Matt Grifferty: The Facebook generation vs. the baby boomers

CNN contributor Donna Brazile came to the Jack Morton Auditorium on Monday and lauded our generation as being the modern catalyst for change. Her words were powerful, passionate and akin to the praise given to baby boomers of the 1960s.

Yet when our respective generations are compared, we are criticized for not being as motivated or driven. The media has offered humorous and sometimes serious criticism of how our generation deals with the problems of the day – Facebook groups, anyone? Most people accept the criticisms as fact and believe that because we do not take to the streets, we do not truly care.

The truth is, the issues in this global age are too diverse and far-reaching to be solved by standing outside buildings with signs. Many of them do not directly affect us, and yet we still take them to heart. We could ignore the ramifications of global warming. We will not be directly affected by genocide in Darfur or poverty and hunger in Africa. But we still find avenues to show our concern.

What made the Baby Boomers hit the streets in protest? The Vietnam War directly affected their livelihoods – they could have been drafted and swept off to Saigon any day.

For college kids in the ’60s it was much easier to focus and show their dissent. There were more than 20 national groups on campuses aimed at protesting the war and the draft – everything from Students for a Democratic Society to the Vietnam Day Committee.

What they did was exemplary. The draft directly affected them, so of course they protested. Of course they did not want to fight in a war they did not believe in. We face no challenge as universal as a draft, but if we did, do not doubt we would hit Capitol Hill with the same fervor and tenacity.

Despite modern-day issues not being conducive to traditional forms of protest, when protest is the best option, that’s what we do. We all remember the protests against the Chinese government’s human rights violations before and during the summer Olympic Games. There are protests for and against abortion. There are protests for and against gay marriage. People have protested our government’s indifference to genocide in Darfur.

If there is a cause we believe in, we find ways to contribute to it. There are countless organizations you can join or help by simply bringing out your credit card. You can buy a wristband or T-shirt for almost any imaginable cause – Livestrong for cancer; One for poverty, AIDS and hunger; Red for AIDS; the list goes on. Some would argue that bringing out your checkbook indicates you don’t really care, but most people are unable to go to China or India or Darfur without taking drastic measures, so they give the best they can.

The protests that took place in the ’60s were not trivial, but criticism of our generation is without warrant. If we had a singular issue to attack, we would attack with the same zeal as the baby boomers. But our concerns cannot always be shown with a protest. Sometimes you just have to buy the T-shirt with every intent of making good upon what it signifies – that you are part of a generation looking to change the world, not just its own predicament.

The writer is a freshman majoring in journalism.

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