What kind of world will we leave our children?

When I began writing columns many years ago, my children were toddlers. My daughter was 3 years old, my son was 1. My worries for them were, at the time, immediate, and my writing reflected that fact. The overwhelming weight of sudden responsibility leaves little room for hand wringing. The wonderful chaos that comes with a new family seems to blur far-sight. One's concern is focused on the needs of the moment.
Like all new fathers, I dreamed, and I imagined a better world for my children, and I wrote with zeal about my personal stake in the future. But the midnight runs to the grocery store for diapers and the bottomless well of energy of scampering feet were a welcomed reality check. There were practical things that needed tending right there and then, so I wrote as well about walking my daughter to her first day of school and tossing a football with my son in the warm summer rain.
My grounding has been the extraordinary moments hidden among the mundane passage of time. And I've relied on my children to show me the way.
The future
On a recent night my children and my wife and I sat together for dinner at a local burger place. The conversation clipped along with its usual exuberant pace, jumping from basketball games to history tests, from movies and riddles, to the ever-present hair-trigger teenage giggle. Somehow we ended up talking about the future.
My daughter is now completing the 10th grade, my son the eighth. They are, by all estimates, light-years ahead of where my wife and I were at their age. They are children of another age, with different challenges and different opportunities. They have a more sophisticated world-view than we did, and they navigate the world of technology and communications with unbelievable ease.
I remember the admonitions, when I was a younger father, to cherish my time with them and to try not to blink. "That's how fast time goes by," experienced parents told me.
Well, I blinked, and I suddenly found myself discussing college with two very bright teenagers. Our family is blessed with high expectations. My children's generation will be the third, going back to my mother, in which college is a given, not an option. It's not a matter of "if" but of "where."
There is precedent, legacy, and I was comforted in the fact that the two giggling and engaging teenagers who sat before me were up to the challenge.
I realize now that my job has shifted. My charge at this time is to prepare my teens for the things that will come their way, things that will be out of my and their control. I have, at best, a blurry idea of what their world will be like. But I must trust them with it. What preoccupies me is the state of the world I'll eventually leave behind.
Budget deficit
I read in the newspaper where Congress has given President Bush another $82 billion for the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. This brings the total spent on the war to $300 billion. That same newspaper article estimated that the federal deficit, not counting the war and not counting the needed funds to revamp Social Security and Medicaid, is projected to be $855 billion. The 10-year deficit estimate was $2.3 trillion. That includes projected war costs as well as other expenses.
Every generation that has ever gone to war has made great sacrifices for the cause of their time. Every generation except this one that has gone to war has been asked by their president to pitch in. This time, our sacrifice, the burden of our war, will be placed on our elderly and will be passed along to our children.
Whether we were justified in going into a pre-emptive war is a subject for another column, and my hope is that that discussion continues with vigor. The fear of challenging the status quo, the fearful acquiescence to our present wave of nationalism, will be confronted, no doubt.
For now, though, I go back to my grounding. And I wonder at the state of the world we're leaving behind.
Hasn't it always been the responsibility of a generation to pay for the safety of its children?
X Victor Landa, of San Antonio, Texas, is a contributing columnist with Hispanic Link News Service. Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service.

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