Ruben Bolling riffs on one of the more puzzling and ultimately depressing aspects of "those darned kids" -- the way 18-to-20s are treated as half-citizens. And he's right in his "what if it were any other demographic?" reductio.
My question is, is this a call to arms for the 18-to-20s, or is he asking everyone to change it? Because, yes, if it were happening to a different demographic, one used to the benefits of society, then "everyone" would be rising up.
But it isn't. And they aren't.
Maybe it's more understandable in 2013. Monsanto is kind of a theoretical threat, and Bank of America may be screwing the whole country but it's hard to show that they're actually screwing you except in the abstract.
Back in my day, grumbled Andy, we took the voting thing pretty seriously because the old people were actually, actively trying to kill us right now, with bullets and explosions, not high interest rates and long-term health issues.
I remember a discussion in seminar of the Crito, the dialogue in which Socrates, condemned to death, declines a chance to flee Athens, saying that, having accepted the benefits of citizenship, he is morally obligated to accept the outcome of the legal system.
This seemed, to the hawks in the class, a justification of the draft, or, at least, a justification of not resisting a legal system of conscription.
But the doves neatly parried with the observation that we were not citizens.
True, we had enjoyed the benefits of living in the United States, but our parents had determined where we were born and where we would live. Without the franchise, we were not citizens and we had no share in making the laws, so that the obligation Socrates defined was not applicable in our situation.
The argument over the franchise was not confined to the seminar room, however, and the combination of our raising hell and the potential power of a new group of discontented progressive voters gave Congress and the various state legislatures motivation to pass the 26th Amendment in 1971.
And then, in 1972, George McGovern lost anyway, which probably had something to do with the fact that his name wasn't Ed Muskie, which had a lot to do with the Nixon White House getting to choose who they had to run against, but he certainly did lose nonetheless.
And while the draft ended in 1980, men -- and only men -- are still required to register, and then, in 1984, they took away the right to drink beer.
Okay, the rest of the stuff might all seem pretty theoretical and remote, but I was stunned that the 18-to-20s didn't at least try to overturn the part about beer. Maybe if the current crew hadn't been grandfathered into the new drinking laws, but, still.
Y'all do know about beer, right?
Maybe nobody told them they could do it. Maybe somebody told them it would never work. But there is a point at which nihilistic despair goes from being a fashionable pose to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Lalo Alcaraz makes a point that ought to resound with the most recent generation of voters, but, then again, if they thought like that, Ruben Bolling would have had nothing to cartoon about today.
Giving up wasn't fashionable back then, and when we read about people trapped in the labyrinths of their own despair -- Willy Loman or Gregor Samsa or Oblomov -- we saw their stories as cautionary, not inevitable.
They were what we swore we would never be, and to become them would be, not an acceptance of reality but a failure of effort and of vision.
Then again, those stories exist for a reason, and there are more ways to sink into despair than by sitting watching "American Idol."
"We have no one yet, no men, look where you will. Everywhere, either small fry, nibblers, petty self-absorbed Hamlets, or darkness and subterranean chaos, or idle babblers and wooden sticks. Or else they are that other kind: They study themselves to the most shameful detail and are forever feeling the pulse of every sensation and reporting to themselves 'That's what I am feeling, that's what I think!' A useful, rational occupation! No, if we only had some sensible men among us, that girl, that delicate soul, would not have run away from us, would not have slipped off like a fish into the water! What's the meaning of it, Uvar Ivanovitch? When will our time come? When will men be born among us?" -- Pavel Shubin ("On The Eve," Turgenev, 1859)
All of which thoughts made me chuckle ruefully at today's Better Half, and to go searching online for a video of "These Days," with its lyric of "We used to talk about changing the world, now all you want to do is change your name. Oh, come on, baby, don't surrender now to the empty heart of these days." (Not embeddable, but well worth the click)
I've seen Johnny Clegg in the lecture hall and in concert and he hasn't abandoned the fight.
He's also not 18 years old, but isn't growing older supposed to be the reason you do give up?