Reflections Magazine August-September, 2011
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Millennials cheer Bin Laden’s death

Young conservative countermovement thrives

 

 

The death of Osama Bin Laden did not go unnoticed by young people in the United States, particularly those 35 and under. The celebrations that rose up around news of Bin Laden’s demise, analysts noted, were promulgated and attended by these individuals. News footage of Times Square, for example, were of young faces cheering for the United States of America. Responses to the celebrations varied, from the offended, to the surprised, to those whose expectations were fulfilled. Those offended and surprised wondered how it was that Americans—especially the younger generation—could cheer the death of anyone, let alone the world’s greatest terrorist.

Those 35 and under have lived and grown up in a post-September 11 landscape, where safety is not perpetually assured, and where the United States has been engaged in the now decade-long War on Terror. The face at the top of the hierarchy that presided over the terrorist attacks of September 11 was that of Bin Laden. Bin Laden was the cause of the evil that befell the United States on that fateful Tuesday morning, and as such, his name and image will be forever synonymous with radical Islam and terror. While Bin Laden’s death is not the end of the War on Terror, his death is a close to a painful chapter of our history.

Beyond attempting to understand why young Americans would be cheering Bin Laden’s demise, analysts also began to understand just who comprised this generation. Generally, this new generation of 30-somethings and under accounts for people born as early as 1979 and as late as 2001. It is commonly referred to as Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, the Millennial Generation and Generation Me.

Attempting to classify groups is always difficult, especially for the purposes of sociological analysis. Statistics demonstrate a number of things: this present generation is more socially liberal than that of their parents and grandparents on issues such as gay marriage—yet is increasingly more conservative on other social issues, such as abortion. But attempting to pinpoint the motivations and movements within this current generation is even more difficult.

One can look back at the liberal tendencies of the Baby Boomers—the hippies of the 1960s—and find a number of marked trends, such as increased drug use, decline in religious attitudes, a rise in divorce rates and sexual promiscuity. But in examining today’s generation, we find fewer consistencies. While the sexual attitudes of the present generation may be much more relaxed, this generation also believes in marriage to a greater degree, and the decline in divorce rates that began under President Ronald Reagan continues to this day.

Despite the noted liberal tendencies of the present generation, there is also a thriving conservative countermovement often ignored or overemphasized. The hippies of the 1960s erroneously saw intellectual powerhouses like conservative pundit William F. Buckley as the establishment—yet those very same countercultural icons, like radical left-wingers such as Bill Ayers and Barack Obama, are now the establishment. A conservative countermovement—the 30-somethings and under, are much more religious than their parents as a whole (a surge in young Catholics and non-denominational Christians demonstrates where the religious movement is growing).

Sociological analysis is also divided on the present generation, owing to the confusion of a lack of clear, consistent identifying trends. Neil Howe finds in “Millenials Rising: The Next Great Generation,” that the present generation is comprised of less violent, civic-minded hard workers who have more tolerance toward things like multiculturalism and greater conservative tendencies on issues such as sex. Yet Associate Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University Jean M. Twenge disagrees. In “Generation Me,” she believes self-esteem has been valued above achievement, placing the individual in a sort of extreme moral relativist state. Selfishness, greed, apathy, violence, disrespect and other less than favorable character traits have flourished.

When American popular culture is surveyed, television shows like MTV’s Jersey Shore and Skins, and films like Bad Teacher, as well as video games like the Grand Theft Auto series which cast the game player as hoodlum, thief and murderer against law enforcement agencies, underscore Ms. Twenge’s analysis. YouTube videos of mass beatings and fights—oftentimes of teenagers spurred on by parents—abound, as do videos of “mob robs” (which consist of large groups of individuals stampeded a store to rob it). Media both shapes and is shaped by public demand –and a popular culture that glorifies promiscuity, drug use, deviant behavior and an entitlement lifestyle of parties, booze and greed can overshadow what Ms. Twenge and Mr. Howe both do not see: there is a growing conservative countermovement, one that is neither dominant nor non-existent.

While it does not dominate the public sphere despite what liberals falsely state, the conservative countermovement is thriving. Surprise breakout movies like The Passion of the Christ and Fireproof, as well as television shows like ABCFamily’s Secret Life of the American Teenager, which features characters struggling with moral choices, demonstrate that the conservative trend among the present generation is not non-existent, though it is not dominant. Acts of charity, goodness and kindness are celebrated and a return to a moral life is the goal.

The success of some generations—like the one that struggled through the Great Depression and World War II—consists mainly of altruistic, moral individuals reliant on self for survival. Other generations, like the Baby Boomers, are dependent upon the wisdom of their forebears, like William F. Buckley and Ronald Reagan, to carry them through. And some generations, like the present generation, rely upon a minority of individuals to pave the way for future generations and success.

But today’s generation is not easily defined—not because it is inconsistent—but because it exists in two separate planes of belief, bridged by a handful of common ideals. Attitudes on sex diverge, but opposition to abortion is increasingly common. Attitudes on the definition of marriage clash, but a decline in divorce rates is prevalent. Generation Y may be conflicted about war, but when it comes to the downfall of Osama bin Laden, many agree his demise was a necessary evil.

-Joe Vigliotti is an award-winning writer residing in Maryland. He is the author of the novels “Carnival Week” and “Return to the Shore.” Visit his Website at: www.jvigliotti.com.

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