Friday, May 12, 2006

New York Times Op-Ed #1 - Editors unhappy with criticisms of Tierney? Perhaps.

V for Vapid

As a 23-year old male resident of New York City, “The Daily Show” has become as much a part of my diet as a daily vitamin. On a recent episode, Jon Stewart drew a comparison between the French students “burning cars” and their “violent clashes with police” and the “500,000 people marching in an orderly line” – referring to the protests in Los Angeles over new immigration legislation. Stewart and his writers drew up the dialectical relationship seemingly to mock the citizens of the United States for being wimpier than the French. Have we, the youth of a country founded on revolution, lost our ability to be revolutionary?

The last people that Americans want to recognize as being forceful or even relevant are the French. John Tierney’s column last week dismissed the French as suffering from “low self-esteem” and “not feeling empowered.” But, what is more empowering than being young and angry? Granted the French protests may not be for all the right reasons. Maybe the French could use less slacking on the job; maybe more Frenchmen need to be fired. What Tierney failed to realize is that a protest against a protest against complacency is better than no protest at all.

And that’s where we come in. According to The Los Angeles Times, some seven thousand students, mostly from middle schools, walked out of classes last week in protest. It’s something, but it doesn’t really amount to much. These kids have either been told to walk out of school by their moms and dads or are doing it to get out of class. It’s hard to imagine that a 12 year-old understands the complexities of our immigration laws; he/she just understands that what’s going on is “a bad thing.” It is something, but what does it say when middle school children are showing more zeit than the contemporaries of les etudients?

Those who should be analyzing and deconstructing, and most importantly caring about governmental policies, don’t seem to be. The complacent college student of America has most egregiously let his/her poorer contemporaries fight in a war for three years with barely a whimper. Most recently, he has seen his President tap his dorm room phone illegally and watched as his Democratic Senators exemplify complacency at the highest level by not standing behind one of the few rogues left, Russ Feingold. V, in our case, is definitely not for Vociferous.

That film that has been viewed by countless numbers of Generation Apathy has a tagline that reads, “People should not be afraid of their governments, governments should be afraid of their people.” The government of the United States most certainly is not afraid of its people, least of all its youth. Marion Douzou, a French student interviewed on NBC’s Nightly News recently, sounded much more like the anti-hero of the Nuevo Matrix, telling the camera, “I think that a government which sacrifices its youth such as our government is doing is the government of a lost country.”

But isn’t our country the one that’s lost? Isn’t our identity more confused than France’s? Call them what you will, but they know who they are and where they want to be in a hundred years (preferably with the same job). Certainly we can say that our government sacrifices our youth. When Bush decided to cut Pell Grants - one of the few cuts he has made in his time in office - where were we? If Chirac and Villepin cut student aid, French students would burn down the Sorbonne. We, once again, let our government walk all over us.

It is, of course, our fault. We don’t vote, so the lawmakers continue to make the debt, social security, the environment, and the clash of civilizations our problem. And then, we don’t protest and it only gets worse.

One of V’s jukebox tunes is a Velvet Underground number. Lou Reed, always the rebel, has apt application, here, too. Not the first and certainly not the last to say it in his refrain to “Perfect Day,” Reed warns over and over again: “You’re going to reap just what you sow.”

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