Illinois Rep. Andrew Chesney has some harsh words for Americans 18 to 24 years old who are critical of their country and their government.
Chesney, who represents Illinois House of Representatives District 89, which includes Jo Daviess County, took what he calls “this at-risk age group” to task in a column after reporting that he saw a recent poll conducted by “Issues & Insights” and “Tippinsights” that found 64% of people ages 18 to 24 are not proud to be an American. Young adults were the age group least likely to say they were proud to be an American, the poll found, with increasing rates of American pride in each age bracket, up to 86% of adults over age 65 being proud to be an American.
Chesney calls this mind-set “a shame” and insists that young folks’ pride in America would be bolstered if they would just educate themselves on history and the sacrifices of the Greatest Generation — including their grandparents and great-grandparents.
Perhaps the representative is looking at this the wrong way.
First, a point of clarity, the 64% that Chesney referred to said they were not “very or extremely proud.” The number of that age group who said they were only slightly proud or not proud at all to be an American was 35%, which is far less dire than Chesney portrays. (And no breakdown was released regarding how many of that chose “not proud” rather than “slightly proud.)
Additionally, a single poll question — answered only by online users during the Wednesday through Friday before the Fourth of July — does not examine the hearts and minds of young people. It’s quite likely they were thinking about the concerns they have about their country. What might dim young adults’ view of their country? Divisive leadership in Washington, racial strife and inequities, an immigration quandary with no easy answers, a lack of mental health services, soaring costs of higher education, the COVID-19 pandemic — those might be some of the things.
Not having a strong sense of national pride does not equate to hate for America. On the contrary, it’s likely that even the young people who didn’t give the highest marks in the survey believe their country could be better and are working to make it so. A young person expressing a lack of pride in America in no way means he or she disrespects the sacrifices of past generations.
It’s likely Chesney’s opinion is fueled by seeing young people protesting various issues. But a passion to change America to make it better fit with the ideals of their generation shouldn’t be seen as a negative thing. That passion drove pivotal events throughout U.S. history. Think of the Boston Tea Party, the women’s suffrage movement, Vietnam War protests and the civil rights movement.
Had this poll been taken in 1965, it’s likely to have had similar results. Yet the young people of the 1960s managed to grow up to become the teachers, businesspeople and community leaders of their generation — something Chesney frets about regarding today’s young adults.
Further, Chesney finds a culprit that he believes is sowing these seeds of disdain for America — mainstream media, which Chesney says “are busily convincing our young people they should be ashamed to be an American.”
We won’t attempt to speak for all media, but from our perspective, we tell stories every day of young Americans — mostly when they are doing something for the greater good or have notched some achievement. And yes, that can include peacefully speaking out on what they believe must change.
At the ripe old age of 39, Chesney has decided Americans not bursting with pride for their country are doing the nation a disservice. We’d argue that many of those who believe America could be better will be inclined to work to make it so.