The 1950s brought programming to America’s living rooms that revered parents, especially fathers, in TV shows like “Father Knows Best,” “Make Room for Daddy,” and “Ozzie and Harriet.” The same decade simultaneously engineered the American teenager, ushered in the exaltation of “youth culture” in music and film, and eroded the reverence of parents and elders.
Over the last 70 years, the glorification of youth-centric culture has exacerbated the degradation of parental honor. Hollywood sought to portray parents as unsophisticated and antiquated in their perspectives, and the entertainment industry successfully communicated this through sophomoric plot narratives and imbecilic and self-interested parental characters.
The 1970s classic “All in the Family” depicts Archie Bunker, the traditional all-American father and husband, as a chauvinist and racist. His more open-minded and progressive family futilely attempts to “educate” him throughout the series.
Similarly, contemporary hits like “Shameless” have brought the media’s attack on parenthood full circle. The show tracks the story of patriarch and deadbeat father Frank Gallagher, who repeatedly abandons his family in search of booze and chicanery while his children fight for survival in South Side, Chicago, mirroring the degenerate behavior of their parents.
Although some of these storylines can be entertaining or humorous, the media has made a mockery of the common foresight possessed by parents and elders. In doing so, they have cultivated ridicule and irreverence towards the wisdom of elder generations. This altering of the public consciousness extends to the lack of value youth are now typically willing to place on the wisdom of those in seniority. In its place, society mindlessly extols and champions the ethos of adolescence, assigning equivalent value to the whims of youth, in contrast to the prudence of adulthood.
This shift is exemplified by the rapid anointing of Greta Thunberg as a climate change expert. Thunberg was trotted out by the United Nations (UN), at age 16, to give a speech condemning world leaders for their “self-serving” policies “wreaking havoc” on the climate. “You are still not mature enough to tell it like it is. You are failing us,” she scolded. In a climate protest in Germany earlier that year, Thunberg admonished adults further, “We are striking because we have done our homework, and they [those in authority] have not.”
Within hours of her speech at the UN in 2019, Thunberg was essentially ordained a global warming tsar. She swiftly began appearing on the cable news circuit and was even called upon as an expert for CNN’s coronavirus panel. Upon witnessing the media’s canonization of Thunberg, one cannot help but be reminded of the biblical admonition, “As for My people, children are their oppressors…Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.”
This is not a suggestion to silence the voice of youth, but a caution to place it in a proper context. Within rational bounds, adolescents should retain their freedom of expression. In some cases, they can indeed provide sincere insights their elders may not be able to see. A society, however, that comprehensively lionizes youthful hyperbole, and gleefully rejects the wisdom of age invites a perpetual revisitation of past failures.
Twenty-first century “woke” culture regards itself as the inclusive and enlightened generation, whose obligation it is to “educate” those in authority. The media and educational systems, in unison, have successfully conditioned the last four generations of Americans to assign little worth to our nation’s forbearers — especially those figures with past transgressions and a fallible nature.
This has yielded an all or nothing, zero-sum game that has become especially prevalent throughout the educational system. There is no need for nuance or to recognize the complexity of an issue. There is no desire, moreover, to examine and wrestle with the complexity of human nature, to realize absolute truth, and become a more evolved society.
It’s now deemed superfluous to learn from the mistakes of our elders and achieve a greater understanding of a matter. Instead, the past can be corrected and the future remedied by giving a reductive analysis of history and cultural affairs — hence, the voracious call for the removal of historical monuments.
The chaos and rioting that erupted nationwide after the death of George Floyd also exemplifies this. Floyd’s death was heartbreaking to watch, and those across the political spectrum were quick to decry it as such. This failed to assuage elite media and the radical groups that encircle them, who harnessed the tragic event to procure leftist policies.
Peaceful protests were quickly hijacked by largely juvenile mobs, who called for police defunding, censoring of “offensive” television and movie programming, and the toppling of commemorative statues. In the aftermath of Floyd’s death, a photo went viral, showing a protestor in Philadelphia whipping a statute, complete with graffiti writing on its base, stating “colonizer” and “murderer.”
It was soon confirmed that the statue was in remembrance of abolitionist Mathias Baldwin. This misappropriation illustrates the perils of rashly following the collective echoes of youthful hyper-emotionalism and its disregard of knowledge and truth.
Those who try to hide the negative aspects of a people’s culture and history hinder its ability to elevate itself and overcome its deficiencies and shortcomings. The danger that lies in following a youthful ethos is that it lacks the wisdom acquired from experience. In an effort to divorce ourselves from any reminder of shameful past transgressions, we unwittingly destroy what will ultimately enable us to realize the liberty and justice that our founders desired to achieve.
If children are our future, then we must begin to acknowledge and respect the role of parents and the wisdom of our elders, so that we may realize true success and affect authentic, lasting, positive change in our society.