Time will tell how our actions now will impact our descendants’ future. In such hindsight, there’s a good chance that when now becomes then, the story of this period of American history will, literally, not be too flattering.
The Roman philosopher Seneca prophesied that “There will come a time when our descendants will be amazed that we did not know things that are so plain to them.” In the case of this generation and those who follow, amazed could well be replaced by frustrated and resentful. Because we did know things, bad things we’ve selfishly chose to deny, disregard and postpone.
Our descendants, who deserve the same opportunities we’ve had to achieve, will instead be forced to apply all their time and resources to the problems we’ve left behind. So much for the principle of generativity, of generations supporting one another.
Our ancestral legacy, in its current draft, tells tales of environmental degradation; social and economic inequality and intolerance; technological overreach and exploitation of personal privacy; acceptance of political greed, overspending, favoritism and shameless hypocrisy; and more guns, more violence and terrorism, and more breaking news of a “another mass shooting.”
It is too late for a complete rewrite on the story of our voluminous and historic failures. Next generations will be forced to confront the inherited existential threats just to survive.
The best we can hope for is that historians generously attribute to us redemption (by default, no less) for the de facto lessons we’ve bestowed on our descendants. Among them, vote your conscience not your pocketbook; value humility over arrogance; and listen in order to learn. Above all, keep promises, because actions speak louder than words, now and forever.