Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

An Apology (and Challenge) to My Grandchildren

The American Dream has become a comatose nightmare. Visiting it daily fills me with grief and guilt. How did my own and following generations let something of such beauty turn into an ugly political boneyard with so few shreds of decency and hope?

Worst of all, how do I explain it all to teen-aged grandchildren who should be looking ahead to their lives only with hope and joy but are beset by rage, hate and despair everywhere? What can I, what can we do but apologize to them for the mess they are inheriting and the anxiety they will have to keep facing?

It’s tempting to hide behind “All this shall pass,” but with how much conviction? The sheer mass of social and political madness is too heavy to overthrow with bromides.

One positive place to start is Thomas Friedman’s post-Shutdown hope: “Short of an economic meltdown, there is only one thing that might produce meaningful change: a mass movement for tax, spending and entitlement reform led by the cohort that is the least organized but will be the most affected if we don’t think long term--today’s young people.”

As sophisticated as they are, they may even appreciate being asked to clean up our mess. Their taste in TV and movies suggests they savor irony.

For the near term, as we foresee only more of the same selfish insanity in Washington, Friedman cites a college tour stirring excitement among the young by a 61-year-old legendary investor who challenges students to rise up against the powers-that-be as his generation did against the Vietnam War.

Accused of fomenting intergenerational conflict, he responds, “No, that war already happened, and the kids lost. We’re just trying to recover some scraps for them.”

It’s a long way from enlisting young people into such a long-term fight and changing the national political landscape, but what other choice is there?

To my own grandchildren, I can only point out that this apology is filled with question marks. It will be up to you to answer them. My money says you will.

The ultimate hope is that, when the time comes, your apology to your grandchildren will be much more benign in a far better world.

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