I know no one wants to hear anymore about politics. I know.
Let me, instead, tell you about my broken heart.
I am 28 years old, born in 1980.
I have heard stories about the 70′s. I’ve read about the 60′s. I’ve seen Martin Luther King, JR. and John F. Kennedy speak via old newsreels and memorial reruns. My grandparents come from The Greatest Generation. My parents grew up fantasizing about the Peace Corps and Free Love.
I know about inspiration secondhand.
My generation has watched Paris Hilton become a celebrity based on her party habits and wardrobe. I am firmly sandwiched between The Me Generation and Generation X. When people reminisce about the 80′s and the 90′s – the decades I *grew up* in, they swap stories about hair gone wrong, peg rolled jeans and Miami Vice. Sure, VH1 loves the 80s – for their Monster Ballads, Hair Bands and the emergence of Bubble Gum Pop.
I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a part of something that would still matter in 20 years. I’ve heard about the marches and the sit-ins and the rebellions, and I’ve wondered what it must be like to live in a nation that was gripped with awareness and fight.
The country I have known my entire life is one of apathy.
We say that we don’t discuss politics because “it just leads to a fight”, but what we really mean is “everyone gets pissed and it doesn’t matter anyway.”
I’ve heard it used to matter.
I’ve heard that protesters and disillusioned youth had the power to rip a society from the safety net of black & white TV into the explosive reality of life in Technicolor.
I’ve heard there was a time when people had a “Dream”, and when they were encouraged to ask “what you can do for your country”. The sound bites that people born in 1980 remember include “read my lips” and “not gonna do it”, or “it’s the Economy, stupid”. Somehow, those tid bits have the power to move me.
I’ve always imagined it must be an amazing thing to care like that, like King and JFK and the bra burners and the hippies and the anti-establishment protesters. And how thrilling it must have been, for an entire society to be caught up in “caring” right along side you – whether they agreed with you or not.
It wasn’t until recently that I thought I might actually have the opportunity to experience that firsthand. As I watched people become more angry with the current administration, I wondered if it might lead somewhere this time. I felt a fire light inside me that made me believe that we might still be connected to the American Story after all.
So, yes, I’ve been clinging to the Audacity of Hope for the past several months.
I have let myself be filled up with Optimism.
I have allowed myself to be inspired by the idea that Yes, We Can make a difference.
It is the first time in my memory that I can recall MY society having that chance.
I was certain this was it, this was our moment – our opportunity to leave our mark. It felt so right, so alive, so unlike anything we’ve been a part of before.
And now I feel like I’m watching that all… slip away.
It would not be an exaggeration to tell you that it hurts. It hurts to watch the infighting. It hurts to see the old apathy I’ve always known settle back in. It brings tears to my eyes to see our hope, my hope, be stolen away from us by bitterness and manipulation.
When I read comments here and around the Internet from people 15, 20, 30 years older than me who mock the fact that I care, I want to shake my fist in someone’s face and say “you don’t understand! You had your chance!” When I hear the same tired jokes from people my own age, I want to shake them by their shoulders and cry out “don’t you get it? Don’t you see that this time it could be different?”
You bet your ass this is personal to me.
If this doesn’t happen here… now… if my generation squanders this opportunity… if those of us who feel the spark allow ourselves to be silenced by the resistance of the sluggish…
I fear this is it. At least for me and my lifetime.
Perhaps my children will grow up and have their chance, their own fight. Maybe, in spite of the fact that there will be no one left to teach them, they will dig up old sound bites on the Internet and find their own inspiration. Maybe they will pick up the legacy that my colleagues and I have discarded in favor of tabloids and complacency. Maybe. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I live to see it and hear about it once again.
But oh, how I was hoping to be a part of it.