We hear a lot of talk about people wanting to solve the problems in front of us and not give them to future generations to solve. It’s both a noble and instinctual sentiment.
What I don’t see many of us talking about is how we’re going to change the system so that our future generations want to be the political leaders of the future. We’re not talking to our sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, and neighbor’s kids about the virtues and necessity of them being the people in charge.
They are watching what we say or do. If we just want this process to be over or are just going through the motions, how much more diluted will their efforts be? And taking your children to vote is great, but how about cultivating them to do more than vote for other people? (I can’t but help see the parallel between this and many people’s view of military servicemembers; let’s praise or critique those Others, but not consider that we or the people in front of us could or should serve.)
Raising kids, it seems, is largely about preparing them to be self-sufficient and giving them the tools for self-actualization. We cannot say we are succeeding on these counts if we are not preparing them to be politically self-sufficient and able to actualize the political ideals they have. If we advance negative views and stereotypes about all politicians, our kids opt out. If we express fatalism about our ability to change our system to make it better, our kids opt out. If we continually belittle and vilify people who hold different political views than we do, (many of) our kids choose not to develop their own views for fear of being shunned.
We can neither solve all of the problems of future generations nor leave it to them to solve problems we should’ve; both are practically problematic and morally hollow. We can endeavor to solve the problems in front of us today at the same time that we are cultivating the next generation of political leaders who will be able to solve the problems when they come up. It obviously won’t be for every kid, but effective democracy depends on a variety of candidates to govern it. Otherwise, it’s just an oligarchy or aristocracy in democracy’s clothing.
If we can’t rise to this challenge, we need to stop saying “you could be President” as if it were a good thing. (They could also be mayors, city councilmen, senators, judges, and treasurers, but we often skip those positions.) Behind the words, they hear “you could be a crook” or “you could be an idiot” or “you could be a massive, compromising disappointment” because that’s what they hear you say in all other references to presidents.
The solution to our future’s problems is riding in the carseat behind you, eating cereal across from you, or clicking buttons on a controller upstairs. They need your vote and support more than anybody else does. I hope you choose them and that I can do a better job of doing the same.
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