As I approach my 88th birthday in a few weeks, I find myself reflecting on the vast changes that have occurred throughout my long lifetime. I was born prior to the outbreak of World War II, during the Great Depression, and before Jackie Robinson’s historic integration into the Brooklyn Dodgers. I have witnessed the evolution of societies, technologies, and ideologies.

In my youth, (what some might call “the good old days”) we didn’t have television, computers, cell phones, and electric cars. We didn’t have choices, options, and preferences. Instead, societal expectations imposed rigid molds upon us, leaving little room for individual exploration and self-expression. Choices were scarce, and the paths we followed were often predetermined by others.

Contrastingly, today’s torchbearers of the future — the Millennials, Generation Z, and subsequent generations — inhabit a world full of possibilities. They engage in relentless experimentation, exploration, and self-discovery, striving to build lives of personal fulfillment and productivity. Unlike previous generations, they navigate a landscape abundant with choices, embracing the fluidity of identity and purpose. Many of them will explore various avenues, to test the waters of different identities, all in their quest for personal fulfillment and happiness.

Yet, amid this landscape of self-discovery, a disconcerting undercurrent of fear and intolerance pervades our society. Many individuals and groups harbor animosity towards that which deviates from their narrow conception of normalcy. That which does not fit into their “molds.” Their apprehension of and intolerance towards self-identity and innovation stems from an inherent inability to understand or manage such diversity.

Who are the targets of their fear? Those whose gender defies convention, whose mental or physical performance is atypical, whose skin is too dark, whose tongues speak unfamiliar languages, whose faith leads them to places of worship foreign to the majority, whose literary preferences includes unpopular themes, and those who believe they have the right to make decisions about their own bodies. These individuals face rejection and persecution merely for daring to exist outside the confines of someone else’s definition of “normal” and “acceptable.”

I want to see American flags, pride flags, and peace flags flying above our edifices, not the hateful symbolism of swastikas. I want a society where our children inherit the unassailable freedom to chart their own destinies, make their own choices, without fear, harm, or prejudice. I want them to be happy!

When our moment arrives to make our mark, let us cast our votes with the future in mind, with the well-being and prosperity of our children at heart. They not only deserve it; they demand it, and it is our duty to ensure that their expectations are met with the resounding affirmation of a society that embraces and celebrates every individual, irrespective of their differences. When it’s our turn to make a choice, with the ballot before us, make sure we cast our votes for our kids.

Alan Wohlman *66
Chicago, Ill.