When Paul Ryan speaks, the future of the Republican party listens. He’s young, he’s supposed to be the bearer of solid policy (though there’s lots of evidence he isn’t all he’s cracked up to be), and he’s dreamy.
Which is why I’m so troubled by the image that he invoked of young Americans, let down by Obama’s policies That’s my generation he’s talking about, my Millennials returning to the homes of their parents to, in his words, “stare up at faded Obama posters.”
He makes it sound like it’s Obama’s fault that we’re heading home in droves, like it’s the policies of Democrats that force young adults into a state of arrested adolescence.
But Ryan forgets what the Republican Party is supposed to be about – and what else it’s said about young people.
Republicans throughout the nation swear by the mantra of “personal responsibility” – it’s an article of faith in conservative circles that Americans want to work hard, and that if government gets out of our way, we’ll take matters into our own hands and build a mighty nation to dwell forever among the most renowned of names. At least, the Republican party thinks that of some Americans.
Millennials, though. My people. We are not hard workers. We are “entitled“. We believe that we deserve careers, education, and a standard of living that is above us. Republicans have called my generation lazy, self-centered, too dulled by the intoxication of unearned success to appreciate what we have.
We have been told that our pettiness makes us susceptible to government hand-holding, that we have received so many participant trophies that we no longer want to make our own success. We are not entrepreneurs. We love instant gratification.
These gut-feeling characterizations of me and mine have made their way into psychology journals, the business pages, and the mouths of head-shaking elders from shore to Jersey shore. There is a pervasive sense among conservatives that kids today aren’t pulling their weight.
To combat this, Republican governors have slashed into our paths to the middle class, cutting education in order to funnel cash to established businessmen. We are laughed at when we present arts, literature, or critical-thinking degrees – and at least one Republican platform explicitly rejects the teaching of critical thinking skills. We are told that we have nothing to contribute, and then are shamed for not contributing.
But that’s not all. These criticisms of my friends, from where do they spring? Why do the advocates of personal responsibility despise us?
Because they think they’ve done enough. How can you criticize the efforts of another unless you believe that you’ve already pulled your societal weight? How can you advocate personal responsibility except as a model of responsibility? Conservatives think they’ve done all they have to for their communities, and now they need someone to blame. Who else but the bloggers of the world, the ones with skills we were promised would take us to the top levels of achievement?
Conservatives want us to know that they built it, and they don’t plan on building anymore. They don’t need to give us a chance, because in their minds, we’ve already blown it. America is headed in the wrong direction – every conservative knows – but it sure isn’t their fault. Obama, English professors, young professionals, government bureaucrats – everyone else is to blame for those jobless twentysomethings, headed home. Everyone except the ‘job creators’ and the belt-tighteners. It’s our fault and the fault of our educators and our government. The businessmen aren’t at fault for the jobless recovery. The austerians aren’t to blame. Don’t expect Paul Ryan to take personal responsibility – the responsibility for the hard times must lie elsewhere.