As someone who is nearly 50, I reflect on the reality that I am older than many of the people I see in this community. As someone whose actions will have increasingly more impact on lives of future generations than my own, I recognize that I have a responsibility to my family and others who will go after me to care for their future as much as mine. Though I am still fairly young, my time will pass sooner than theirs, my mistakes will be their burdens, my positive actions will aid them.
Having concern for future generations is essential for those of us who are older. How we leave society and the Earth — financially, morally, internationally, and environmentally — will impact our children and grandchildren. It is our responsibility to do this to the best of our ability. It is a responsibility that we all too often fail.
When I look at how our actions as a country impact the future of our children, I am struck by a narrow focus on the moment, rather than the future. How does the reliance on short-term solutions — borrowing to maintain one of the highest standards of living in the world, increasing reliance on impersonal forms of communication, acceptance of rampant Internet porn, a national reliance on wars of choice that have caused this country to be one of the most hated in the world, and a casual disregard for the future conditions of the Earth as long as it maintains our material ease — affect our children and grandchildren? When I hear people my age and older complain about the supposed immaturity of younger people and when I pick up trash tossed aside by younger people, I often think that younger people in some way must feel deeply betrayed by my generation.
I note that my concerns are shared by various political perspectives. My concerns about our personal and national debt are “fiscal conservatism”; my concerns about the reliance on wars to quell — for the moment — the challenges facing the country internationally are “wild-eyed radicalism” and somehow thought to indicate that I do not love and admire the philosophy of political and personal freedom that were such radical — and half-understood-notions when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were adopted. In both cases, I am concerned about the future of my family and community, knowing that as I approach old age, their well-being will largely determine my own.
I encourage us to think seriously about how we are impacting future generations, setting aside the supposed divides, and aiming for a better world — one that is fiscally sound; has strong personal relationships and communities, free from porn and sexuality outside of loving relationships; one that is much more peaceful and based on international harmony; and a relationship with the Earth and the Earth’s resources that allows a healthy, sustainable future. We should not count on state or national politics to lead us there. It is all too obvious that intergenerational families — Bush, Dole, Taft, Kennedy, Gore, Udall, Daley, and many others — run many parts of this country like personal fiefdoms and often use our divisions to maintain their power and wealth. We must find our own solutions by working together. I sincerely hope we can do this.
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Milt Greek is a husband, a stepfather, and a computer programmer at Ohio University who has helped coordinate Town Hall Meetings in Athens for the past three years.