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Teen Talk

July 30, 2011

Teenhood Today: Freedom is different for everyone

We all know how popular the concept of freedom was in the 1960s. I was flipping through a few articles that reflected the anti-war movement of that era when the concept of freedom slowly lurked its seemingly nonexistent presence upon mine.

I began to wonder: What is freedom, and does it still exist today on the playing field of the average teenager?

What do you think of when you picture freedom? Is it the American flag and apple pie, or is it the concept of nonviolent resistance? Everyone's concept of freedom is different _ that's where things get hazy.

In America, it's difficult to think about freedom without acknowledging the semi-recent surge of terrorism in relation to the United States. The death of thousands is a tragedy; there is no doubt about that. But at what point do we recognize that there is a cause behind terrorism that is also reflected in the foundation of the United States? Yes, that's right. I am suggesting that we, at one point about 230 years ago, were considered terrorists. The Boston Tea Party was nothing compared to the violent acts of today, but it was still resistance nonetheless.

This same relationship can be seen very clearly in relation to teenagers in present day. Whether the conflict is between teens and their parents, teens and the police, etc. _ each party sees its own view as superior.

I have always been one to play devil's advocate. Something about that "bad guy" always hits a soft spot for me, you could say. That's why I feel terrible for teenagers who do hard time for years just for possessing a drug. I'm not saying drugs are OK _ I do not endorse recreational drug use of any kind _ however, I would like to, once again, visit the psychosis of the teenage mind.

I have mentioned before that certain psychology is involved in the teenage do-wronger. The question is always what exactly that psychology is. Is it a cry for attention, or is it just someone trying to find himself?

In the sense of deeming teens as freedom fighters, it's interesting to explore the intention of the wrong-doer.

In an extreme example, I would like to take my former example and compare the lives of everyday teens to terrorists. Yes, I am totally going there right now.

In the mind of terrorists, they are absolutely doing the right thing. It's not like they sit at home and scheme how to be "evil," because the truth is that there really is no such thing as good nor evil; there is only difference in opinion.

The same is true with teenagers. Let's take a common teen habit: doing drugs. When teens are sneaking around to figure out the most convenient, secret place to do drugs, do you think they're thinking, "Oh man, I'm really going to get in trouble for this! I'm so stoked!"? No way! Teens do drugs for the effect it has on them physically and socially, not judicially.

To teenagers (and most people, actually), police have become the source of evil. To them, police limit them in life and attack their freedoms. In other words, the police are a teenager's equivalent to terrorists.

This sounds crazy, right? To most people it will, but it's true. This is unfortunate in the sense that police are obviously employed to protect, not threaten. Are the actions of the police protecting teenagers at this point, and if not, does that mean that teenagers are a threat to society? Unfortunately, that is the portrayed case.

This isn't true, though, I promise. In journalism, we have a certain concept referred to as the slippery slope fallacy. This is a tool used by lobbyists, pundits and just about anyone with an opinion to basically suggest that one bad thing will lead to another, which will end up leading to an even worse situation and so on.

Will a teenager smoking marijuana lead to the crumbling of society? Of course not.

On the flip side, though, teenagers are examples of mini-terrorists in the eyes of some adult figures and police. How often have you heard of older adults complaining about those "crazy teenage yahoos" walking around town in their odd skinny jeans just "looking for trouble"? It happens all the time.

Perhaps we could look forward to an era where teenagers and police mingle in harmony. To achieve this long-sought-for goal, though, one or more parties would have to change something about themselves. Unfortunately, social concepts will always deny them that change. It's sad to see that we live in a society where even age turns entire populations and communities against each other.

Dan Clark, a 2010 graduate of Afton Central School, is a rising sophomore at the State University at Albany. 'Teen Talk' columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/teentalk.

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