Sometimes, I’m ashamed of my generation. Tom Friedman once labeled us “Generation Q,” because we go about changing society quietly, without the overt protests of the Baby Boomers. I usually agree with Friedman, begrudgingly, because people born in the ‘80s and ‘90s can be very lethargic. And when this generation does get riled up, they can still be an embarrassment.
The riots at Penn State over the firing of football coach Joe Paterno are absolutely shameful. College students kept their earbuds in through the invasion of Iraq and the 2008 financial crisis, and they get angry over this?
I just graduated college, and I know that it takes a lot to get this generation of students to protest anything. That is what makes this situation so frustrating: it’s not that students protest everything like they did in the ‘60s; the Penn State students chose the firing of Paterno as their moment of anger.
Throughout American history, each generation has made strides to end social injustice and human suffering, but there was only so much each generation could do. The “Founding Fathers” could not end slavery, the “Greatest Generation” could not give everyone equal rights.
There is still work to be done. American culture is too tolerant of sexual abuse. Unless the suspect is Michael Jackson or the Catholic Church, the accused usually get the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think anyone in this generation thinks covering up pedophilia is okay; the fact that students would put football above that is disgusting.
The greatest failure of this generation is not that they are “quiet,” it’s that they seem too distracted to consistently stand up for their values. The fact that Paterno did not intervene to stop the rape is unbelievable for the people who admire him (and everyone else). Seeing Penn State students sidestep that conundrum by defending Paterno makes them look like, well, a bunch of spoiled kids. Someone has to stand up for what’s right. Will this generation every be ready?