The Next Generation Is Not So Apathetic

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Ben Cohen
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By Ben Cohen

After 6 years of unfettered Republican rule, the newly elected Democratic Congress proclaimed they were there to stand up to the Bush Administration. Apart from some verbal slaps on the wrist, Congress has shown the mettle of a wounded rabbit, failing miserably to hold Bush accountable for his atrocious abuses of power. With such little meaningful political action, it would be easy to lose hope in a world where lying, subverting the law and outright criminal action were part and parcel of every day political life.

There is, however, a growing backlash. Bush and his cronies would be all too happy for everyone to drown their sorrows at the shopping mall, leaving them alone to carry out their radical reforms in government. But a new generation is emerging, unwilling to comply with the culture created by their parents. When working hard and following the rules leads to endless foreign wars, lay offs, unlivable wages and no health care, people begin to ask questions. And they are questions that our politicians can no longer answer.

With the Democrats unable or unwilling to ask anything meaningful, a group of high school students on a trip to the White House presented Bush with letter asking him to stop torturing
people around the world. The letter was a symbolic example of what the United States has come to represent, but more importantly, what festers beneath it. The next generation is angry at what has become of their country, and are unafraid to speak out about it.

Here is an excerpt from a fantastic article by Leah Anthony Libresco, one of the High School students responsible for handing Bush the letter. It really speaks for itself:

"When I got to Washington, before I so much as mentioned my intent to speak out, many of my fellow scholars were admitting that they, too, had been planning to speak. I was overwhelmed by the passion of my classmates, and we agreed that our voices would be much more powerful and effective if we united around a single issue.

This was easier said than done. Many of us disagreed on what the single most important issue was and how we should address it. Many of us suggested the need to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, but some felt that this issue was too divisive. Other students wanted to focus on a school-related issue by addressing the flaws in No Child Left Behind.

We ended up agreeing to focus on torture and detention because we felt that the issue of human rights was non-partisan, something everyone could agree on. More than that, the denial of human rights is the quintessential example of this administration's penchant for secrecy and its disdain for the humanity of its "enemies."

We stayed up until two in the morning, working on the letter. Our final language included, "We have been told that we represent the best and brightest of our nation. Therefore, we believe we have a responsibility to voice our convictions. We do not want America to represent torture. We urge you to do all in your power to stop violations of the human rights of detainees, to cease illegal renditions, and to apply the Geneva Convention to all detainees, including those designated enemy combatants."

Later that morning, we worked on getting signatures. I thought it would be nice if we got a tenth of the Presidential Scholars to sign, but, when I checked in with Mari at lunch, she told me we were two signatures short of fifty people, over a third of the scholars in four hours."

To read the full article on the Huffington Post, click here.