Where college once mattered, it matters no more. A place and ideal that once held an iconic existence in American culture now rests at our generation’s detrimental disgrace.
Each generation has its war. Some decades have taken their fight to the battlefield while others have tied their boots and taken theirs to city streets or empty bus stations. When the eyes of past generations landed upon uncertainty, they dug their feet into the soil of the college campus, wrapped their fingers around possibility and clung through the winds of Pearl Harbor, Vietnam or Watergate.
In the shadows of our parents, we have failed miserably, hidden behind materialism and deaf to the cries of our country and our world. Instead of smoking pot to epitomize an environment of peace that we sweat and bleed for, we smoke because it tastes good, because we want to sleep-in a little longer on Sundays. Instead of screaming and marching for our liberties, we join clubs to bolster our résumés. And in the face of an unjustifiable war built on a foundation of deception that has stacked the body bags of our generation beyond the heights of reason, the voice of our fathers has hushed inside of us.
The youth of America no longer believes. As we scale the world we find the once-sparkling aura of our flag-that for so long made us a nation of example and potential-has shimmered to a sour taste of dejection and hate. We look within our borders, armed with a magnifying glass to try to find a politics that has shrunk and withered. We find that the voice of American democracy has been taken from the people and auctioned off to a lobby of high bidders. The youth is afraid. We are afraid of the path our country has taken. And so in a childhood charade we have pulled the rug of our college years over our heads, squeezed our eyelids shut and hid from what is quickly becoming inevitable.
It is a horrid mistake, one made under the pressures of student loans, a shrinking job market, a near-nuclear North Korea, an all-too-familiar war and fear. Always fear. A fear that has been present since my generation was dragged prematurely into adulthood in those fateful morning hours of September. As we fixed ourselves in front of the television and curled our fingers around the edges of the couch, we knew something had changed. We understood the skyline would appear endlessly lonely on those cool December nights; we realized lives would be shaken beyond repair; and we comprehended the certainty of revenge. Yet those first few nights contained something else: An invisible heaviness that set itself atop the hurt and fear.
For the first time in our lives we were truly afraid to be American. The planes set that fear into our hearts as they struck the center of New York City, yet it was not the last time they would strike. Over the next year, that same image of fear was branded into our lives. WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION. We pulled the blanket of college above our chin line, and left Afghanistan. IRANIAN INFLUENCE. Now above our noses, as to not smell the blood of Iraq. RED. YELLOW. RED. And we raised it above our eyes, so we wouldn’t notice as our rights were stripped from us by the weapons of euphemism and fear. Always fear.
This is where the college campus has gone-we have run scared, hidden under the excuse of youth and its expulsion of responsibility. We are no longer the voice of reason amid the shouting of our government. We are no longer the cultural backbone of our nation. We have disappeared, and in our void, college-the once virgin angel to the vices of corruption and greed-has become an anchor of debt and a chamber of bureaucracy.
Yet in the face of fear it is our fault and our responsibility. We are no longer the next generation; we are America and we are the college campus. Apathy is a cloak of ignorance, a veil from reality. It’s time for us to stop being afraid.