Idealism of Youth

Michael Moore (Stupid White Men, 2001, pp. 212-213) wrote the following about Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy in 2000:

The anger now leveled at Nader seems so personal, so intense from Baby Boomers who blame him for Gore losing the election (he didn’t lose). I look at these individuals in their forties and fifties and I wonder why Nader seems so personally threatening to them.

It’s taken a while, but I think I have figured it out: Nader represents who they used to be but no longer are. He never changed. He never lost the faith, never compromised, never gave up. That’s why they hate him. He didn’t change his tune, didn’t move to the suburbs, didn’t start structuring his life around “Let’s see how I can make the most money for me, me, ME!” He didn’t conform to the new Baby Boom Code of Sell-Out Ethics in order to advance his power. No wonder millions of high school and college kids love him. He’s the opposite of their parents, the people who “raised” them by handing them a latchkey, a Ritalin, and a remote for the TV set in the bedroom. Nader didn’t make the trek down the dial from Sgt. Pepper to AOR to Kenny G. He stayed in the same rumpled clothes. Those who beat up on him now are like the bullies in high schools who will not cease their harassment until you conform and start to look, think, and smell like them.

Moore went on with the following, which relates to the second topic in this category:

Well, guess what, fellow Boomers—this Nader dude ain’t ever going to change. So why don’t you save your breath, increase your Prozac dosage, and get some suburban therapist to see you once a week? Or just chill out and be thankful there are people like Ralph Nader out there. He’ll do all the work; you just relax and order up another margarita.

I know it’s a bitter pill to swallow, having to get up each morning to feed the corporate beast, to take your check from the bastards and try to look the other way despite all the crap they’re shoving down your throat.

But somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind there’s a little nerve ending going off, like the faint and blinking light of your cell phone a few minutes before it goes dead. It’s your brain’s memory bank reminding you about a time when you were younger and you passionately believed that you and you alone could make a difference, before the forces of adulthood surrounded you and told you to get with the program—or spend your lonely life barely scraping by.

And so you did. You learned to compromise your values while believing you still maintained them. (“Yes, I drive an SUV—but I give to the Sierra Club!”). You learned to mollify your conscience at your lousy job, out of fear of the only imaginable alternative—homelessness and starvation! You put up with the oppressive nature of your church because–well, Jesus did say a lot of good things (“Love your enemy”), and so what if the money you just put in the collection plate is going to a woman-hating organization? You learned to say nothing when friends or coworkers spoke in coded racist terms because you knew you didn’t hate black people and you were sure they didn’t either. . . but why don’t we cross over to the other side of the street just to be safe?

Best of all, you got to keep voting for the Democrats, the way you always had. After all, they say they have your best interests at heart—and just for saying that, you believe them!

Moore went back to Nader’s candidacy:

What kind of nut would vote for a third-party candidate, anyway? Why even think of going there—of revisiting the younger version of you, who was ready to get his head busted open while standing up for what was right? Out here in Adult World, you better forget about what’s “right”—you gotta win. Winning is what it is all about, whether it’s your company’s market share, your stock portfolio, or your kid’s ability to beat all the other kids in kindergarten French class.

“Do the right thing?” HA! Go with the winner! . . .


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