Segal: Leading by example

David Segal
Continental Divine

To the surprise of opponents of legal marijuana, the rate of pot smoking among teens has not risen since legalization. In fact, a 2015 survey by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment showed a decrease in marijuana use among teenagers since 2011. One reason for the decline may be a loss of access: Legalization has put drug dealers out of business, and legal shops check IDs.

Another reason may be a loss of appeal. When pot was illegal, it had the allure of the forbidden. Teens could feel rebellious and cool when partaking. Now they see their parents doing it and that ruins the fun. Pot loses its edge when kids think it’s for old people: Mr. and Mrs. Buzzkill to the rescue.

We see a similar trend with Facebook. For years, the fastest growing user group has been the 65-and-older demographic. Coincidentally, the fastest growing uncomfortable user group is their children. The younger set already thinks Facebook is for squares (like people who use the word “square”). Kids these days prefer Snapchat and a nonstop stream of texting; always pioneers in digital frontiers where their parents have not tread yet.

Listen, adults, let’s not bemoan our loss of cachet. It’s time to harness our power for good. Think of how profoundly we can shape our children’s lives by what we ruin for them by doing in front of them. We have the Midas touch, only instead of turning things to gold, we make them instantly uncool. We’re already seeing results with marijuana and Facebook, so where else can we direct this newfound superpower of ours?

What if — instead of fostering a political culture where ideological opponents gather in the public square to make principled, pragmatic compromises for the common good — we devolve our public discourse into name-calling and demonizing so that opponents become enemies and the system virtually collapses? Our kids will think gridlock and vitriol are so lame, they’ll find a way to work together across party lines. Or what if — instead of addressing the looming catastrophe of climate change to prevent loss of life and livelihood — we let apathy and moneyed interests paralyze us into inaction? Our kids will think destroying the planet is so unhip, they’ll figure out a way to save it. And how about — instead of having difficult conversations about race and policing that might lead us to a new place of national understanding and cooperation— we draw a line in the sand and dig our heels into the false dichotomy that you can’t support both minority citizens and the police at the same time? When our kids see us adults doing that, they’ll roll their eyes and start making real progress toward better race relations, responsible policing and safer communities.

On issue after issue, we are priming the next generation for visionary leadership by being stubborn, shortsighted and selfish. Our children will rebel against our repeated and systemic failures by doing the hard work of creating a brighter future. They will become the role models we strategically avoided being and solve the problems we smartly passed off onto them.

We should give ourselves a pat on the back for being forward-thinking enough to wreck everything in plain sight of our children. Sure, at first they will call us “good-for-nothing” and “criminally negligent” and ask us questions like, “What were you thinking?” and “How could you let this happen to us?”

But one day, when they grow into adulthood themselves, they will start to understand the precious gift we gave them by foisting all our problems onto them. On that day, they will look us in the eye and say, with hearts full of gratitude, the words that capture everything we did for them: “Thanks for nothing.”

Rabbi David Segal of the Aspen Jewish Congregation can be reached at or 970-925-8245. His column runs the first Sunday of the month.