We sat on the edge of the couch playing the air guitar and air drums enthusiastically.
As the song ended, we looked around and noticed that my other houseguests were silently engaged with their cellphones, as if there was no music playing at all.
My fellow air-band member turned to me and said, “We were born in the wrong generation, man.” I agreed.
Tough luck, I suppose. But is it really that bad?
I have since decided that is hardly the case. In spite of our musical taste, my generation is nothing if not rock ‘n’ roll. Moreover, we are faced with unique opportunities and challenges that former generations would not have dreamed of.
With the recycling of another calendar and the swift ball drop into 2014, we are faced with an incredible historical milestone, and the chance to live with the verve of all former generations at our back. I am stoked to be alive, here and now.
Let’s step back 100 years to put this in a centennial context.
In the year 1914, Woodrow Wilson became the 28th president of the United States. Wilson was elected as a Democrat, but in spite of many government reforms he enacted during his first term, the man was a complacent racist. In the year 1915, D.W. Griffith’s film “The Birth Of A Nation” stereotyped blacks and glorified the Ku Klux Klan during the period of southern Reconstruction. Wilson is noted to have praised the film’s accuracy.
Today, our president is black.
Battles for racial equality intensified in the second half of the century, galvanized by revolutionary leadership by the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Today, these icons are commemorated intensely in our nation’s institutions. The Civil Rights Movement has become a focus of public schools and an emphasis of higher education.
We hardly live in a “post-racial” society, but instead, we live in a society that is lofted by the girders of social awareness and, furthermore, social responsibility. Barack Obama’s election is only the most obvious hallmark of this achievement.
The year 1914 also marked the United States’ entrance into World War I, the world’s first stand against the legitimate threat of global totalitarianism.
A hundred years later, we are now ending a very different war, the War in Afghanistan. As this war winds down, so does the overt presence of United States foreign policy on the troubled regions of the Middle East and our global effort to combat terrorist organizations.
To replace this concentration of U.S. military effort is a recently intensified emphasis on espionage, as disclosed in the recent revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. What has arisen in this most recent turn of the post-9/11 era is a form of the Orwellian surveillance state — a government not only with the capability, but also with the active role of collecting metadata and tapping the phones of foreign leaders as well as its own citizens.
There are many fragmented, kaleidoscopic shards of truth through which to view our future, and our present role therein. We are living in a progressive age in which information is universally accessible and widely shared by civilians, industry and government. It is our responsibility to protect our information and continue to thrive upon its far-reaching tide of modernization and people power. Today, people must be dually committed to the freedom of expression and the protection of privacy.
Information is intimately laced with identity, and our savvy, social butterfly garden of a generation is the greatest participant in this interwoven phenomenon. We have to own the here and now — embrace the continuity of social justice, technology, democracy and our cultural impact on these entities.
As the Beastie Boys sang, “You gotta' to fight for your right to party.” Likewise, we have to fight for our right to every privilege and every opportunity that we have.
The aims of the youth have never been higher. It is now our goal not just to better ourselves — we want to mold a better, healthier, smarter world. That is our role, and it is a privilege within itself to be alive and awake for this momentous shift forward, to the tapping of computer keys as well as the beating of drums.
— By Alexander Sinn, Tribune community columnist