Posts Tagged ‘PBS’

Wanted: Heroes for the 21st Century

Sunday, October 14th, 2012


By Bob Gaydos

A couple of months ago, I watched a documentary on PBS: “Simon and Garfunkel, Songs of America.” In addition to being a musical tour de force, it turned out to be a moving history lesson of the turbulent times in which it was made, the 1960s. Interestingly, the film, tame by today’s standards, was shown only once by CBS-TV, in 1969, because its strong anti-war sentiments apparently offended too many sponsors. So kudos to PBS for rescuing it from the dust bin.

But my goal here is not to relive the ‘60s. There have been much more enjoyable decades to appreciate. Rather, it is to take something from that era and try to figure out its equivalent today: Heroes.

Watching the film and the footage of John F. Kennedy, I was instantly reminded of his powerful influence on America’s young people. We know today that JFK was, like all of us, a flawed human being. But he was an undeniable inspiration to tens of thousands of young people, who took heart and hope from his words and vitality. He connected with us. In similar, if less encompassing ways, so, too, did Robert Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

And so I wondered, who do kids look to today for inspiration? Who are their heroes? I came up with next to nothing and set the idea aside until I could ask my own sons. Max, 20 and Zack, 18, if they had any heroes.

“Anonymous,” Zack said, without missing a beat. Max agreed immediately.

Having now confused many of my readers over 50, maybe even 40, I must explain that Anonymous is a loosely connected, international group of Internet communities that opposes efforts at Internet censorship and surveillance as well as taking on other causes its anonymous members agree is of benefit to the overall group. It hacks government and corporate web sites and delights in exposing the lies and abuses of the people in power in the corporate, political, military, media, you-name-it world. Members have been described as anarchists and freedom fighters. Its symbol is the famous — and now, ubiquitous — Guy Fawkes mask. Time magazine has named Anonymous one of the most influential groups in the world.

My response was almost as swift as Zack’s. Of course, Anonymous. It speaks to the voiceless millions of young people who feel they have been, to put it delicately, screwed by their elders. A generation that has been told there are no jobs for you, going to college anyway will leave you in debt for decades to come, and we don’t want to hear your whining so get out of the streets with your signs and out of the parks with your tents because we now outfit our police forces like small armies and they are permitted to use tear gas, peppers spray, rubber bullets, flash bang grenades, and clubs, if necessary, to make you stop reminding your elders of what a mess they have made of the world. Throw you in jail, too, because that’s where smart aleck, unarmed protesters like you wind up today in America.

End of speech. But to the point — today’s heroes will, of necessity, be different from yesterday’s I will allow for one possible exception, that being President Barack Obama. When he ran for the presidency in 2008, he inspired millions of young people. Some of that attraction has been lost in the subsequent four years, but Obama remains, and always will, a source of great pride and inspiration to millions of young, black Americans. History cannot erase his achievement, nor yet predict its impact on this nation’s future leaders.

But there have to be more. My sons also came up with TV personalities, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, also untraditional and altogether fitting in the expose-the-rascals genre. I also asked some friends who offered the likes of author Maya Angelou, Oprah Winfrey and former congressman Dennis Kucinich, all worthy nominees.

I have more names, but I’d like to hold them for awhile. Compiling such lists is a process and one for which the Internet and social media are especially well-suited. I would really like to hear suggestions from you. dear readers. Truthfully, I’m even more interested in suggestions from your children and grandchildren who are in their mid-teens through twenties. Who are their heroes? Not sports or entertainment idols; heroes. If the kids are not at home, post this on Facebook or email them and ask them to respond. This is an interactive medium, remember?

I’ll come back to this topic with more names and, I hope, a better understanding of what it means to be a hero to today’s youth. Who knows, maybe that will contribute in some small way to a better understanding of how we can work together for a world that embraces all generations.