Your old road is rapidly aging

Bob Dylan once sang about prior generations turning a cynical eye to youth activism.

Fifty-six years later, when recent Hinsdale Central grad Maiwen Amegadjie organized June's peaceful protest against racial oppression, some Hinsdale business owners criticized young protesters claiming the timing was not right and that "nothing good will come out of it."

A quote from Maiwen touched upon that criticism: "... I feel like a lot of people are sheltered and cloistered here. They don't understand the struggles that I have had to cope with here. I'm tired of having to be politically correct, tired about being silent about issues that are important to me. If I don't do it now, when will I ever?"

"Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land, and don't criticize what you can't understand."

After the Parkland shooting tragedy, high school activist Emma González called out politicians who claimed that no law could have prevented the massacre. The Parkland students encouraged a national "walk out" day protest, which included hundreds of Hinsdale Central and South students demanding gun control legislation.

"The adults we look up to and who are in charge in Congress have failed us," said HC student Laine Williams. "We have to step up and fight for ourselves because they can't instill common sense gun laws."

"Your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command."

Cynics believe that young activists like Greta Thunberg are merely repeating back what adults have told them. A few years back, no guidance was sought from nor given to my child on a fifth-grade writing assignment outlining reasons to support Colin Kaepernick's right to peacefully protest. Now, a recent Washington Post poll shows 56 percent of Americans say athletes kneeling during the anthem is an acceptable form of protest.

Contrast that support with this guy's recent opinion tweet (one of many disparaging players who kneel): "We should be standing up straight and tall, ideally with a salute, or a hand on heart. There are other things you can protest, but not our Great American Flag – NO KNEELING!"

My then 10-year-old understood the basis for the protest (versus the method). Public sentiment has shifted to what has been stressed repeatedly by players - that kneeling is not about protesting the flag or military, rather a call to hold the country accountable for racial injustices. Not all agree, as witnessed in the NFL season opener when KC fans booed NFL players uniting (not kneeling) for a "moment of silence dedicated to the ongoing fight for equality in our country." You can connect the dots on why those fans felt emboldened to boo.

"Your old road is rapidly aging. Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand."

Chicago sports radio personality Dan Bernstein mentioned the following on his June 11 show: "There's a fine line between patriotism and nationalism. Nationalism is gross jingoism where patriotism is loving one's country and being able to understand its flaws and wanting to have a constant evolution to fix what's wrong."

Today's youth activists seem to best embody that definition of patriotism. To bring about real change, keep doing what you're doing, young Hinsdaleans, in highlighting problems that make people in power (and the sheltered/cloistered status quo) uncomfortable.

For the times they are a-changin'.

- Bret Conway of Hinsdale is a contributing columnist. Readers can email him at [email protected].