I was 12 years old in 1983, and at the time, President Ronald Reagan had ramped up Cold War tensions with the Soviet Union.

In 1983, ABC capitalized on those tensions with a made-for-TV movie about a nuclear exchange called “The Day After.” My mother, father and I were among the 100 million people who watched the initial broadcast, and to this day, I remember the sheer terror that consumed me for weeks afterward.

The world, I was convinced, was on the precipice of catastrophic ruin. I spent that evening in tears, so convinced was I that nuclear Armageddon was upon us. Paralyzed by fear, I felt utterly helpless to do anything to stop it. The next morning, I awoke determined to play some small part in preventing the total destruction of life on planet Earth.

So what was my solution? A science fair project titled, “Could we survive a nuclear strike on Oak Ridge?”

That’s it. That’s all. A science fair project. (And the short answer, in case you’re wondering: Not likely, depending on the size of the warhead or warheads that detonate over the Atomic City.)

However, I remember the overwhelming desire to do something, which is why I find Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, such a marvelous young lady. I don’t know exactly what triggered her passion and determination to address to climate change, but she clearly wasn’t satisfied to glue maps and construction paper stencils to a piece of poster board.

I would think that any adult, especially those who have children of their own, would find her actions admirable, but apparently, that’s not the case. Even here in Blount County, young people who are taking up climate change as a passionate cause are being jeered on social media. Don’t believe me? Check out some of the comments from the Oct. 1 story, “Youth panel to present on climate issues.”

In reading some of those comments, and in seeing so much vitriol directed at Greta, I can’t help but hear that old Steve Earle song in my head: “I Ain’t Ever Satisfied.” In fact, that song could very well be a supplemental national anthem, given just how much troll culture has taken over the national discourse.

Young climate activists are a case in point. On one hand, I’ve seen a great many older Americans in recent years, Baby Boomers and even members of my own Gen X, deride and insult Millennials. One particular meme depicts American G.I.s storming the beaches of Normandy, lamenting the fact that the only such “warfare” most young people will experience these days is in video games. Others cast aspersions against LGBTQ issues, suggesting that young people “can’t even figure out which bathrooms to use.” In general, there’s a lot of grumpy old men and women out there who feel like their kids and grandkids are soft, lazy, entitled and unmotivated.

But then someone like Greta comes along … or David Hogg, one of the survivors of the Parkland shooting … and proves that yes, young people can be passionate. They can issue calls to action. They can take older generations to task. But if we don’t like what they say, we get red-faced and flustered and indignant when they advocate for positions we disagree with. Or, worse, we vilify them as crisis actors and puppets, mere pawns in political machinations that are far too complex for their young minds to comprehend.

We ain’t ever satisfied, as the song goes.

Perhaps we should take a closer look in the mirror, because if, as some might suggest, they’re lazy or unmotivated or entitled, who showed them the way? What kind of examples have we set, as parents? Who should be teaching them differently? And if they do find a cause that speaks to them on a personal level, who are we to tell them to sit down and shut up, simply because we disagree?

We can’t have it both ways. And I would think any decent human being could applaud their desire to make the world a better place, for themselves and their children, even if we don’t agree with their cause. After all, we’ve got no skin in the game, so to speak. I’m 48 years old; by the time my daughter, who’s not quite 2, will be my age, I’ll be gone. (Maybe.) But what about her kids? And their kids? And all of the kids who come after that?

I don’t know what the answer is, nor do I have all of the information necessary to say, with certainty and irrefutable belief, that their causes are right or wrong. I believe in science and statistics, but I’m also a part-time entertainment journalist and marketing writer for a drug and alcohol treatment center. I can talk to you the live-long day about rock ‘n’ roll or recovery or both, but when it comes to gun violence or climate change, I cede the pulpit to Mr. Hogg and Ms. Thunberg, respectively. They’ve done the work, and whether you agree with their positions or not, they’re owed a spot at the table, based on that work and their commitment.

Lord knows, they’ve done a lot more than put together a science fair project. I don’t know what the future holds, but I can’t help but think that the kids are alright, to paraphrase The Who, and that if we give them the benefit of the doubt instead of attempting to browbeat them into silence, maybe the rest of us will be, too.

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