Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In Defense of the Young Liberal

Some geezer younger than I am (I checked his profile) posted a complaint yesterday on one of Justin Rosario’s Facebook postings.  He accused Justin of being too glib, too “unserious,” too quick to attack the conservatives with whom both the complainer and Justin deeply disagree.  These issues are too serious, he seemed to be saying, to treat with anything other than the most sober and mind-numbing respect.

In other words, this complainant was accusing Justin of being young and enthusiastic and full of all kinds of life.

His complaint made me think.  Are Justin and others like him (including, sometimes, me) too frivolous, too quick to attack, too ready to make fun of serious issues and dangerous people?   Have I failed to mature as a thinker and as a person?

Justin writes pieces that attract a lot of people.  The number of his readers grows every day.  His attraction is, certainly, his ability to think logically and to write clearly about his thoughts.  A lot of people do that, however.  What makes Justin’s pieces so appealing is the humanity, humor, light–heartedness, and youth that shine through his writing.  As Mary Poppins so wonderfully tells us, “A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down,” and if ever we needed a spoonful of sugar with our medicine, now is that time.

The complaining geezer, as I thought about him, made me think of my father back in the 1960's.  He and I disagreed about everything, but especially about the Viet Nam War.  One of the accusations he made against my thinking over and over again was that I was having too much fun with my views.  I guess he wanted me to be as he was: angry, frustrated, and so very serious about being right.  Instead, I argued with him on weekdays and went off to peace meetings and marches on the weekends.  He said once, “If it weren’t for the War, you’d have no social life at all.”  I think he was jealous that my politics were so much fun.  His politics—and, remember, he was a very conservative Republican—were very dark and serious indeed.  He was sure my generation was going to sell out to the Soviets and spend our old age high on weed listening to Jimi Hendrix on our record players.

I am convinced that politics is made for the young.  To be effective, to be good at politics, you have to know what you believe is right with a certainty that age diminishes.  You also have to be able to think clearly and express yourself in an appealing way.  I can talk until the cows come home about why the option for abortion always should be available to women, but after a minute or two, the eyes of those listening to my rants glaze over and I can tell they’re frantically looking for an excuse to get the hell away from me.  Justin and other effective young thinkers, can write a brief piece about the same subject, conveying everything my rant included, and then make the reader feel that she or he has had a good time.

I used to worry that, when I got older, I would turn into a conservative.  That didn’t happen, thank my lucky stars.  What has happened is that I’ve lost a lot of the joy of the battle.  Too many battles, too few successes, and now I’m often half–hearted when the fight warms up.  I am so happy to have an infusion of youth from younger people like Justin, for whom the battle has just begun and for whom victory is just one metaphor away.  I believe the social media have done a lot of things for our culture, and one of them is that they have given young thinkers and writers a good forum in which to develop their ideas and their skills.  And the social media have given us old geezers the chance one more time to feel like young warriors in the eternal battle for “peace, justice, and the [REAL] American Way.”


  1. Hey Ed, I'm a 63 years young woman, and I can relate. It seems your dad was wrong about one thing at least...our generation did not sell out to the soviets...as for my old age...I'm naturally high...and I still love Jimi!

  2. I'm with you. I'm 68, and I responded to that poster yesterday by telling him to lighten up. I really am too old now to take to the streets, unless maybe in a wheelchair, but I really intend to cheer the younger ones on from the sidelines, instead of yelling at them to get off my lawn.

  3. Albertah, thanks for a very cool comment! It's good to know we are still going strong!

    Diana, I saw your post yesterday. It pushed me to write this entry. Thanks for being there on Facebook! One of the best things about Facebook for me is having friends like you who have been through much of the same stuff as I have. Another great thing is finding people like Justin and Matthew who are young and articulate and who have so much passion. It reminds me of so much when I read wht they write, and how they write it.

    Luvin, y'all!!!!

  4. Ed, is it erie that a 34yr old Mexican woman, who happens to be Catholic and a liberal feels a chill down her spine by reading what you write? I think you are selling yourself short my friend. Clearly, through you age and experience you have much to offer to those who take the time to read your blog. I am happy you have chosen to share your thoughts with others. People are often too self-conscious, too protective of their own lives to allow others a glimpse into their soul, even if only for a moment. I am not a creative writer, but I know how to appreciate those who are. Let's just say that I love fine cuisine, but I can cook macaroni and cheese. The fact that I can't cook doesn't prevent me from having a palate that craves fine food. I can tell when people have soul in their writing, and you, Ed, definitely have soul.