I am a millennial.
I exist in a world of wars: spiritual war, gender war, race war, class war, and now age war. I have inherited these wars. I was born into them. And I and my sister and cousins and friends are hated and ridiculed for being born into an already orbiting earth, with big shiny buildings and flashy clothing and trash in the streets, abandoned animals in the streets, abandoned people in the streets.
Some (“some”, not all, being a key word to note) of the already mentally depressed beings who inhabited it before us didn’t know what to do with their messes and battle scars and PTSD, so they pointed the finger at these helpless new aliens as we lay in our cribs, looking up to them for guidance. They themselves were once born into a world of wars but they can’t seem to remember.
I am the enemy because I would rather look at my phone screen than the war going on around me. A screen which was built by my elders and, in my early years, advertised to me on paper-thin television screens stating “You’ll survive the apocalypse with this new gadget” and “buy now! A new distraction from the hate circling around you.” I’m paraphrasing, of course.
The short moment I look up from my phone, I’m standing in the checkout lane at the local Kroger. I make eye contact with a man whose sound hits my ears slower than the moving gif of his lips. I have learned to recognize the familiar accusing stare beaming from his eyes. He’s now in the middle of a conversation with a pale white elderly lady whose position as a cashier doesn’t quite fit her disposition. He raises a finger and points at my sister and me, and the tail end of his statement echoes in my head. “Except for these young ladies, of course, because kids these days don’t know how to take responsibility for anything they do.” I’ve never seen this man in my life! I wanted to ask him where he knew me from and what it is that my sister and I had done to him to cause him so much pain. Because there was recognizable pain in his eyes. With the rest of his words he tried to categorize me, my sister, and everyone in my generation in one lump sum. “They’re always on their phones playing their games and oblivious to reality. They are what’s killing America! No one talks to each other anymore. This used to be a nation of love and friendliness. You know, I saw on the Fox news that millennials don’t even have real relationships because their afraid to touch other people, like they’re going to burst into flames or go straight to hell for making contact with someone.”
I had the feeling that the man would scream if I suddenly reached out and touched the tip of the finger that was still hovering unsteadily inches from my face. Unsteadily. He was afraid of me. Afraid that he, not me, might burst into flames if he came into contact with someone born after 1989. His battle was not with me but my youth.
I wanted to ask him to enlighten me of this friendly loving nation he spoke of. I have read history books and biographies and have yet to discover any remnants of it. From the beginning of the life of this nation, the ground has been soaked with blood, making the clay so red. How do you even think this nation came to be? I’ve read stories of great men and women in history books who were born into wars like I was but they overcame and reaped the reward of rising above darkness. This tomato red-faced man was only but 30 years older than me at most, and he grew up in a world without hate? What was his definition of a friendly, loving nation? At the same Kroger, my young sister was nice to an older gentleman who worked there – smiled and asked him if he was having a nice day – and he tried to follow her home. Instead of stocking the yogurt and orange juice, he began stalking her. Was this the personal contact that the man insinuated millennials don’t take part in? George Washington kept and slept with his slaves. Was that the great nation he was remembering? When women had no political choice? When they couldn’t even wear pants or cut their hair short without being questioned? When gay people were completely silent because they were in constant fear for their lives? I’m sure that’s the nation he was remembering. What was his war? He wants to go back in time to those days where he was the youth, strong and confident and everyone else around him was just learning to use their voices.
Don’t read my words wrongly. I am thankful to be from this country. And I am thankful to be a single part of the generation of millennials – who I am the face of. I am blessed and undeserving of a life where I now have more rights than women in most countries. I am appreciative to live where people progress on a daily basis and discover new science, technology, and ways to better themselves. Where people have choice, despite governing forces, to be a separate entity and individual. Where the blacks, browns, reds, yellows, and whites live in the same neighborhoods and use the same bathrooms. Where gays don’t have to keep their mouths shut to live. But the internal wars are still very much alive, like a disease, eating this country from the inside out, trying to end and reverse the progress. And this man’s reaction to me and my sister was just a symptom of sickness and ignorance.
Emotionally irrational boomer’s are not the problem. White men are not the problem. Race is definitely not the problem. Women are not the problem. The youth are not the problem. The problem seems intangible until you realize it’s people’s fear of unfamiliarity and change from all things as they know it that feeds the cancer that destroys nations. We are all completely entitled to be individuals with equal rights, yet people seek to control and manipulate to an extent that has no end, because they are afraid of what they don’t understand.
So then, what’s the solution to the problem? Maybe awareness. If my father or my father’s father is educated to realize being afraid or unfamiliar with something is not a good enough reason to hate it, then he can make the choice try to understand it a little better. Even if you, as a reader, do not agree with someone else’s lifestyle, you can be educated to the fact that your hate will never abolish it. Hate and incrimination can only cause that person to lose respect for your reasoning. But if we have compassion for that which we don’t understand – or the people, the heartbeats behind what we don’t understand – we can rise above the internal wars and save them from the rubble.