... a categorical complaint from the country
Editor's note - the sometimes creative teen spelling is left as submitted without comment.
Did you ever open an e-mail message from a friend which contained an image that hit you right between the eyes and set your blood to boiling? I received a message like this a few weeks ago. This tasteless image featured the rear end view of a teen-aged male dressed in drooping, baggy pants. He was bent at the waist and thus exposing his natural anatomy. This private area was marked with an emboldened letter Y. I felt an immediate, visceral response of repulsion to this image. I feel the same way whenever I see this part of the anatomy of an overweight, older man, exposed in public. I have never seen young men expose themselves in this tasteless manner. I did see however, the message this unsavory e-mail was meant to convey. It said to me, "Teen-aged males who dress in this manner are unworthy of our respect."
When I shared this image with my young friend Joe, it set off a shock wave that ran through the entire, teen-aged population of our small town of Bradford, Vermont. They asked me to write an article which would give voice to their collective response to this e-mail. They want to be understood and respected. What follows is a brief summation of our conversations surrounding these issues.
Teen-aged males in Vermont wear their pants far enough down on their hips to expose only the waistband of their underwear. This is their way of making a statement against older men who publicly expose themselves in this manner. It also serves as a rejection of Madison Avenue's superficial, commercialized images of "what's hot". These young men were taught in school to excel at being individuals and were empowered to express themselves in whatever manner they choose. Joe and his friends do not understand why the public and the police are singling them out as objects of ridicule, fear and suspicion because of the way they choose to dress.
Many teens cited instances in which their elders have publicly embarrassed them in their workplace by denouncing their choice in body piercing. Most teens spoke of being stopped on the street by police officers who ordered them to report where they had been, what they are doing, and where they are going... for no apparent reason. All of the teens know the police will stop them if they are spotted wearing their baseball caps while driving their cars. These teens have ceased to trust their elders and are scared to death of the police. They feel isolated, frightened and alone.
This generation was encouraged in school to assume their place in a worldwide, "global village". As children, they were immersed in studies of the history, culture and mores of other countries to the exclusion of America. As a result, they cannot understand why people continue to evaluate each other in terms of gender, ethnicity, religious beliefs or moral behavior. They also cannot understand American patriotism or feel a connection with their homeland.
Teens adhere to the firm belief that all life on our planet is doomed to die from the effects of "global warming" within the next hundred years. Being brought up in an age of war, they are convinced there will be never be an end to it. They know if they go to a state college in Vermont, they will graduate with loan payments they can't afford to pay back. They are sure there will be no money available to them in Social Security funds when they retire. Many of them see no reason to prepare for a future that is doomed to fail.
These teens simply cannot understand society's preoccupation with teenage drug abuse. They grew up in a culture in which the majority of them and/or their parents were placed on some form of drug therapy. These drugs were prescribed to treat the gambit of illnesses from Attention Deficit Disorder to Defiance Disorder and from Anxiety to Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. The message they received from their pediatricians, parents and teachers as children was, "Drugs help people." When faced with the contradicting message that drugs were bad, most of them set out on a course to find out why. They learned a lot about drugs from each other or through personal experimentation. What they didn"t know, they researched on-line and have now become experts in "street pharmacology". This is their "drug rap song":
"Oxycotton, Zanex bars,
Valiums, morphine patches
Ecstacy, its all up for grabs."
The composers of this song want people who don't listen to "rap music" to know this song is meant as a put down of all "drug companies". These teens consider them to be the biggest and deadliest "drug pushers" in the world.
The Y Generation, if you still choose to call them this, is pleased to have been able to share their collective frustrations and fears with you. They want to be understood and respected for who they are as people. They don't want a hand out or expect a free ride. They consider themselves to be the "street smart" survivors of this dying world.
October 3, 2008