I was spending time with friends the other day when one of them got to talking about his great uncles who were pilots in their 20’s during WWII. He told some amazing stories about their air battles, one of which involved a bullet ripping through fuselage and sheering off half of one poor uncle’s thumb. He kept fighting of course, not even thinking of landing his plane before the last Japanese Zero was struck down.
Was he brave and tenacious for doing this? Well yes, but he was also doing what seemed to come natural to people of that era; gritting through what must have been an incredibly fearsome situation to get the job done. He was part of the Greatest Generation that fought in WWII and what they went through and sacrificed should never be forgotten.
This got me thinking about today’s young men and women and on what would happen if, God forbid, the nation entered in to another world war and had to enact an involuntary draft. Hundreds of thousands of Millennials and Generations Z’s would be jettisoned from their comfortable lives to do battle for their country and this worries me more than just a little.
Don’t get me wrong, there are many in this age group who wouldn’t hesitate to step up to the plate and fight with the same valor, grit and sense of duty as the uncles mentioned above did. I know (and am related to) many.
We live in a different world though, one filled with safe spaces and trigger warnings to protect against so called hate speech, where the “wrong” Halloween costume or prom dress can spark a frenzied outrage of condemnation and where even eating a taco can cause offense because of the vastly shallow and meaningless term, cultural appropriation.
While we shouldn’t paint all young adults with this wide brush of nonsense, the very vocal and perpetually aggrieved ones screaming their heads off about stuff like this (and the older people that enable them) has me wondering if we have what it takes to rally and defeat another Hitler.
As my friend with the great uncles said to me, “I look at what they went through during WWII and compare it to now where kids were given time off from school to deal with the “trauma” of Donald Trump’s election and I just think we’re screwed.”
Who knows really what would happen during a time of war, but if we continue down this path of coddling students, trying to protect them from icky feelings then yes, our future looks bleak.
Kids need to learn from a young age that things won’t always go their way, that getting a trophy for just showing up means nothing and that conflict is a natural part of life. The sooner they learn how to deal with it in healthy ways, the easier it will be for them to navigate the world as adults and live respectfully with others who think and act differently from them. College is all about getting your worldview challenged and feeling more than a bit uncomfortable should be the norm.
Gosh, what a different world we would have if schools actually promoted this type of environment and students embraced it. Where debate on tough subjects is encouraged and those who try to shout down differing opinions are ridiculed as the whiny babies they really are.
Feeling uncomfortable and hurt can be hard, but hardship builds character and character wins wars. Let’s stop pretending that smothering our kids and young adults to protect against any possible harm doesn’t have negative effects on this.