Teens Who Hate America
My oldest daughter, a sophomore in high school, recently complained to her father and I about some of her schoolmates' declarations that they "hate America."
When I asked if she could elaborate why they would say such a thing, she said she really couldn't remember because she was so disgusted that she did everything she could to block out the conversation. She also confirmed that she didn't say anything to them at the time.
Being a high school student, that iffy age where often the goal of most kids is to stay off of the radar for fear of being singled out and ridiculed, I don't really blame my daughter for keeping her own counsel, even if she was upset that kids she knows -- but is not necessarily friends with -- would go so far as to announce that they hate America. I wish she had spoken up, but again, I can understand her decision to stay silent.
My daughter was astute enough to realize that there's a good chance that these kids were simply building upon what they heard at home -- just as she does. But we reminded her that while she is exposed to conservative and decidedly patriotic values at home, she is also being exposed to left-wing views at school and elsewhere -- so at least she's getting both sides of the story, which hopefully enable her to make up her own mind.
Kids like those she describes are probably getting a double helping of the left, both at home and in the world at large, and so their worldview is decidedly skewed. Add to that a healthy dose of the hormone-fueled superiority complex of many teens and voilà! You have created a recipe for snobbish disdain that would do a Frenchman proud.
How do I know the majority of the citizens in my town veer left? During the 2004 election, residents of my town donated twice the amount of money to John Kerry than they did to George W. Bush, and the local Democratic Party receives more than twice as much in donations as the Republican Party. During the 2004 election, one was far more likely to see Kerry/Edwards bumper stickers and yard signs than those emblazoned with the Bush/Cheney logo. I think it is likely that the only such sign in town was in my yard.
What truly irks me about the attitudes of these teens is that most of them probably don't have many major worries. We live in a well-to-do town in blue-state New England, where the median income is over $90,000 and the median price for a home is well over $400,000. The cars in the student parking lot at the high school consist of mainly BMWs, Volvos, SUVs, and other pricey models, with just a few old clunkers scattered about.
As for war, the draft has been out of commission since well before the nation's current crop of high school students were even born, so it's not likely they'll have to worry about making any personal sacrifices for their country anytime soon.
Given their living conditions, what the heck do they have to complain about besides the usual teen angst that we've all experienced and managed to survive?
My daughter may not want to know why these kids might hate their own country, but I can make a pretty good guess. Think about it: what would you believe if you were raised on a steady diet about the failings of the dullard in the White House (who was nevertheless crafty enough to "steal" the 2000 election); about our "reduced standing" in the world since he took office; how capitalism is causing the earth to go up in a jolly blaze of global warming; how we are a nation of evil "haves" and powerless "have nots"; how our foreign policy is to blame for 9/11 and the Middle East considering America to be the "Great Satan"; and how the majority of Americans are a bunch of bigots and racists? Add to that the constant barrage of anti-war and anti-America rhetoric from groups like Code Pink and World Can't Wait, and the complicity in these sentiments by the mainstream media and the entertainment industry -- what would you think? After all, if the likes of Bill Maher, Michael Moore, Keith Olbermann, Susan Sarandon, and the brain trust on The View say it's so, why would a teenager argue?
Lest we forget, the trend in public schools is to highlight self-esteem and de-emphasize critical thinking skills, so it's not surprising that teens would jump to the conclusion that America sucks.
(Disclaimer: While it's sad that I feel compelled to point this out, let's get it out of the way: for the record, I realize our country is not perfect and that we have had any number of problems over the course of 200-plus years in existence. But we also have a history of dealing with those problems, and we will continue to do so.)
An encouraging sign is that teens -- like adults -- are not immune to changing their minds about preconceived notions if they are given both sides of the story. A prime example: last year, the same daughter told us about having to watch Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth in three different classes. I happened to have a copy of Britain's Channel 4 documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, and I asked her to see if her science teacher would consider showing it to the class. To my great surprise he did. In fact, he showed it to all of his classes, and also loaned it out to other science teachers at the school. I never did get it back, but I don't have the heart to complain about it since, according to my daughter, about half of the students in her science class changed their minds about the dangers of man-made global warming.
One may conclude that it's quite likely that the America-hating students at my daughter's high school simply aren't getting both sides of the story. I had a few suggestions for snappy comebacks for my daughter the next time she hears classmates complaining about how awful America is:
- If we were living in a country like China, North Korea, or Cuba, would we get away with publicly stating that we hate our country and our government?
- Despite our current economic woes, are we in the same situation of starvation and general despair as citizens in nations like Zimbabwe and North Korea?
- Those of you who plan to take part in the Day of Silence later this month, just think about the attitudes toward gays in countries like Iran -- where, according to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, they simply do not exist -- yet there are reports of young men being hanged simply for the crime of being gay.
- Despite calls by extremists for the need to put an end to the Bush "regime," do you realize that no matter what, his presidency will end on January 20, 2009? And no matter who succeeds him, his/her presidency will last a maximum of eight years? Saddam Hussein headed a regime. Kim Jong-Il heads a regime. Raul Castro heads a regime. We have presidential terms, no matter which party is in power.
- If America is so horrible, why do so many people try to move here -- both legally and illegally?
I have my doubts as to whether she'll actually follow through. Understandably, it is hard to overcome that whole "not wanting to stand out like a sore thumb" teenage thing.
But you never know -- stranger things have happened.