Giving birth to a genetic copy of you and your partner seems to be the ultimate form of narcissism. I get it, I mean you love each other and want to start a family, right? After all, children are the ultimate ties that bind. Walking through the grocery store, hand in hand with a genetic mini-you is heartwarming, to be sure. You have finally accomplished what every man, woman, and children strives for in our lifetime. To leave something on this earth that will last long after we’re gone. Some men build skyscrapers like Frank Lloyd Wright. Some create an earth-shaking brand like Steve Jobs. Some have babies.
I’m not trying to belittle your choice of passing something on to the next generations. I mean, all the Apple computers and skyscrapers in the world mean nothing without someone to enjoy them. So in that sense, I commend you. Babies ensure the continuation of our species, and will someday (if I can trust any sci-fi I have ever read) ensure we create a habitat among the stars. This is a wonderful thing. We simply can’t have anther earth species like dolphins taking over things in our stead. Will they know how to settle Middle Eastern conflicts? I think not.
While I applaud our efforts to place as many human beings on the planet as possible, I often question the world we plan to leave these genetic copies of ourselves. The previous generation was left one of the greatest economies in the world, and they broke it. Threw a wrench in the works, sat back and handed it off their children. Consciously or not, the Baby Boomer generation left a world for their children much worse than the one they received, a world that is riddled with injustice, inbred with racism, and seeks to create new problems when attempting to solve old ones.
We can’t afford to leave the world in a worse state than the one we got. We can’t afford to be lesser men and women than the world before us. We cannot allow our self-awareness to turn into self-obsession. Anyone with a cable subscription and a remote (cause I’ll be damned if I’m getting up to change the channel) can see the kind of person we place value on.
The Internet created a loudspeaker for everyone, and human nature is to stop and stare at the absurd. This encouraged a slew of absurdity, from Jersey Shore, to publicly shaming racists with our own racial slurs. Don’t get me wrong: I abhor racism. I equally abhor responding to racism with our own style of bigotry. I abhor responding to gender inequality by shouting (OR AN ALL CAPS RESPONSE) and cursing. We can be better than that. We are better than that. You simply have to scroll through the YouTube comments to spot these kinds of exchanges.
Our children will someday be men and women. Men and women who will have a world in their hands, passed down from us. A world with its own set of problems, issues, and hatred. Will we be able to say we left this world better than we found it? That we created a generation capable of dealing with their individual problems with a manner of dignity and respect?
I have a sincere hope for my generation, and I have seen our ability in flashes. When Westboro’s protests are blocked by my generation, I feel an overwhelming sense of respect. With every bigoted law struck down, my chest swells with pride. When a nation’s flag represents the will of its people for the first time, I am brought to tears. I have seen what we are capable of, and I am proud to be born in this moment and time.
In short, you don’t have to build a skyscraper to leave our children a better world. You don’t have to be a vegan, or ride a bicycle for the rest of your life. Leaving a better world begins with teaching a sense of self-respect, and tolerance of people and cultures we may not be able to understand. By teaching a sense of justice, and showing we are capable of love.
I have seen you do it.
I have seen what you are capable of.
Let’s leave them something better than what we received.