by Pa Rock
It's easy to get down on things and worry that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, especially in dire economic times like the ones that we are currently experiencing. But there is a brighter future just starting to peek over the horizon, and it will be ushered in by people much younger than myself.
Arizona is a good case in point. It is basically a conservative place that has put forth national candidates named Barry Goldwater and John McCain, and prides itself in having the most sadistic sheriff in America. The population is old, especially during our warm winter months when the blue haired "snowbirds" descend into the state from the nation's colder regions.
But Arizona also has a vibrant and diverse cultural base of Hispanic Americans as well as a significant Navajo and Hopi Indian population. There is nothing that I enjoy more than putting the top down on my little car in the cool of the evening and driving through the Hispanic sections of Phoenix, listening to the music, absorbing the smells of Mexican cooking, and taking in the vibrant colors the adorn the street signs and businesses.
The future of Arizona, as with the nation as a whole, lies with its young people. The total population of the state includes 59% non-Hispanic Whites, and 30% Hispanics. But that number changes significantly with its teen population which is currently 45% non-Hispanic Whites and 41% Hispanic. Not surprisingly, Arizona's teens think differently than their elders - and some of that free-wheeling thought will stay with them as they age - just as it did with my generation.
The Morrison Institute of Public Policy at Arizona State University released a poll of 950 Arizona teens (age 13-19) last week that portrays the young folks of this state as decidedly more liberal than the old fogies who are currently making such a mess of things. And while all is not roses with this group - for instance, like teens historically they still practice risky behaviors with regard to sex, drugs, and cars - this group does offer a lot of promise.
One of the items on the survey involved how these young people define the good life. Twenty-percent said that to have a good life it is necessary to have lots of money. Thirty-three percent said that doing good for others is an element of the good life, 57% said it involves having a happy family, and 58% tie the good life to having an enjoyable job. My father grew up during the Great Depression. Sadly, he and many in his generation have only one standard for success - money.
Older people in our country are racially and culturally sensitive. While the baby-boomers leaned toward Obama in the last election, their surviving parents did not. Ninety-three percent of the teens surveyed by the Morrison Institute agree with this statement: "I enjoy being among people with different backgrounds and lifestyles." The world is getting better in spite of itself.
These young people are tuned into national issues, and again their responses signal that a new day is at hand in Arizona and America. Immigration is a hot-button issue in the southwest (actually, in most of America), and demagogues are constantly using it to stir the rabble. But these young people are not as fearful of immigrants, even illegal immigrants, as are the older residents. Seventy-five percent of teens taking the survey said that illegal immigrants should be given the chance to become citizens. Three out of four young people surveyed are accepting of these people who risk their lives crossing into the United States in order to make a better life for themselves and their families. We are going to age out of these hateful times!
Remember all of that science that the Bush team tried to rewrite? It didn't take, at least not with Arizona teens. Seventy-two percent of them agreed with the statement that "Global warming is a long-term crisis caused mostly by human action, not just natural temperature changes." Al Gore is proud, and so am I!
Sixty-five percent of the teens in the Morrison Institute survey agreed that the choice of whether or not to have an abortion should be left to the woman involved. Fifty-six percent agreed that there should be more legal restrictions on gun ownership. Trust me on this - those are not the views of their parents!
The subject of evolution is a little murkier, but still shows promise. Forty-three percent agreed with the statement "The theory of evolution best explains how life developed on earth." Thirty-one percent disagreed with that statement, and 26% were undecided.
Gay marriage, anyone? Thirty-nine percent agreed with this statement: "I think marriage should be allowed only between a man and a woman." Fifty-one percent disagreed - that's over half of the teens surveyed who are open-minded on the subject of gay marriage! Ten percent were undecided.
How about helping those less fortunate than ourselves - basic Christian charity? Twenty-percent agreed with this uncharitable comment: "Society is too generous to poor people, who would be better off if made to stand on their own two feet." Sixty-four percent disagreed with it, and 16% were undecided. Wow! America has been castigating the poor since the days of Reagan, but these kids must have not gotten the memo!
One subject that the Arizona teens did not have a clear opinion on was the death penalty. This statement brought a fairly even distribution of responses: "The value of the death penalty outweighs the danger of executing an innocent person." Thirty-six percent of the kids agreed with that statement, 32% disagreed, and 32% were undecided.
Overall, I am amazed and pleased at how bright the future looks for Arizona, and I have a sense that young people around the world are nurturing the desire to roll up their sleeves and take charge of their lives and their planet.
I wish them Godspeed!