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3/04/2005

 

time



apropos absolutely nothing, i've been thinking a lot about the kids lately. what the hell is wrong with them--and i speak as someone who's closer to kiddom than fogeydom chronologically, but has been considered an honorary old man since he was 12.

in our extended families on either side, my wife and i are the only college graduates from our generation. that's not to say we haven't had our share of dropouts, in fact, that's exactly the point. what are these kids doing?

in my family there is one young man who ran afoul of the law following some pointless mischief (he "liberated" a lawn gnome--honest to God), dropped out of school, moved back home, and in between stints of license suspension and staining his parent's carpets is bussing tables for 8 bucks an hour. another never went to college, dreams of being a police officer but feels in no wise compelled to study criminal justice, lives at home and is currently bussing tables for 8 bucks an hour. a promising young lady on my wife's side dropped out not long after getting knocked up at a frat party, somehow managed to marry the sap, and is now, you guessed it, bussing tables for 8 bucks an hour. at least she doesn't still live at home. i could go on and on. relatives, friends, acquaintances...all with bright, talented, deadbeat kids--or, excuse me, "boomerang" kids.

that bit of sociologist-speak nicely encapsulates what i had previously thought to be a highly localized phenomenon. it is not, after all, difficult to believe that one's relations are simply idiots. but it turns out this is happening elsewhere. so much so, in fact, that the pittsburgh tribune review recently did a story on it--maybe it's a regional thing?

in case you don't bother with the article (i didn't thanks to my studious wife who kindly fed me the reader's digest version) it's about a bunch of twenty-somethings--some of them college grads with seemingly promising futures--who, in the final estimation, are too scared to go out and make it on their own.

i'd thought gen-x was made of sterner stuff, but, for all their faults, their whiny crybaby boomer fathers hold something over them: their childish contempt for authority in all forms sped them from the nest just as fast as their little wings could carry them, and they never looked back.

and oh how i would love to blame this on the boomers. who better to blame for a generation of spineless kids than a generation of spineless parents? whose task was it to impart a work ethic, a sense of pride in one's accomplishments, a sense of purpose or at least a burning desire to seek it out? and, failing all that, wouldn't tough love demand they at least bar the doors once the little sponges have slunk off?

but i can't. for all their failings as parents--and they are legion--at the end of the day, the boomer's "kids" aren't kids at all. they're adults. whether they're too chicken to accept that responsibility or not, that's what they are. that's what they have an obligation to be--an obligation to their parents, to their society, to every scared kid who ever summoned to courage to strike out on his own before them, and, oh by the way, to themselves.

some clever readers may have already guessed that what's really bothering me about all this isn't my relatives or my generation, it's me. ye gods how i squandered my twenties. and now that i'm at the end of them and scrambling to do all the things now i should have done then, i can't help but cringe as i see so many people close to me making the exact same mistakes. there isn't a day that goes by where i don't curse the foolishness and laziness that eventually wound up with me working a fulltime job and paying for evening classes when i'd once been handed a free ride on a silver platter...so many things i could have done and, for some of them, it's now too late.

i think sometimes of a favorite uncle of mine--a great bellowing bull of a man with a herculean spirit crammed into a battered shell of a body, the remnants of his own misspent youth that has left him effectively crippled at an age when most people are finally beginning to enjoy life. he has no regrets. none, at least, that he will admit to, and he has counseled me more than once to adopt a similar outlook. the choices we have made have made us the people that we are, and, he points out, i've done alright for myself. i have a beautiful wife and am able to do the things i enjoy. and did i have a good time while was "wasting" those years? of course. so, what more is there to say?

i do admire his philosophy, but it's thin comfort to a man starving in a gutter. the whole thing presupposes that stuff turns out more or less ok. but to make stuff turn out more or less ok, at a certain point, we've got to start making good choices. which is why my uncle has probably never shared his philosophy with his son, the cop-dreamer, for whom he has nary a kind word.

which brings me back to the kids, and what i would say to them all if i could. i've even tried to say it to some of them, but i never feel as though i've gotten it quite right. i get too mad. mad at myself, but mad at them, too. and in the end i think i'm rightfully mad, because however you choose to reflect upon your early adulthood from your later years, it's wrong to squander your life. i just want to take them and shake them and scream until they wake up. don't they know that they're living? didn't anyone tell them they're alive? this is it. this is your one shot at being young and strong and bright and beautiful and you really can have everything you want if you're willing to go out and get it, so why don't you? don't you know that you'll never be here again, that even if you live to be a hundred and things turn out just fine for you, you'll always look back and wonder at what could have been?

as for me, i've got no excuses. i was scared, mostly. but there was something more to it. something that might have got me past the fear had i known about it then. i think i've got it figured out now and it's helped me quite a bit. i hope maybe it can help others, four little words that have made all the difference: this is my life.

"time" by pink floyd

Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
You fritter and waste the hours in an off hand way
Kicking around on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

And you run and you run to catch up with the sun, but it’s sinking
And racing around to come up behind you again
The sun is the same in the relative way, but you’re older
Shorter of breath and one day closer to death

Every year is getting shorter, never seem to find the time
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone, the song is over, thought I’d something more to say


locdog bids you all a pleasant friday




3/01/2005

 

the supreme court vs. justice



the ussc has voted to eliminate the death penalty for juvenile offenders.

according to kennedy, who wrote for the majority, "The age of 18 is the point where society draws the line for many purposes between childhood and adulthood. It is, we conclude, the age at which the line for death eligibility ought to rest."

after all, he continues "our society views juveniles ... as categorically less culpable than the average criminal."

if you're a bit puzzled as to how kennedy can drape himself in the views of our society while simultaneously nullifying those held by some 19 states and 72 juries, you're not the only one. scalia writes in dissent:

The court says in so many words that what our people's laws say about the issue does not, in the last analysis, matter: 'In the end our own judgment will be brought to bear on the question of the acceptability of the death penalty. The court thus proclaims itself sole arbiter of our nation's moral standards.


if scalia's strident states-rights approach doesn't ring your bell, sample some of the ever wishy-washy o'connor's dissent:

Chronological age is not an unfailing measure of psychological development, and common experience suggests that many 17-year-olds are more mature than the average young 'adult.'


while i agree strongly with both scalia and o'connor, this time, the judicial john kerry that is sandra day o'connor has flip-flopped a bit closer to my heart.

consider that kennedy's argument hinges on a non sequitur. sure we hold juveniles less culpable and sure 18 is the dividing line we employ for most purposes. so what. because as a matter of practical policy we require 18 year olds to register with selective service and allow them to vote, we must then apply the same standard of bureaucratic convenience to every killer in our courts? to individuals whose actions have resulted in the deaths of other individuals? as long as i've never legally smoked a cigarette i can kill without fear of being killed regardless of how fully cognizant i am of the heinous nature of my actions and how meticulously and dispassionately i carried out the deed? evidently the transformation that occurs when one purchases his first R-rated movie ticket is every bit as magical as that which occurs whenever an unborn child slips clear of that final inch of birth canal, when he makes the quantum leap from non-viable tissue mass to full personhood in an instant.

pardon me for paying attention in civics class, but isn't the rejection of one-size-fits-all the whole point of western jurisprudence--that although the laws themselves do not change, we must recognize the various mitigating or exacerbating circumstances that make every case unique?

and give scalia his due as well--at what point do We the People get to govern ourselves? just why in the hell do we go through the trouble of electing officials and passing laws in the first place if at the end of the day our say doesn't matter?

still, neither of the dissenters has the guts to come right out and state the ruling's real flaw: it had nothing to do with juveniles save those five in long robes who formed the majority and their contempt for capital punishment in general. it's classic judicial over-reaching, where whatever scraps of argument available are patched together to move the nation in the direction the justices think it ought to be headed, whether it has anything to do with the will of the people or the matter at hand. their case is so poorly made that it can be nothing else. they believe capital punishment should be outlawed, but capital punishment per se wasn't on the docket, so they took what they could get and, in so doing, made a mockery of millions of citizens in 19 states and the victims of 72 brutal thugs.

locdog sees capital punishment dying the death of a thousand paper cuts, and justice dying along with it