One of my Facebook friends posted this article. I normally hold my silence when it comes to such topics, but I found myself nodding as well as shaking my head during its various intriguing points, and I decided to speak up.
**disclaimer**: In order for this entire blog post to make sense, you’d have to read the article first; I’m going to reference it multiple times.
Specifically, this sentence in the article, “[C]ollectively [Millennials] are more optimistic about government than the average American” induced my head-shaking the most. You see, my problem as a Millennial estranged from politics is that I am actually more politically pessimistic than mostly everyone I know but because I am so TIMID (how wonderfully selective and applicable diction that was, Sir Nelson), most people do not know my feelings about politics.
You know what they say about a picture being worth 1,000 words:This article’s solution to this feeling?
“We can change the direction of this country and the future prospects of our generation, but that means entering the political arena and accepting the dirt and grime that is found there.“
I’m sorry Nelson, but I don’t want to enter into the political arena. Although I hold some strong, emotional positions about how America has treated me as an American, I have absolutely no desire to enter the political arena in any way, shape, or form. Ever. Hell, even the journalism arena was too “grimy” back in college; though I loved writing, when I wrote investigative journalism, my soul pained more than pleasured at the task. Believe me, if investigating what was shitty about a university‘s student-run political system brought me to tears, just imagine the American government‘s potential to ruin my day. It’s not that I’m too lazy to be into politics; it’s that I’m too emotionally compromised by the thought of it.
Regardless, as an intelligent yet stupid person I find myself going back to it and back to it as if returning to an abusive lover once the bruises heal with some terrible hope stirring within me that I won’t be struck again mixed with some terrible logic that statistically speaking I probably will be.
That was a loquacious allegory meant to demonstrate that I will always and I will never have faith in the will of our generation to change what’s wrong with this country of ours.
When I say I return to “it” I mean I return to my own internal debate that redundantly inquires into the value of this country and me in it. Like an equation that never seems to formula correctly, these internal dialogue exchanges tend to end poorly. I am the kind of person that essentially keeps in touch with the majority of opinions while refraining from sharing my own. Considering my New Year’s Resolution was to share more, well, here it is:
I am an American Millennial. I wait and I wonder and yes, I feel hopeless. I do not have the spine to become a politician or to challenge our democratic flaws, mainly because I have a strong desire to find whatever happiness I can at the end of the day.
What is our generation’s responsibility? I appreciated this article because it made me seriously consider that question. In a way, this article makes TOTAL SENSE and, in other ways, it makes absolutely NO SENSE. It, like the Millennial’s desire, is paradoxical by nature. For example, I have the responsibility to march on Washington in protest of the American debt problem, but I also have the responsibility to go to work every day to pay off that debt. Which do I choose? I can’t start a revolution from my cubicle. Mainly because when I am sitting in my cubicle, being the youngest and therefore one of the more scrutinized employees, I am working my ass off to prove my older bosses and co-workers wrong about my generation.
I am not working my ass off because I am a Millennial who had everything handed to me. I am working my ass off because my lower middle class/blue collar family taught me that I had more opportunities than they did. They taught me the value of hard work. They taught me to respect the difficult things in life. The friends I have kept have been taught similar lessons throughout their upbringing.
So yes, I am timid. I have timidly chosen to work for a paycheck rather than political change.
I want those who disagree with this statement to know that one of the things I love about this country is your right to disagree with me. However, that does not change what I believe to be the veracity of my statement. I cannot work full-time for both myself and my country. It is not possible for me on the scale that this article is demanding. Why is it so hard? Why can’t I? Well, the article addresses that as well…
“It is not enough to get your candidates elected or convince them of the justness of your cause, you must pressure them all the way across the legislative finish line. Because if you don’t, they will believe it is politically safer for them to do nothing.“
If I wanted to attempt to validate every single item on this article’s to-do list, I would start with surveying a different member of our government in my spare time each evening. By the end of the month I’m sad to say I wouldn’t have gotten far considering there’s 435 Representatives and 100 Senators in the US Congress alone.
So! If the solution to fix our broken justice and democratic system is to become the watchdog of the politicians, sorry, I’m off that bandwagon; I have bills to pay and family and friends to keep and a certain level of sanity I’d like to maintain in waking moments.
If you’re still misunderstanding the gravity of the situation, let’s throw in the fact if I somehow found the time and energy to make myself aware of every single politician’s error in follow-through, I would then also muster up within myself whatever willpower, resilience, tenacity, and influence I as one single human being possess to then face the MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR LOBBYISTS/CORPORATIONS that also have things to say but with the tactical advantage of having also a lot of money to say these things much more persuasively than I ever could as a single person.
Take this example from the documentary Food Inc:
An American farmer cleans his own leftover seeds to re-use the next year. Because he is surrounded by similar fields that use patented seeds, a large corporation that owns the patent seeks out farmers like him and claim (even without sufficient evidence) that he is actually infringing upon their patent. He, as well as many others, was sued and spent $500,000 defending himself just to settle out of court because he could no longer afford his legal fees.
He said this: “The way I see our American justice system, after having gone through what I have, is Lady Justice, and she’s holding the scales of justice. Money is piled onto either side of the scales. The one who has the most money, wins. That is the current definition of American justice.”
So really, how is the average American and the average Millennial suppose to compete with these forces? This article’s answer, beyond entering into the political process, is coalition building. Basically, coming together. Turning the more than one into many.
A beautiful concept truly and a meritorious one to boot with examples written inside the pages of history to inspire us. Unfortunately, most of the successful examples that come to mind started with revolt and continued into violence and/or war. Our country was founded atop the corpses of the elite and needy alike. The true turning point in the Civil Rights Movement was the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., a man who desired a peaceful revolution. Indeed, we all desire a peaceful revolution, don’t we?
Because Food Inc is on my mind I am thinking now of another example of “coalition-building” from the documentary–A woman who lost her son to e coli from contaminated meat in 2001. She became an advocate in the political arena, seeking increased standards for safety in the American meat industry. It’s been over a decade since her son’s death and Kevin’s Law has yet to pass–namely due to some key members of the political process with curiously strong financial ties to the same meat industries that were being scrutinized. Now I’m not going to go down the rabbit hole of food safety standards in the US because I haven’t researched that topic enough; I mainly brought up this example to show that coalition-building is a life-long endeavor and one with no guarantees. Those who enter into it understanding these things are to be commended.
What I’m taking a long time to say is, how can we win? This article is very lovely and optimistic, especially toward the end. But my pessimistic self responds how we can win against a political system as broken as ours? This is not a sardonic, rhetorical question. This is a legitimate call for answers. Enlighten me if you may, because in my opinion once one understands the true extent of the issues at hand, one must choose: participate in a radical and most likely violent revolution or wait it out and hope for better times. I, for one, don’t wish to live to see an American Civil War II. I’d rather emigrate. I’d rather renounce my American citizenship. I’d rather find another country that better suits my idea of a fair democratic system than resort to the gunfire and bloodshed that would be required for an overturning of the current system.
I know many people highly disagree with the prior paragraph, and I’m very glad you do. Us Millennials will adapt and we may very well change this system somehow. I’m quite curious to see how we do it so I may take part in such a virtuous occasion. As of right now, I’m just not sure how I can, and I have a feeling many silent Millennials share my sentiment. And, you know, if change never comes, this Millennial will adapt the best way she knows how: moving on and out to an environment more suited for her kind.
“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.” [source]
To end this on a funnier note, here:
Or if you’re pressed for time: