The original Wolf of Wall Street was Jordan Belfort. He was a liar and a crook who could convince people to trust him. He spoke with authority and a sense of urgency. Remind you of anybody? For as long as media has existed, consumers have been ingesting the lifestyles of these glamorous predators.
Growing up in the 1980s, I remember seeing many examples of American greatness firsthand: The space shuttle was the technological envy of the world; “Thriller” dominated the music charts, and for the first time in decades, the world was at peace. People and politicians were optimistic and weren’t afraid to say so.
It was a good time until our motives changed. Movies and televisions worked hard to teach kids that becoming rich meant getting to cut in line anywhere, anytime. The desire for greatness was replaced with the desire for being rich and famous.
No generation heard that call to glamour better than mine. My generation has been taught that you don’t get what you deserve; you get what you can negotiate. We learned that moderation is never as profitable as extremism.
These two sentiments eroded the sustainable and respectable society. The knowledge of teachers was replaced with opinions of pundits. We became comfortable with fact-free representations. Two plus two was a matter of opinion. Rumors were better than reason. What you are is what you pretend. Don’t answer; deflect. Winning is the only thing.
This impulsive, self-centered, and immoral monster must be tamed. As the only generation with one foot in the past and one foot in the future, it is our duty to make things right. Millennials need to make the change. Millennials need to get elected.
The next election cycle will see the most diverse class of millennial candidacies ever because people won’t worry about skeletons in their closets. Millennials were the first generation shackled with the scarlet letters of their misdeeds getting digitized and Donald Trump’s misconduct, now wearing a presidential nominee’s costume, is influencing that discussion.
Trump hopes that the coming attack ads won’t stick. If he is successful in deflecting the rhetoric regarding his awful character, ignorance of facts, and distortion of history, we can expect a whole new wave of candidates with similar baggage who plan to check-in to an industry that previously told them there was no vacancy. After all, how can a political party have any quality control when a presidential nominee has been sued 3,500 times, sold junk “university” degrees and has ripped-off countless business partners?
Society forgives a certain amount of bad behavior and honest mistakes, but what about the deliberate trespass? My answer is “it depends.” How much harm was done? Did they repeat the offense? Did they offer amends or wait until they were caught? Thanks to Republicans’ necessity to back their nominee, conservative leaders are now doing logical gymnastics to defend their nominee and omit the overt indecencies from Donald Trump’s past and present.
There may be a potential upswing just by asking ourselves these questions. We the People can recognize that if you have no scar tissue, you have less life experience. Folks learn from mistakes, so there might be an opportunity for unlikely leaders to shape an entirely new dimension of authenticity. Will these candidates be predators or have they gained the wisdom that comes with reforming one’s self?
Ironically, Donald Trump is the man who shaped my generation for the worse but may unintentionally help millennials get a second chance. The 2016 Presidential race aside, is this a silver lining?
Andrew Sherwood is a Democratic state senator representing District 26.