June 30, 2008
Always Question Authority
By John Flanagan
A discussion came up a day or so before June 6. Someone asked if the current generation of young Americans understands why America had gone to battle on D-Day. This person questioned if young folks get what America is all about. And wanted to know what a dinosaur like myself would tell those currently moving into authority for the next 35 to 40 years or so.
That set me to thinking about what’s currently passing for political debate and government in this country. It’s pretty thin. I hope my answer will get a lot more people thinking about what to tell our successors as we pass the torch.
First, let me say based on those I know, the current generation "gets it!" They may not agree with the way previous generations "got it." But they get it. What should we tell them?
Tell them to always question any "authority" if it doesn’t make sense. Especially quiz those who, when questioned, answer with "because it's the way it's always been done." Or the real reason: "Because we can." Those answers never coincide with those other lines they, hopefully, have been taught: "We hold these truths to be self evident," and the balance of the document including only suffering evils while evils are sufferable.
Tell them that while it's best not to fight a lot, let alone kill, sometimes it is necessary and quite justified. Tell them if they ignore someone else being persecuted today and fail to help, it could be them next week, next month or next year.
Tell them that all our great documents and laws are designed to put the people's leash on government and not the other way around. But to keep it that way requires eternal vigilance. Tyranny can very easily slip in under the guise of providing temporary safety and security. And those seeking power will lie to get it. So be careful about trusting too quickly.
Tell them if anyone, anywhere, is being imprisoned without reason or recourse, tortured or held a slave, no one is ever safe or free. If young folks don't quite understand why we're passing these beliefs along to them, tell them that if they would understand mankind, they should watch a grandfather and grandson plant a tree in whose shade the old fellow will never sit. It's the older generation's act of love to pass along what's been paid for so dearly. And they should do the same in the future.
Tell them John Donne was right!
"No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee."
Tell the next generation to right a wrong, save a life, free people, stand up, speak out -- and to talk really loudly and walk really proudly while doing so. And they should always remember if they're the first one to stand up against a wrong that every majority started out as a minority of one.
And tell them that courage is doing the right thing even though you're scared to death doing it.
That's what I'd tell them.
But most of the young folks I know have already figured that out. They currently just, as we all did, have other youthfully "important" things they’re attending to while "grownups" worry. Mostly they're like the rest of us -- still slowly closing the door on adolescence.
So no one should worry about them "getting it." It's our poorly behaving leaders who have put the whole place up for sale that I'm really worried about.
Democrat John Flanagan, a former town councilman and former registrar of voters, will occasionally comment on stuff he finds important. He used to teach history and government, and is now a self-employed building inspector and national historic restoration consultant. Flanagan is currently serving on the Hamden Plains Cemetery Committee and has lived in the 2nd District for 36 years.