Kudos to those Jefferson County, Colorado, students who staged a walkout this week to protest to new conservative school board's attempt to to ram their "America is Perfect!" history curriculum down student throats. They are perhaps a bit more wise that we were, back in the 1950s and 1960s, when we blithely attended our "Americanism vs. Communism" classes. BTW, Americanism, whatever that is, won.
One thing I will tell those students: history education only begins when we get out of school. Experience will teach you that Americanism has many faces, some of them glorious and some quite ugly. I'm hoping that you will read widely, watch a lot of offbeat indie films, learn another language, travel all over, and talk to everyone you meet. People will tell you the darndest things, if only you lift your head from the iPhone and really listen. Family elders are a great source of information and bullshit. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. My suggestion is to check your elders' facts. If they tell you, as Bluto Blutarsky did so famously in "Animal House," that the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor, check it out. After all, fat, drunk, and stupid is no way to go through life, son.
I'm impressed with the student activism I've seen out of this generation. Elders are supposed to spend an inordinate amount of time criticizing the younger generations. I suppose I've done some of that. But those 20-somethings and 30-somethings that I've met in the arts world and progressive politics, well, they are amazing. Young artists, impatient with the entrenched art establishment, have gone to crowd-funding and other resources to meet their goals. The Wyoming Democrats employed a young undocumented UW graduate as its PR person until recently, when he decamped to Austin to help the Texas Democrats hone their social media outreach. When the Occupy Movement was in full flower, I met young people from throughout Wyoming who were fed up with the status quo and willing to take to the streets to do something about it. Just as those JeffCo students did this week.
Now here comes the advice -- you knew that was inevitable, right? Activism is not a short-term strategy. You have to be in it for the long haul. You will be disappointed. You will fail. At times, you will succeed. When you get to be 60-something, you can look back with satisfaction and say that you fought the good fight.
And that you are fighting it still.