There is, for a certain segment of humanity, a wondrous pleasure inherent in telling others that they are wrong.
That sense of gleeful satisfaction derived from pointing out what they perceive to be the errors of others is the revenge of those who are insecure, believe themselves to be unappreciated, or feel powerless, which is likely why this behavior is most commonly found among adolescents. The desire to bully others in order to make up for the empty spot in their own immature souls is sad to see. Parents and teachers, who typically have to bear the brunt of teenagers that have to—have to!—be right, nurture the sometimes forlorn hope that they will eventually grow out of their childishness.
One reason that I never liked teaching the J.D. Salinger novel The Catcher in the Rye to my high school students is that the narrator and main character, Holden Caulfield, is an exceedingly irritating example of the smart teenager who doesn’t realize just how dumb he actually is. He copes with his youth and inexperience by convincing himself that all adults are “phonies” who cannot be trusted. Believing the wisdom of the universe resides in his own petty and underdeveloped mind, he cannot help but annoy others with his derisive and thoughtless comments.
I always tried to point out to my students that Holden was neither a role model nor a hero; his attitudes and behavior were often obnoxious and born of his determination to fault the adults in order to avoid seeing the faults in himself. His desperate efforts to prove his own moral and spiritual superiority typically demonstrated only his callow understanding of the world around him, but it did not prevent him from seeking unwarranted validation while ignoring any evidence that his beliefs and behaviors were contemptible.
Unfortunately, as the years have passed, I more and more have grown to believe that the Holden Caulfields have taken over America—and we are much the worse for this.
Life is full of compromises, and adults are not phonies; they simply understand that purity is beautiful but usually unattainable. Adolescents forget the stark difference between lovely wants and gritty needs, and their foolishness is merely an annoyance—until they grow up and get their fingers on the levers of power. At that point, they become positively dangerous to themselves and everyone around them because their plain ignorance of how the world actually works inflicts pain on us all. Virtue signaling masquerading as thoughtful governance comforts a few temporarily, but it eventually ruins the lives of all whom it touches.
Any American who has had to fill up their gas tank in order to drive to work knows this all too well.
Anyone who lives in a violent, crime-ridden American city knows this all too well.
Any American who has recently bought food, shopped for a car, or applied for a mortgage knows this all too well.
Any student or parent of a student who has questioned the sanity and competence of those running our schools and colleges knows this all too well.
Any American living near our Southern Border and witnessing the catastrophe wrought by a conscious decision to ignore the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws knows this all too well.
And our nation’s enemies around the world, who are both astounded and thrilled by the Biden Administration’s feeble international policies, know this all too well—which should worry each and every one of us.
The whining of adolescents is far less forgivable when those entitled and insufferable children age into perpetually aggrieved adulthood. Instead of their recognizing that sometimes frustrating compromise and conciliation is a fact of adulthood and adult responsibilities, we instead are subjected to the endless complaints and finger pointing of overgrown Holden Caulfields who revel in calling out all the phonies but are unable to develop or implement any effective alternatives of their own—except by bankrupting taxpayers with their childish and unworkable fantasies.
Reality is both rough and unforgiving. Wishing it to be otherwise is simply futile.
Sometimes we need to drill for oil and dig for coal, transport it, and use it. Ask the Europeans who bought into the Green Energy nightmare how well that is working out now that Russia has turned off their fossil fuel spigots. Solar power and windmills have a lot of functional limitations that can be blithely ignored until war or another disaster interrupts the supplies of oil, coal, and natural gas.
Sometimes criminals need to be arrested and incarcerated by police officers and prosecutors who are focused on protecting the public from harm rather than pretending to be social workers or public defenders.
Sometimes we have to support the hardworking Americans who grow our food, work in our businesses, and try their best to care for their families within their own means—rather than going out of our way to make their lives more difficult.
Sometimes we have to recognize that educational institutions that fail to equip students for college or career success are nothing but extraordinarily expensive daycare that waste both taxpayer money and precious human potential.
Sometimes we have to realize there is little difference between open borders and an obvious invasion, and rewarding those who violate our laws always will have a tendency to backfire in the most spectacular manner possible.
Sometimes we need to remember the reason that we have still have our freedoms is past generations of American adults have understood when the talk has to end and the shooting has to begin. Weakness always invites war.
And sometime soon we must admit that any nation run by overgrown 16 year olds is heading for an awful—but perhaps still preventable—catastrophe.
Adult governance is neither overly dramatic nor flamboyantly virtuous. It goes about its boring way looking for cost-effective and efficient paths toward ensuring public safety, maintaining essential infrastructure, and keeping our national defenses robust. In addition, it is suspicious of using the tools of government to either dictate to our citizens or solve their every problem by heaving bags of borrowed money down the toilet of corrupt and ultimately self-defeating spending programs that cause far more problems than they solve.
Most importantly, adults know that encouraging personal responsibility and restraint is preferable to bailing out people who act stupidly and harm both themselves and others. Knowing from experience that second chances must be earned rather than granted, adults understand all too well that our decades-long experiment with adolescent governance that continually sprinkles money and favor on the most irresponsible is a self-reinforcing doom loop of disaster—one that must end immediately.
The overgrown teenagers who thrive in journalism, non-profit profiteering, academia, and the La-La Land of social media will find a world run by grownups a terrible and disorienting shock, but we will all benefit when their protracted and destructive childhoods are finally forced to a merciful—and long overdue—end that pushes them into the real world of adulthood.