JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (Christian Examiner) — While America burned at the hands of disgruntled, whiny young people who rioted in the streets this Veteran's Day weekend (if you believe the news), I had the opportunity to run into great pockets of resistance who were doing nothing of the sort.
These young were located in the South, outside of the big cities like Oakland, Los Angeles, New York, and Portland.
America's finest were at Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina; they were in North Carolina at Billy Graham's Cove. They were at the University of South Carolina, and at a soul food restaurant just off Interstate 95.
At Fort Jackson, hundreds of volunteers in formation were training to be soldiers. These were young men and women who chose, just within the last few months, to sign up to defend this nation against invaders. Shoulder to shoulder squadrons of young women, and of young men, drilled hard – even on Veteran's Day — marching to and fro for a cause that thrills our hearts.
My husband, a retired Army Sergeant First Class and I had traveled to Fort Jackson where 41 years ago he began his Army career, from our home in Florida on our way to a conference in North Carolina.
Proudly showing off "Tank Hill" — and other places John focused his energy on four decades ago – my soldier quickly pointed to platoon after platoon of activity duty soldiers doing the same. He knows it's hard work.
These soldiers obviously resist those who say America is not worth defending. They stand tall in defiance.
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And they stand together, even when it's not required.
Perusing the large department store we call the "exchange," we saw dozens of recruits taking a break from their 10-week basic combat training course to hang out and spend their well-earned dollars purchasing anything from purses to socks and electronics.
Nearly all of the camo-clad young people moved in pairs of 2 or 3 or more – black, white, Hispanic, Asian. None were holding signs, exchanging looks, acting guarded, or appeared hostile. They looked genuinely happy to have some free time to shop and eat in the fast food court — tossing back junk food and mostly soaking in what it was like to be out of the confines of barracks life — if for just a little while.
I know the feeling. I was there. Even with three decades since I was in Navy bootcamp, and four since John's Army bootcamp experience, I could tell he was reminiscing as well about how much and how little things have changed.
These young people defy the "entitled" generation media pundits joke about, or contrarily, a "grieving" generation that is so off put by our recent presidential election they need TLC and safe spaces. Indeed, these warriors are running to the most unsafe spaces on the globe to defend our right to free speech and the American way of life.
There were other resisters we ran into the same day. Young people of similiar age who chose a different path, but who work hard nonetheless — The Voices of Lee from Lee University in Chattanooga, Tennessee.
An entire group of young adults, many of whom wouldn't be able to attend college if they hadn't earned a scholarship because of their singing ability, stood on stage at the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove in North Carolina singing their hearts out.
Their passion was visible, viable, palpable and heartwarming. It inspired, moved and glorified. It was positive, pleasing and, yes, a resistance against the temptation to think that young people have given up on God's ability to change lives and hearts.
The Voices of Lee practice every day. They pray. They sing in harmony. They resist the things of this world and they blend voices and lives to bring glory to God through worship.
They resist the notion that evangelicals must be white, angry, old, and racist to hold to conservative values.
There were other pockets of resistance I ran into this past weekend. The Mylon Hayes family with its three teenagers who tout a message, "I Choose To Stand," stood out at Todd Starnes Fall Getway 2016.
Each of the ordinary teens who lives extraordinary lives on the road as part of a family singing/worship group, clearly exemplifies spunky and hopeful resistance to entitlement. They practice long hours, appear to engage in healthy family relationships, and clearly know how to interact with people of all ages. They are hardly reticent, backwards, or in need of "safe spaces" or coddling from anyone.
Even the delightful servers at a place called Fatz where good Southern cooking knocked my socks off, couldn't have been more resistant. Hard workers, kind, patient and friendlier-than-most, these young people must not have gotten the memo that teens of different colors and cultures should not be seen talking and sharing together, serving people of various races and ethnicities with smiles on their faces.
Finally, I wondered what would happen when we stopped right outside the University of South Carolina on Sunday, on our way home. Surely there would be someone protesting, creating unrest, rioting?
Well, the resistance here was strong all right. It appeared if there was any unrest, it was quelled by pouring rain that drove the studious to Starbucks where people of all genders, colors and cultures were likely cramming for midterms.
No rioters lurking here, just the give-me-a-dirty-Chai-tea-latte please, crowd. Another pocket of resistance.
A true Southerner from North Carolina told me at the conference I attended this weekend she believes America needs to get back to focusing on the positives instead of buying into the mainstream media (do we really do that?) pundits who tell us that young people are disgruntled about the election, burning our cities, sissified and "entitled," and basically worthless.
I couldn't agree more. Further, this 81-year-old peach of a woman who retired as a small town postmaster suggested we re-learn a 1944 hit sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters, "Accentuate the positive and Eliminate the Negative":
You've got to accent-uate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
You've got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene
To illustrate my last remark:
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark
What did they do
Just when everything looked so dark?
Man, they said we better accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative,
Don't mess with Mister In-Between
No, don't mess with Mister In-Between!
Lady Bird Johnson said this of potential: "Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them." Children, young adults, or adults even — people pretty much respond universally in the same way.
Determine today you are going to resist being Mr. or Mrs. Cranky Pants and the next young person you see, grab him or her in a bear hug and compliment them on something positive.
They might just surprise you.
Joni B. Hannigan is executive editor of Christian Examiner.