Sunday, May 04, 2008

Chelsea's Generational Problem

Too Solemn for Her Generation? - Ian Shapira, Washington Post

I have to say, I never felt that Chelsea Clinton was part of my generation. She's only a year older than me, but even so, I think of her as this uber-privileged kid. She's the student who organized the bake-sales for women's shelters, the car-wash for the youth center and spent three summers overseas in various Third World countries 'doing good work'. She'd have a whole cadre of people who hung on her every word and action. And the rest of the student body would have hated her, not because of her work, but because she's using her privilege to advance only her interests. She's boring and while she may have a strong grasp of all the details of policy, she has no head for theory, or rather, she can't see the forest for the trees.
My generation is politically active in a way the previous generations were not. Now with that banal observation out of the way, I can say that Chelsea acts as if she's from the previous generation, from the earliest of the Gen-Xer's or the last of the baby boomers. She Cares Deeply about Important Things and does Good Work, but what the hell does that mean? More importantly, so what? Chelsea comes from a mindset that still believes in American exceptionalism, that merely by being there we can turn things around for a foreign nation. Perhaps it's the cynic in me but sadly, I don't believe in such nonsense.
Contrast Chelsea's experience with that of Sen. Obama's during his time as a community organizer. Yes, the critics will say Sen. Obama was jockeying for a political position and perhaps there is some truth to that, but so what? At least he was consistently on the streets and doing what he could for communities hit upon hard times. It wasn't glamorous or lucrative and it's a difficult path to take to political office. Chelsea, on the other hand, hasn't had to fight for anything in her life. She hasn't had to prove herself and while her support for her mother appears genuine it leaves someone like me feels as if she hasn't shaken off the belief that whatever her parents to must, by virtue, be good. Of course, the rest of my generation has shaken off this belief.
And perhaps that's the key to why Chelsea doesn't appeal to me as a surrogate for her mother. She is a goody-goody as Shapria argues; a goody-goody like a twelve-year-old is, not like someone in their late twenties. And all the talk of how well-spoken she it and how respectful she is only serves to reinforce that image in my mind. I look upon a world beset by problems on all sides and see the complexities in attempting to solve even one of those problems. Not to say that I believe we can't do great good, but I don't believe, as it appears Chelsea does, that our parents can wave a magic wand and everything becomes better. Someone who looks to their parents and atill believes that they can fix all the problems in the world is someone I can't trust because that simply isn't true, even if your parents are a powerful political family.
Chelsea's disconnect from my generation stems from this absolute faith in the abilities of her mother. It's sincere but it's not honest. Again, contrasted against Sen. Obama and his wife and all the negative questions both of them have negotiated to the taboo of asking Chelsea anything too serious and again you see a sheltered twelve-year-old. If Chelsea can't stand on her own and face real political fire then she isn't a trustworthy surrogate but merely a mouthpiece. I, for one, have had enough of mouthpieces.

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