{Empty title} | The Nation

When my 15-year-old daughter first mentioned wanting to go to a friend's "Sweet Sixteen," I was a little puzzled and queried, "You mean you want to go to her birthday party, and she is going to be 16?" My daughter looked at me like I had just stepped out of a flying saucer. I admit, I am already an old fuddy-duddy at the tender age of 46. I came of age in the rural Midwest during the 1970s, and at the time, I was a very shy, self-contained, mad scientist teen. Despite my hermetic nature, I wasn't totally cut off from the world around me, but I was completely unaware of anything like the hideous celebrations of avarice and greed that our sweet little 16-year-olds now seem to be taking for granted. This all goes on amidst Middle Eastern Wars, African genocide and an ever-increasing national debt. There is a bit of Nero and his fiddle in the souls of our teenagers, and I suppose we adults and the shallow values we exalt are to blame. Don't think church will cure this sickness of the soul. As far as I can tell, the institutions of religion in America contribute to this problem. My daughter has so far been to two Sweet Sixteens this year. She's looking forward to her own. I hope I have the heart to tell her that her sixteenth birthday may be sweet, but it won't be as sweet as she would like.