It seems like I can’t turn a corner these days without some baby boomer or Generation X’er blaming “young people” for our country’s current failures. “Kids these days aren’t as politically active as when I was a student!” they’ll claim, fully deciding that apathy from young Americans is the most valid target for criticism — and definitely not just the easiest. “Just look at Ann Arbor,” they say, “students have no representation on city council and never get involved in local government.” Sure, this assertion fails to mention what I see as gerrymandering of council districts to effectively silence the 40,000-plus student voices when it comes to local elections (not to mention that baby boomers claim their involvement was mainly in national issues, like the Vietnam War) — but let’s not get caught up in semantics. The point is, college kids these days don’t care about important issues — at least not in the way our parents did.
But it’s not just baby boomers, for even the cool, young Joel Stein of Time magazine criticizes the Millennial generation for our apparent failure as a group, calling us the “Me me me” generation. “You’re too selfish!” they yell. Unlike those before us, we don’t care about other people and are far too concerned with chasing material things , commitment-free sex and connecting to people through boxes and screens instead of in person. We need to learn how our parents lived, because it’s us dumb kids ruining everything.
If only there were some recent University news story that could highlight the role of student political activism and empathy in our day and age proving those old geezers wrong. Alas, there is none, as our young, lazy generation’s impact on politics in general is at best minuscule.
My fellow Millennials — this is a call to action.
The truth of the matter is our lack of political activism is really about a lack of care for one another. Not only are we hurting each other with our focus on “me,” but we’re setting up the next generation for an awful fate. Only a truly selfish and immoral group would pass on massive debts without even attempting to pay the bill, go to war and kill thousands of innocent people, imprison the poorest and most disadvantaged among us at monstrous rates and bet on an economy of selfishness and inequality that breeds disaster after disaster — just like all of us Millennials have done.
For this is a “We the People” government, and it’s our awful decision-making that has led to the country’s many recent atrocities — and no, our elders are not being hypocritical when blaming our choices for societal problems while chastising our lack of political participation. The economic deregulation, the War on Drugs, the beginnings of our massive debt — sure, literally no one in our generation had even been born yet when this all started in the late 1970s, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t not our parents’ fault.
Please, wise elders, forgive my young naïveté in reelecting former President Bill Clinton — I was only three years old. His repeal of Glass-Steagall, signing of the Defense of Marriage Act and bombing and sanctions against Iraq certainly were my doing, and I must — along with the whole generation that allowed for such atrocities to occur on their watch —apologize. Similarly, we must all take our blame for the continued wars under former President George W. Bush. My generation was in so much fear from 9/11 — those of us who were actually old enough to comprehend what it meant when it happened, that is — that he seemed like a safe choice. We were such foolish middle schoolers when we put him back in office.
Thankfully, our parents came to the rescue and turned out en masse to elect President Barack Obama, a man whose administration has been criticized by many in our generation for trying to protect our country, fight corruption and promote freedom while we “Occupy Wall Street.” Will we ever learn?
My fellow Millennials — it’s time we man up and make a difference. Get a decent education. Try to do something other than smoke weed and go on Reddit. Make something of yourself. And most important of all, when we’re given the amazing gifts of hard work and opportunity from our parents, let’s not squander them with selfish, stupid decisions, ignoring our own role and blaming the next generation for our terrible mistakes.
James Brennan can be reached at email@example.com.