By Tina Medlin Willson
Children have been in the news lately for a combination of horrifying and wonderful reasons, and as a result, I have been pondering generations and their “labels” in a way that I normally avoid. I often scoff at stereotypes about Millennials and I don’t like to place blame on the Boomers for all the problems we face. I know many people who demonstrate that generational assumptions are faulty.
However, I do have an interest in history and sociology, and I know the value of learning from the past. So, I started thinking about my generation – the one without an identity – Generation X. What could we be for the history books?
Due to our numbers and the fact that we were lucky enough to head to college and into the workforce before the bottom fell out of the economy, we seem to be invisible. However, many of us are experiencing the challenges faced by Millenials, just tempered by the fact that we got a “head start.” We struggle with healthcare costs, income inequality, the cost of education, and the impending doom of climate change. Therefore, I believe our generation has some choices to make. We can either partner with and support those that are coming after us, or face irrelevance.
What could we be for the history books?
For most of my adult life, I didn’t worry all that much about voting. I really didn’t see its value, since I lived in a “blue” state. I accepted the struggles that came my way and neglected to connect politics to problems. Naivety, privilege, survival, or a combination of all three? Yes.
I can only speak for myself, but I think that the “Xer” adolescent years were rooted in hope for the future, and that was an amazing gift. As a result, many disengaged from the political process because we thought that the government is bigger and smarter than us, and …wait for it… working FOR us. Additionally, we’re stuck in a “we’re doing mostly okay” mindset. To admit that things are not okay feels like admitting personal failure or that we are selfish, because clearly there are others who have things so much worse than we do. (There are many exceptions to this, particularly within populations experiencing challenges of poverty and racism. Making broad generalizations requires painting a broad brush.)
Anyway, I think that I have now found some clarity about what we CAN be. We can be the bridge generation – we can be the foundation to support the Millenials and the adolescents of today. I believe today’s children will usher in great social change. In order to effectively be that change, they need us to help clear the path to success and they need strong roots upon which to grow their movements. So, let’s do this. But, how?
…they need strong roots.
So, let’s do this.
It’s complicated, of course, but it’s also simple. One thing to do is to reincorporate civic engagement into our daily lives. Many people say “it’s just a primary and I’m busy,” and I’ve spent years playing that game. It’s hard to get information about the candidates. It’s hard to know who’s going to be on your ballot. The more you learn about them, the less you know who to vote for because they are all people with flaws. It’s hard to get off work. It’s hard, it’s hard, it’s hard. And, there are absolutely valid issues that make it harder for some people than others. But, for many of us, these are really excuses to avoid the work.
It’s harder to not have a safe place to go to school. It’s harder to face systemic racism and sexual harassment. It’s harder to be unable to obtain the education you want because you can’t afford it. It’s harder to be hungry at school. It’s harder to face storms that destroy your home and community. It’s harder to pay bills when we’re trapped in systems that benefit only the wealthy. These are all problems that I believe our government has a role in solving, and therefore – we should be willing to do the work to make these things easier for the future. There are many, many things harder than taking the time to be an educated voter.
So, I ask you, please take the time to VOTE for the future – on March 20, and November 6, and all the other relevant Tuesdays.