Last weekend my husband, my youngest two sons and I went out shopping. As we have always tried to do, because it conserves energy, we combined a bunch of stops into this trip. It may sound ridiculous to make the point about combining trips but years ago I stopped taking one of my sons friends with us when we would go shopping, they couldn’t stand the multiple trips, “their” parents didn’t do this. They considered it a waste. Now driving teenagers I wonder if they see the wisdom of it.
Anyway, one of our stops was the mall, to go through all their game stores looking for “the” game. Our first stop was at Game Stop and as I walked into the door my eye caught what looked like a news report. I came in on a scene of a man being arrested by MPs and the voice over saying “. . .in response the president invokes the Homeland Security Act and declares martial law on the west coast and other areas . . .”
After a momentary confusion over what I was seeing and hearing, I realized it was a game. And as I watched the trailer I began to realize that someone has tapped into the fear and foreboding of future I have heard many teens express, even my oldest son. I’ve heard many talk about their feelings of a civil war just around the corner, even those who enlisted are frightened about what will become of “home.”
Those that feel this way have grown up at a time where the country is very divided, where there’s a disconnect from the actual number in a popular vote and the ruling party declaring a “mandate from the people” (they grew up believing that a mandate means 2/3 majority). They’ve come of age at a time when the only thing a president and party offered to maintain power was fear, and where those that gain the most, risk the least. They watched the opposition party flounder putting up no opposition or plea for thoughtful process.
They’ve watched an administration mortgage their future, and press on with Iraq without finishing Afghanistan. They’ve asked “Where is Osama?” They’ve watched the rich get richer, and their friends bale out of school scared to death of high stakes testing. More left behind than ever before, just not reported.
Now they watch as the government makes attacks on student loans, and holds out the carrot of military service in it’s place, and they are scared for their future. Some of my son’s friends have not joined the military because they believe in the cause. They don’t, they just have sensed where everything is going and come to believe that this will be the only way they will have the money to go to college.
Katrina only increased their fear for home. With a government using weekend soldiers to fight a war instead of talking care of the needs at home, watching the government work to cut programs they believe they need for the future (college costs are high) instead of it’s costly and optional war, they fear for home. They certainly are not enlisting as they once did. Do they, our next generation, by in large, feel hopeless for the future?
So as I watched the trailer of this game, Shattered Union, I heard my son’s voice as he told me that he and his friends wonder if a civil war is on the horizon for this divided nation. I tried to think back and remember did we feel this way during Viet Nam. Were we a nation so divided, almost right down the middle, with so much hostility on both sides. Did we as teenagers feel this way? I mean we did have a military death toll that averaged out to 200 dead a day during Nam, but that was “over there.” We had anti war protesters, and pro war people, we had the draft, we had Kent State and Height Ashbury, our world did in some respects seem like it was coming apart at the seams.
We had the SLA and bombings, but these were home grown. There's something oddly comforting about it being home grown extremists. We had the red menace. What we didn't have was the image of two towers coming down burned forever into our psyches, or constant tick of impeding doom that the administration has used to keep us in fear and themselves in power.
But did we feel as our teenagers feel now? Is this worse, a possible collective depressive state, which will only perpetuate itself without treatment? Is this just a game an outward expression of what they truly feel inside?