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To The Youth in Buffalo

The current youth culture in America, often suggests that our generation is constantly overwhelmed with a plethora of societal problems, not only in the United States but also on a global scale. I am often perplexed on where to direct my time and energy. Often I have to sit for a while and think: How can I help? How is this issue impacting the world? What effect will this have on the future?

We grew up in the era of mass media and significant technological advancements, compounded by terror and, to some extent, psychological horror. My first memory of terror and destruction was when I was six years old, sitting in front of the television, watching the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, not understanding at the time that Timothy McVeigh had grown up just miles from where I was watching the news unfold. Four years later was the Columbine High School massacre, which helped me understand that terror was not limited to adults but also could be committed by youth in small-town America. Middle school was a time of confusion and insecurity, but for those seemingly petty problems were pushed aside for the worst terrorist attack on United States soil, known as the events of September 11, 2001.

As my senior year of high school came to an end and I was eagerly awaiting going away to college, one of the deadliest shooting sprees in American history occurred at Virginia Tech.

Humans are primal, misdirected; in some cases, their deepest desires are confined by the law. The only resistance to breaching the conformity of society is heavily embedded in the possibility of punishment. I often ponder a day in which, during a 24-hour period, there would be no laws, rules, or consequences for the actions taken on that particular day. It is a morbid thought, but it is one that drives me to conserve and fight for human rights. I have chosen to follow a path of social justice, inspired by my four years of college at a Jesuit institution of higher learning.

It’s ironic, even quite sad, that my time spent at a Catholic college has propelled me to lose not only my religion, but faith in humanity and compassion.

What drives us as a race to fight for change and the conservation of human rights? Is it fear? Are we driven by motives that only affect our personal lives and the lives of the ones we love? In order to live a fulfilling life, one should become involved in a worthy cause that deeply troubles and fascinates them, one should travel the world in pursuit of knowledge and unknown cultures, and above all, do not suppress your views and beliefs; many people in the world are not so lucky as we are.

From my personal experiences, I have been changed. I spent time with a woman wasting away in a hut in Jamaica due to lack of access to healthcare; I heard a first-person account from a lone survivor of a massacre in a field in El Salvador; and I spent the past summer working with refugee children on the west side of Buffalo. I am not an expert on any of these topics, but I do have some advice: Put yourself into uncomfortable situations and be willing to make sacrifices. Taking into consideration a brief overview of modern history, we, as American college students, are probably in a coveted position in the world. Simply, we are the ones who will change the world, for better or worse.

By immersing myself in unsettling and unique situations in order to help those on the fringe of civilization, I am able to describe the changes within myself and those I have assisted. I am able to take what I learned in order to make a better tomorrow for others. I will be a voice for those in need. Most importantly, I will also listen to those who are seeking positive change. In our society, it often appears that everyone loves to hear themselves talk, yet unfortunately, no one actually likes to listen.

We live in the city of good neighbors. Let’s extend our friendliness to the world.

Jeffrey Hartinger, Buffalo

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