A couple weeks ago, while I was sitting through my brother’s high school graduation, I had this great blackbird-style post planned. There would be lots of photos

mixed in with commentary on what other attendees were wearing, and how you can pick out the recent arrivals from Eastern Europe by their faces and the way they dress (the boy below is no recent arrival, from the Ukraine or elsewhere).

And I would somehow manage to pin down all the thoughts about “are there any kids here who are desperately embarrassed by their parents?” Not in the way that all seventeen & eighteen year olds are embarrassed, but in deep, terrible ways. I hoped not. And there would be pictures (but there aren’t, because this isn’t the post I wish it could be) of the event staff at the university where this took place, fierce little old ladies who lived to track down all users of airhorns. Who created a human wall with their small bodies to prevent eager family members from jumping the graduates as they exited the building. There would also be observations about how many students I recognized from their volunteer work at the library, and the prominence of shaggy hair in the combined bands.

And oh, how I would rip into the student speeches. The boy who’s heartrending tribute to the family of a dead classmate was horrifically marred by poor grammar. The speeches where, rather than continue to listen, I turned to the program and read every single name. There would have been a lot of mocking of names, but I had a desperate fear that the parents of Waldo William Wiffers (name invented to protect the innocent, but not that far off from the real thing) would be sitting behind me and would proceed to rap me over the head with their camera and blow their airhorn in my ear. (Fear not, the mocking was accomplished afterwards, over Mexican food.)

I would tell you about my favorite speech, the one where a bouncy young near-graduate announced, “We are about to enter the world.”

I insert a paragraph break to let that sink in. Are you with me? We are about to enter the world.

That poor, poor boy. He has no idea that he’s been living in the world for the past eighteen years (unless he is, perhaps, not of this world?) Oh, the youth of today! Are children really being raised to think that they aren’t part of the world? That they are not part of the greater union of humanity? Oh, Bartleby! This, in my humble opinion, is precisely what is wrong with our society. And the educational system. That kids are so damn separated from what is going on.

Now, I’m sure this poor boy didn’t mean to imply what I read into his statement. I know that. But it’s a symptom. Too bad I didn’t have spare copies of the Teenage Liberation Handbook to hand out as they walked out the door.

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