illustration of four youths in a dark alleyway, one spraypainting the symbol of Extinction Rebellion on a brick wall.

Free-range, Insurgent Yoots — Natural. Necessary.

Democracy isn't served by state-authorized protest that allows youth to bark from behind invisible fence.

Not entirely sure what the two little guys were doing out so late on a school night. Ten or eleven years old, tops, I’d say. Not like I didn’t do the same thing. Not like I’m judging. Kids are gonna kid. I will say, though, walking past the supermarket manager as he gave these budding delinquents a dressing down was a wistful walk down Memory Lane, though.

“What did I tell you kids about scootering around here?! Huh!”

“Yeah, but that was when there’s people around. No one’s around now!”

“I said, DON’T! I didn’t say later. I didn’t say sometimes.” I don’t care what time it is. You almost knocked that old man over last time up here on the sidewalk!”

“We didn’t even come close to him! It’s not our fault he freaked out.”

That’s about when I pushed my cart off the sidewalk and grinned at the manager. His wrath abated for a moment, and I know his sheepish look came from hearing his own words out of the mouth of some crosspatch in his own memories of youth.

I headed towards my car and didn’t catch the rest of the prosecution or defense, but as I was loading up the hatchback, the kids scooted over towards me. If they weren’t the size of Linus and Charlie Brown, I suppose I might have been concerned they were going to try to freak me out, too. 

“Hey, you guys listen to the Beastie Boys?”

“Yeahhhhuhhhh…of course,” the older-looking one answered, sounding none too convincing.

“I’ve got some homework for you to do tonight.”


I want you to go home and find “You’ve Gotta Fight for Your Right,” by the Beastie Boys.

(And yes, I now realize after looking it up on Spotify that it’s just “Fight for your Right.”)

I’m getting ready to start dropping parts of a series illustrating the lack of transparency, and possible incompetency, on the part of people who’s salary your taxes pay. I’m doing it to SERVE YOU and watch out for YOUR interests. And I need your help to do it. 

“Now I want you to do that, and substitute “to parrrrrrty” with “to scooooooter” or whatever some dickhead is persecuting you for.”

I was gratified to see eyes widening after hearing a grownup say “dickhead.” But hey, I figured, they might have to look up “persecute” and accidentally learn something.

You wake up late for school, man you don’t want to go
You ask your mom, please? but she still says, no…

Maybe I owe those boys’ parents an apology. Hell, their parents are probably young enough to be my kids. But I’m just doing my part to try to save democracy. You see, you can’t have d,emocracy without dissent. And while that song was meant as a goof on the teenage headbangers of the ‘80s, the rage is real and it is raw. And good GOD, how we need that rage today. I could even live with bringing back hair bands if it meant a little more seditious spirit in the young.

I was originally encouraged to see schools in the Berkshires allowing students to have their demonstrations, teachers and administrators standing out with signs, holding hands, singing about the climate or the right to vote or whatever for a very strictly observed 30 minutes or so. I realize now how dangerous this can be. By constructing the framework of allowable youthful public dissent, by supervising the rebellion, grownups in positions of authority are only reinforcing the methods of censorship and oppression that cause repressed adults to seek permission just to ask for permission to ask that their grievances be redressed.

To hell with that. With the world these kids are inheriting, the LAST thing we should be instilling in our children is any sort of respect for the corrupt institutions and systems that fucked this planet up in the first place. I don’t deserve their respect, that’s for sure. As part of the vanguard of Gen X, I was probably a member of the last generation that could have smashed the furnace forging the climate crisis in time, poured sugar in the gas tank of imperialism, and monkey wrenched the machinery of the fascist state that’s enjoying its birth in the corridors of power in Washington right now.

I failed. No, I didn’t even try, which is worse. And I know that many of my peers didn’t either. We thought progressivism had won. We laughed at Alex Keaton and the various preppy douchebags who populated Molly Ringwald vehicles. We laughed at Ronald Reagan. It seemed a foregone conclusion that all the rebellion of the ‘60s and ‘70s had pushed the conservatives and white nationalists and just general straightnecks back into their caves. We weren’t paying attention. 

Even as the ‘90s dragged its flannel-covered ass through deindustrialization, deregulation, and deforestation, a relatively minor few of us actually raged against the machine, decoded the Powell Memo, or understood that going to war in Iraq on false pretexts, on the word of a pretty, teenaged Kuwaiti candy-striper who was actually the daughter of a Kuwaiti fucking ambassador to the U.S. who was actually being coached by Hill and Knowlton to lie to The United States citizenry and say that Iraqi soldiers were tearing babies out of incubators and crushing them under their boots was ALL JUST A DRESS REHEARSAL for where we’ve been since 2001, where we are right the hell now, perched in the G-spot of the Venn diagram of overlapping cataclysms of such intensity our puny little minds will need to ask ChatGPT for a summary using small words and simple sentences just so we can understand how thoroughly fucked we are if SOMEONE who actually knows how to drive doesn’t grab the damn steering wheel and point this Studebaker of an empire toward the center bay at the democracy mechanic’s shop before we blow a head gasket.

So, no. I’m not sorry. In fact, I vow to do all within my power to ignite in as many youth as I can reach the caustic fury that SHOULD be a natural response to the utter betrayal of their generation — one that demands the surgical removal of these vain and overgrown infants in the White House and Congress and plugs the corporate ratholes they crawled out of.

Next time I see those little hooligans, I’m going to assign them “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and Steal This Book, by the late great Abbie Hoffman. 

 Stay safe. Be kind to each other. And go easy on yourselves. 

Jason Velázquez

Jason Velázquez has worked in print and digital journalism and publishing for two decades.
Phone: (413) 776-5125

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