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10 November 2008

The Kids are Alright

You know the one age group of Californians who voted against Proposition 8?

CNN exit poll*
Vote by Age Yes No

18-29 39 61

30-44 55 45

45-64 54 46

65+ 61 39

Proposition 8, for those of you who might not know, was a proposed constitutional amendment that would make gay marriage illegal in California. It passed, being the one nasty small-minded smudge on what was otherwise a proud day for America.

But have a look at those numbers. The only group who voted No - voted against discrimination - was the young people.

Have a look at this map, sent to me by the wondrous Snazzy.

It's often easy to cry that the world is going to hell-in-the-proverbial, but sometimes it helps to take a step back. Yes, there is still sexism, homophobia, religious intolerance, religious fanaticism, poverty, discrimination, global warming and racism in the world. But we're getting better. Overall, long-term, things are getting better. And from what I see in the world, and what the data above suggests, is that, over time, we are becoming more open-minded, more unprejudiced, more understanding**.

Here, also from Snazzy, is a letter written by an eight-year-old Filipino-American girl to Barack Obama with some advice about a dog, and a request that he make a law that requires everyone to recycle, and also ban unnecessary wars***.

In Obama's response, he writes, "I want you to look up the word 'empathy' in the dictionary. I believe we don't have enough empathy in our world today, and it is up to your generation to change that... I hope you will always be an active participant in the world around you, and that you will seize every opportunity to make the world better. Seeing young people like you who care about making things better inspires me and gives me great hope about the future of our country."

In today's New York Times Op-Ed, Al Gore proposes to make all of the US's electricity renewable within 10 years. The article is passionate and practical, and I highly recommend you read it (especially you, Mr Rudd). But here is the bit that made me cry:

Looking ahead, I have great hope that we will have the courage to embrace the changes necessary to save our economy, our planet and ultimately ourselves.

In an earlier transformative era in American history, President John F. Kennedy challenged our nation to land a man on the moon within 10 years. Eight years and two months later, Neil Armstrong set foot on the lunar surface. The average age of the systems engineers cheering on Apollo 11 from the Houston control room that day was 26, which means that their average age when President Kennedy announced the challenge was 18.

This year similarly saw the rise of young Americans, whose enthusiasm electrified Barack Obama’s campaign. There is little doubt that this same group of energized youth will play an essential role in this project to secure our national future, once again turning seemingly impossible goals into inspiring success.

People often ask me why I write for teenagers. This is why.

______________________________
*Nicked from this post by Justine.

**I was going to say "more tolerant", but I've made a personal pledge to stop using that word. The dictionary tells me that "tolarate" means "to accept or endure something unpleasant or disliked with forbearance". It's a horrible thing to say (I'm looking at YOU, Palin).

***She is an Obama fan despite the fact that her parents are named John and Cindy. For serious.

4 comments:

Jen said...

It's embarassing how far ahead of us the states are in relations to putting Gay marriage on the agenda. The fact that the conservatives felt that they needed to propose this law at all shows how well the campaigners have done (and tust me you haven't seen anything till you've been face to face with anti-homosexual protesters in the US!).

james roy said...

Nice post, Lili. I absolutely agree re 'tolerant'. That word's always bothered me, because you're right - to say that you're tolerant of anything (gay people, ethnic minorities, cultural differences) is to infer that you don't like it, but you'll put up with it. Yesterday I was at a huge public high school in western Sydney. This school has a population of 1100 students, only 0.2% of which (yes, that's two students) are Anglo. The remaining 99.8% of the students are from Iraqi, Assyrian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Cambodian, Lebanese, Sudanese, Philipino and other backgrounds. And it seemed to me that these kids were more than tolerant of each other. To suggest that they are tolerant is to suggest that they just get on because they have to. I didn't see that. I saw over a thousand kids of a multitude of languages, backgrounds, cultures, standing side by side during the Remembrance Day minute's silence with their heads bowed, some wiping away tears. Tolerant? No. I'd prefer accepting.

Naomi said...

Yay for teenagers. It's why I teach :) I love getting to know how awesome they are, and how awesome the world they foresee is. I'm sure the worlds we believed in at 18 were pretty incredible too. The key is to make sure we're working towards them.

Emmaco said...

Jen thanks for the reminder - it's so easy to be despondent and critical over the passing of prop 8 in California when the fact that it's such a big issue at all is so different to Australia.