the sick, or the straight with the gay, until it directly affects them or their family. So we are left with waiting for each younger generation having to be slowly groomed and to evolve at the pace of nature itself into more tolerant creatures. We are a country stuck breeding into enlightenment rather than finding it ourselves.
The greatest threat to this country is not guns or bombs but lack of empathy. Yes, it will make us all so very uncomfortable to empathize (an American tragedy). But empathy isn’t comfortable, it is deliciously and delightfully heartbreaking and world-changing. It grabs you, teaches you, and you are never the same once you open your heart and wiggle your toes inside someone else’s shoes. And it will save us all. People ask what we lost; we have lost the ability to not ask “what’s in it for me.” Is it really so bad to have your taxes suck a little bit more so that someone else can eat or a child can go to the doctor?
Yes, I know – just another bleeding heart hippy liberal with his head in the clouds wanting to feed the world – but I don’t really have to mind what you think of me now do I? The cycle continues, and marriage equality, health care, and even drug reform will all be passed while you and Paul Ryan are feeding grubs. Those damn kids and their rap music are going to change the world you are so hell-bent to stop from spinning.
Let it be said that I applaud all of you inside that older generation that do take a stand for fairness, equality, and the little guy when so much of your own are against you. That is true courage. You are the champions that first convert the young and hopeful and plant the seed of change. I’m sure I will be just as frustrated with my own generation someday about some yet undiscovered issue, or perhaps someone younger will have to hammer me with a hard truth I do not see. Unless of course, a day comes before that where we break the cycle and begin to feel for those unlike ourselves, giving and loving to those unknown or undeserving. That kinda sounds like that Jesus guy now doesn’t it?
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