Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Are you experienced?

PRE-POSTSCRIPT: Oh, and how could I forget Juno? The movie's director talks here about life imitating art imitating life imitating art ....
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One of the most remarkable things about American society today is how long it takes the average middle or upper-middle class person to mature into adulthood.

I was comparing notes with a friend about Obama and Palin versus JFK at the same point in his life, and several large facts struck both of us. When JFK ran for president in 1960, he had been in Congress for 14 years and had served in the Navy four years before that, a total of 18 years of public service. Obama is frequently compared to JFK, but honestly, there is no comparison: Obama is man of manifest talent and no achievement. Only the media's relentless promotion of him has obscured this and the fact that he's lost without coaching and teleprompter. He's the perfect icon for the entitlement mentality. Even Palin, limited as her political career has been, has more on her resumé.

Part of the explanation is that everyone's living longer today and the Boomers and their immediate predecessors, the Depression-war babies, fill and will remain in positions of importance for many years to come. That means advancement for anyone under, say, 50 is harder than it was in JFK's day.

But today's American society, and the Western world in general, is also set up to make adulthood harder than it once was. Adolescence was once a prologue to adulthood. Today, adulthood is a prolongation of adolescence.

.... But not for Bristol Palin, obviously eager to jump into adulthood a little too early. An object lesson for the way we infantilize, not only adults, but late teens on the verge of adulthood. What they need is, not infantilization, but as much responsibility as they can handle, along with a little adult supervision. Without adult responsibility handed to them, the pluckier and more risk-tolerant will seek it out themselves, whether they know what they're getting into or not.

POSTSCRIPT: Bless her heart, Megan McArdle has two very sensible postings (here and here) about the women of the Palin household. (I count Bristol as an adult.)

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