Zoomers and the Constitution

A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center compared generational views on key social and political issues, focusing on the similarities between Millennials and Generation Z. The topics probed include race relations, diversity, climate change, capitalism, socialism, and the role of government. This last item, government, seems to be the go-to institution for Zoomers.

According to the study, seven in ten Generation Z respondents believe that government should play a larger role in their futures. Instead of private enterprise and individual risk-taking, government bureaucracy will make the 21st century safe for democracy and solve the problems Zoomers find most alarming: social justice and climate change.

On this Constitution Day, I wonder how our Founding document’s longevity and its place in American culture will hold up in this century. As Millennials and Zoomers climb the ranks of powerful institutions, such as government, the courts, media, and academia, they will at last have the power to guide America and her relationship with the Constitution. What will come of their misguided idealism? Will their revolutionary spirit peter out as adulthood brings on banal challenges, such as mortgages, for example, or paying off student debt? Or will the energy we saw on full display this summer burn through our institutions like a California wildfire?

Older generations must be every bit as curious as they are fearful when they ask themselves: What does the Constitution actually mean to some normal Zoomers, the ones who aren’t rioting or protesting in the streets? The silent majority of Zoomers who do not participate in the unrest but who no less believe the fundamental assumptions of, say, Black Lives Matter, and will acquiesce to the organization’s radical demands? Well, their answers may shock readers — or it could come as no surprise.

One Zoomer understands the Constitution as “a compilation of ideals that were a tad hypocritical for the time, considering a portion of our population was enslaved.” He continues, “Although it may have helped build this nation, we have to stop looking at out-of-date documents in a world that is completely different from a few hundred years ago.”

Another Zoomer, who’s a Ph.D. candidate, is quite harsh, and no less confident in his assertion: “Blind adherence to any document is group think and deprives individuals of their ability to reason for themselves.” He did fail to mention that blind adherence to social movements such as Black Lives Matter could be equally — if not more — detrimental to critical thinking. But the Constitution, he believes, is much worse.

A recent college graduate praises the liberty granted and protected by the Constitution, but she still describes the document as “outdated.” That might be the key recurring theme in my generation, the idea that the document is “outdated.” To many Zoomers, it seems, the Constitution is almost like a hokey piece of advice from a parent or grandparent that one ought to diligently heed but won’t anyway. The founding document is fast becoming a snag on the solutions for 21st-century dilemmas, and therefore it must be outright rejected, consequences be damned.

One Zoomer, who works as a quantitative analyst at a hedge fund, asks, “How can something written so long ago and in such a different time adequately solve our modern issues?” His sentiment is a wicked mix of technocratic hubris and Panglossian optimism.

But there is hope still yet for concerned readers. “The Constitution is the second most important document for our country, after the Bible,” a college student says. She concludes, “They both give life and freedom to the people.” Then again, maybe not, as an aspiring orthopedic surgeon says jokingly, “I want the Constitution to burn.” It’s not a very funny joke, for sometimes the truth is said through jest.

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