Eckburg: Why would we respect the elders who don’t respect our future?

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Collegian | Sophia Sirokman

Bella Eckburg, Opinion Director

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

We’ve all heard the phrase “respect your elders,” especially if you grew up in a particularly religious household. Having respect for older generations and their ideas has been a stronghold in American culture for decades — after all, we are deriving our current culture from the culture they grew up in. 

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Ageism in this country is also common, with people viewing older people as more frail or senile, especially since the idea of being and looking young is so desired in American culture. 

This notion that older people are weak also supports completely respecting your elders, as it feels wrong to argue with someone who you perceive as unable to defend themselves. 

Well, I’m here to tell you respecting your elders only goes so far. I want to be clear: I’m not supporting bullying older people — I’m supporting holding every person accountable regardless of their age. 

I have been told repeatedly throughout my life, “If you are not a liberal when you are young, you have no heart, and if you are not a conservative when old, you have no brain.” Unfortunately for those people, I’m confrontational. And a leftist. 

Why is it that I’m supposed to respect someone spewing bigoted opinions just because they made it to 65? 

If you were alive to see the United States go to the moon or witness the birth of the first cell phone, why can’t you also understand things like gay marriage or recognizing your privilege? Instead, there are a ton of elders typing bigoted Facebook statuses with their index fingers in giant text on their iPhones. 

Just because you’re above the age of 65 does not mean you get to say insane, offensive things without consequence. Yes, it’s your right to free speech, but freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences. 

“Respecting your elders is much less important than expressing your right to vote, which is the only way our generation can make any real change.”

Your inability to empathize with and understand underprivileged and underrepresented groups is not the problem of America’s youth. We have to live with the incredibly long-term consequences of your outdated decisions — you don’t. 

According to Quorum, “the 117th Congress is the oldest on average of any congress in recent history.” 

Old men telling women what to do with their bodies may have flown in the 1950s, but it certainly doesn’t fly today. Respect is something that is earned, not bestowed upon you immediately following the moment you blow out your 65th birthday cake’s candles. 

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The fact is that research has repeatedly shown people do not usually become more conservative with age; political attitudes and affiliations remain stable over time.

The elders I have respect for are those who also show respect to others and are willing to listen and learn about the changing attitudes and culture in the U.S. — those who are perceptive and continue to question how things could be better in the future, not those who are committed to staying in their ways at all costs.

How can we enact big societal and political changes when those representing us are nearly three decades older than the median American age

Respecting your elders is much less important than expressing your right to vote, which is the only way our generation can make any real change. If someone does not represent us, it is our civic duty to vote them out of their position. We can be a part of building a better future by turning in our ballots, at the very least. 

Please cast your vote in local and national elections. As we saw with the rise in voters during the 2020 election, every vote counts. 

Reach Bella Eckburg at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @yaycolor.