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Our “Participant Ribbon” Nation

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They didn’t like the results.  Half of the country didn’t.  They hadn’t liked the candidate.  They weren’t alone.  They were devastated and couldn’t even go to class the next morning.  They needed a safe place.  Some elite colleges offered counseling.   Some professors cancelled tests or forgave absences.

This, I believe, is the fault of my generation.  We didn’t want to see our children disappointed.  We couldn’t face the hurt in their eyes when they did not get what they wanted.  Some of my generation thought spanking cruel; that corporal punishment was degrading.

So it started with tantrums.  You’ve seen them, children on the floor screaming…in public.  Parents ignoring the screams.  Other shoppers trying to block out the noise.  Teaching children that it is acceptable behavior to create chaos.  Ignoring the right of others to go about their business in peace.

As they grew up these same parents defended their children from authority.  “My child could not have done that.”  Changing the atmosphere in schools from parents and teachers working together to an adversarial relationship.  And the parents tolerated disrespect.  Disrespect of institutions, of authority figures even of those parents themselves.  Part of growing up they thought.

Then came the assault on success.  Honoring one child for succeeding somehow belittled all the others.  So they quit keeping score.  That way both teams won.  The First, second and third place ribbons gave way to the Participant ribbon.  Now we are all winners!

Then in high school these same parents looked away as their children questioned authority.  And it wasn’t enough to question, they also accused and disrespected their teachers, speakers and the administration.  So administrators began to respond to every complaint of these children.  I recall that when my daughter asked permission to start the first Republican Club at her high school she was also required to find students to start a Democrat Club.  While I had a great teacher in High School social studies who taught us not what to think but how to think, that is often not the case today.

Then some colleges allowed their faculties to become so liberal that students with opposing views weren’t challenged to defend their beliefs but were intimidated to be quiet.  And the students have been taught to be victims.  Victims of racism, sexism, even –isms we haven’t heard of.

And we come to today.  Students need “safe places.”  Incivility is common on some campuses.  Speakers, almost always conservative, are refused entry or heckled.  Many colleges have ceased to be laboratories of thought, places of great debate about important issues.  Some have become petty places of censorship.  Places where independent thought is discouraged and only groupthink is allowed.

For days after Donald Trump won the election for President of the United States protesters, some young, naïve and coddled others professional anarchists, protested.  They blocked roads and highways making life difficult for thousands trying to go about their business.  Like the child in the grocery store having a tantrum, they screamed for attention.

It is time for parents to call their children and explain to them that they don’t always get their way; that they will face adversity in life. That in life there are no participant ribbons.    

Gary Gillen owns and operates Gillen Pest Control and Gillen Political Strategies in Richmond.  He is the only person in history to have served on both the Richmond City Commission and the Rosenberg City Council.  He was the Chairman of the Republican Party of Fort Bend County 2006-2007. He can be reached at Gary@GaryGillen.com

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