John Tyner, a San Diego software engineer and newly minted American folk hero, faces an $11,000 civil-disobedience fine for refusing an intimate groping, dubbed by Orwellian bureaucrats as an “enhanced patdown,” that Hillary Clinton would herself refuse. The man who threatened a citizen’s arrest if his “junk” were touched epitomizes an aroused populace, even including flaccid Baby Boomers, who will no longer tolerate TSA inanity passing off as security at the nation’s airports.
Time was when Boomers, my generation, risked arrest in the face of unacceptable official conduct. Draft cards and bras burned. Marches and sit-ins dotted the nationscape. From the hottest campuses — Berkeley, Michigan, Columbia and Kent State — outbreaks of youthful protests erupted and spread furiously. But that was a galaxy far, far away.
Today, as Pogo predicted, we have met the enemy and he is us. My father, a principled rebel himself, envisioned this outcome. He would enrage me by repeatedly noting that these protests were nothing more than youthful exuberance, a “phase” that would peter out. If (as I hope) he’s moved on by now from Purgatory to a more hospitable celestial level, Dad’s no doubt looking down and smiling wryly.
A generation that screamed “Power to the People” and urged peace and love in place of war has become a cantankerous cohort of whiners and WIIFM (“What’s in it for me?”) turncoats. Sure, most of us today face hard and scary times — but times then seemed plenty fearsome and arduous too, with Tricky Dick’s finger hovering over the nuclear button, rioters burning our cities, and assassins downing our beloved leaders in rat-a-tat sequence. We still want devolution, but we’ve devolved to this: Keep your damned government hands off my Medicare and Social Security!
The time sure seems right for the Boomers to engage in adult conversations. No, not the type that Republicans chant and Jon Stewart unmasks. I speak instead of soul-searching colloquys on our bedrock values — the kind of debates we used to have in college dorms late at night.
One good place to start is the Dream Act — the previously bipartisan proposal that the GOP abandoned a few months ago in a defense authorization bill despite strong support from the military. The bill, which would legalize blameless out-of-status immigrant youth brought here by their parents, is a litmus test on our morality and our hope for the future. On one side, we pit an Arpaio posse of past-their-prime celebrities and their odious ilk. On the other, about a million young people tied to this country by lives lived nowhere else and legions of close American friends and family. The DREAMers are among the ones expected to fund the Boomers’ Social Security and Medicare payments. These innocents are certainly no less oppressed than the people for whom the Boomers marched in the Sixties.
The DREAM Act will come up for a lame duck vote right after Thanksgiving. I support the bill because “small ball” is better than a rained-out game, but share the concerns of a letter writer commenting on a DREAM Act article in the New York Times Magazine who fears “that it will become a military-recruiting tool for young people of color who can’t afford college.” (At least the California Supreme Court unanimously affirmed their right to in-state tuition.)
Even if proponents of functional immigration policies cannot now have the big enchilada (comprehensive immigration reform), in large part, because many of the Boomers abandoned their youthful values, we can at least pass the DREAM Act and follow a new POGO (the Project on Government Oversight). POGO is “a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms” and investigates “corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest [in order to] achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.”
Think about that the next time your package is handled by a government official who may find the screening as distasteful as you do. Maybe then we can have an adult conversation on balancing security and enlightened self-interest in all matters involving Homeland Security, including immigration.