(Submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle, 26 June 2002; unpublished.)
I found Charles Dahan's op-ed a little bit depressing, and symptomatic of something that's been bothering me for a while.
This newly-minted high school graduate laments his generation's lack of involvement, perhaps legitimately, but then proposes that the government ought to do something about it. "In summer, when teenagers are often bored or anxiously awaiting the next challenge, I believe it is the responsibility of our leaders to inspire young people to go out and find such challenges."
I submit that it is the responsibility of each and every one of us, regardless of age, to find our own challenges and inspiration. The children of the '60s were engaged largely in opposition to the government, not because the Peace Corps existed. It's true that John Kennedy was a source of inspiration, but so were Dr. King and Jack Kerouac.
The thing that's been bothering me is an increasing tendency to ask, "What's the government going to do about it?" in response to any societal ill, real or perceived. The correct question is, "What am I going to do about it?" One possible answer is, "I'm going to ask the government to help," but skipping that important first question produces exactly the sort of apathy which Dahan laments. Why help the homeless, when I pay my taxes? Why worry about pollution when we've got the EPA? We all need to take responsibility for our own communities, and not rely on bureaucratic protection by proxy.Chris Maden