6th Grade Revolutionaries
I received an email from Jessica, Ujashi, Kelsey, An-chi and Jocelyn, 6th graders in Fremont, CA. For a school project, they were asked to create a concept for “Fremont of the Future”. They decided to focus on energy and the debt crisis. They put it this way: ”As we looked at oil and debt we realized nearly everything we take for granted today is going to change before we become parents”. They ask me to take a quick survey. I had no idea if this was real, but, I thought, “What the heck” and clicked the link. At first, I thought, “awwwww….how cute”. Then I took the survey. You can take the survey here.
The first section dealt with oil dependence, peak oil and how I saw the future of an oil addicted America. Bleak. In the second section, they quote the Constitution and ask that it inform the next part of the survey, specifically:
“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution guarantees a “republican” form of government; no taxation without representation and no tyranny of the majority. It’s explained by Madison in Federalist Papers #10.
The survey then asks you to agree or disagree with the following statements:
- Depleting resources endangers our Posterity.
- Debt is a tax on future labor
- Debt, every child owing $50,000, is “Taxation without Representation?”
- Adults, a majority, voting themselves benefits that must be paid for by children, a minority, is tyranny of the majority.
This is where it got scary. 6th graders in Fremont, CA seem to be planning revolution! Endangering posterity? Taxation without Representation? Actions in violation Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution! Them’s fightin’ words. From 6th graders.
These are not questions I have asked myself, but they are questions the generations who follow mine are asking. What if they go beyond questioning?
This past week, I attended the graduation of my son from law school. I was as proud as any parent could be and then I received this survey. It got me thinking. I hope he continues down his charted course to someday teach the law and doesn’t read this and see it as an opportunity in court.
What I do think will happen is a concerted effort by the generations who follow us baby boomers to cap our spending habits, to protect the resources we so prolifically use and to pass the judgment of history on our inactions. We represent a government in paralysis; businesses that serve investors at the expense of their employees and an electorate that votes themselves the largess of tax supported pork. Our parents were the greatest generation and our children and grandchildren will be the indebted generations.
I am not willing to write off the Boomers yet. They (we) still hold the reins of power. But it is the succeeding generations that must crack the whip. We need a government that wields “Smart Power”, a proper mix of diplomacy, military, economic and information power in a cost responsible manner. We need businesses that have vision beyond the quarterly report and instead think of the next quarter century (or as the Chinese call it, “short term planning”).
We need a population that understands that taxation is the price of civilization, that the common weal includes care for the less fortunate, including their health, that civil rights are for all, not state by state, that immigration renews America and that shared sacrifice is the basic bond of American exceptionalism. I am afraid that my generation has forgotten this.
The generations that came of age in time of long term conflict understand this. I saw it in my father’s generation and I see it in the members of the Truman National Security Project and the veterans of Operation Free. I look to them for the leadership my generation has failed to manifest. Hold your elected officials accountable this November at the polls. Maybe they will learn what you seem to know instinctively, but I doubt it. Replace them with the folks from your ranks and, perhaps, we can restore a Government of the People, for the People and by the People.
Col. Dan Nolan, US Army (Ret.) is a Truman Security Fellow and a Operation Free Veteran.