I respect the opinion of my elders, but just an open query about the charges brought against my generation:
For not working hard enough: where is the evidence. When we were younger you told us you started from a small job and climbed your way to the top. When we are flipping burgers it’s because we didn’t apply ourselves. When you did it, it was shouldering the future by suffering in the present. When we ask for the money to buy bread, it is shameful. When others went on strike in the name of labor conditions, it was heroic. When we ask for more, we never deserve it. So how did you get here? Did you never sit up and demand the world give you what was rightfully yours? How hard working is hard enough?
We are illerate, use slang instead of language, shun poetry: did I just imagine the “rad” bloom of the 70’s? Is it because you can’t catch our tongues in your hands? Is it because our poetry is now published beyond books, beyond the control of one voice, beyond you? That our language doesn’t need your approval to evolve? When you drew political pictures of us asking how to turn a book on, you laughed at our ignorance. When the tables turned, when we were shown to be the most literate and well-read generation on record, you scratched the mirror. You said it was our lazy nature. A body rotting. Because we read trash, or we read into things, or we write loudly and it bothers you. Why does it bother you?
School is too easy: What was it like going to school without being worried about a shooting? Did you ever cower like we have, like I did, like our friends, crying muffled in your hands because you love your parents and now have no time to tell them? What was it like, dear, in a world where my standardized testing scores would have broken your curve and I didn’t even get perfect. What part is the easy part. Is it the highest recorded level of anxiety? Is it the rising teenage suicide rates? Is it the eating disorders, body dismorphia, self harm, self destruction? Tell me, have you seen - there’s a show called “Are you Smarter Than A 5th Grader.” It’s very funny. In it, bright young kids show adults that what we’re learning didn’t even exist in common knowledge while they were in school. Tell me. If you were up against our 5th grade curriculum, who would win? No, I’m sure you’re fine. You learned it all in high school.
We want too many free things: What was it like to want for nothing? What was it like to have a certainty that hard work leads to a bright future. What was it like imagining being rich instead of imagining just being rich enough to eat good food. What was it like, not being worried that a broken leg would cost you an entire apartment? Do you know they hate us so much they would rather see us die than bring down the price of an EpiPen. And since I know you love the idea of us abusing the system, tell me, where do I go to expose the lie about my life-threatening allergy? How do I fake it, because I’d like to opt out of it, and while I’m at it my mental illness, and while I’m at it can you take my chronic pain please. And since I know that the answer is to go to school and get a degree so I can be worthy of not dying, just another question: are you aware fifty thousand dollars a year is equivalent to a house. I could buy a house instead of going to college. Since you’re good at this, while we’re talking, I have two siblings. Which of the three of us gets the money? Go on. Look at us. Choose. Who goes hungry?
We’re entitled: yes, please, give me a deed, give me land, give me better than winning the lottery. What I’m entitled to is life, liberty and the pursuit of profit, am I not? So where are any of the above? Where did the jobs go? Why do you jail people for small crimes but free the criminals? And my life? This life? I end where my body begins, I am cut off from the nation’s decisions about what I can put in or take out of me. And me? I’m safe because I’m white-passing. Don’t the bodies pile up? Aren’t we entitled to justice? Aren’t we entitled to an answer? A response from the government? More than just speeches about how riots won’t solve things? Aren’t we entitled to a fair trial? To freedom of speech? Was it not our common fathers who fought for these things?
We’re lazy: Where? Who has the money? I’ve been working since I was 12, am I just an anomaly? Or do you just ignore those who don’t fit your story? All those student-run engineering projects that are changing history. All those protests. The art world, shifting. All these adults who demand more - do they count as lazy or as entitled? What were you doing at our age? Did it really look all that different?
We don’t listen to real music, don’t like real art, are loud, are too busy partying: We changed and you didn’t keep up. Is that’s what’s so startling?
We are sucked up into the Internet, wouldn’t drop the phone if the apocalypse was happening: my phone has my family on the other end of it. Do you not save pictures from a burning building? Do you really care so little for others you’d stick to the old ways entirely instead of texting? Oh sure, yes, a letter is pretty, I love them. But just asking for a friend: What do I do in an emergency with only a pencil. And I don’t mean to downsize the problem because I mean it’s not like you took Polaroids of your friends at sunset - right? - and it’s definitely wrong of us to want memories of a really nice night, but, just curious, did you post that opinion on the Internet? Was seeing others on the Web what made you upset? Maybe - this is just a crazy idea that popped up into my head - you should go take a walk, go outside, disconnect.
We do everything different: Yes. Because we were raised on the cusp of the next great Renaissance. We are in somewhere new, a galaxy of expansion that doesn’t rely on you. That knows more than you do. That doesn’t function the way you expect it to. How rose-colored is the past to you? The place where you erase AIDS and drug abuse in an effort to tell us we are a terrible youth. Where you don’t talk about the marches that happened around you. How painted do you picture it, simply because you had to physically look in a book to learn something new? How do you turn your eyes to a world where war sits on our necks, our earth melts, our populations swell, our people starve, and we are powerless in it all - and say, “It’s your fault.”
It’s our fault. The housing market, somehow related to our obsessive need for safe spaces, I’m sure, because our dreams no longer lie in yards but rather something big enough for at least a bed, and hopefully with tasteful curtains, and you have no idea what a safe space is. The certain failure of the two-party political system, maybe somehow due to our political correctness - we are, after all, rude enough to never open doors for old ladies or just let you be racist - how we controlled the media, how our desires drove this. Our request for trigger warnings and correct pronouns is a burden, and I see that now, because our special snowflake syndrome really does hurt you as a person; while your ongoing use of torture in corrective therapy is only a problem if you’re actually looking. You’re so right about so many things. When you beat us to correct us, it’s your child and it’s your right; when it’s our bodies we ask to have rights over - well, what did we expect? It’s our fault. The crushing debt, the companies that own our government, the privatization of prisons, the unrightful searches, the human trafficking and abuse of sex workers, the gun violence, the pharmaceutical industries which control our doctor’s choices, the climate change you only just started to admit is happening, the extinction of species worldwide - we are responsible for both pollution and poaching, the lead in our water, the death in our streets. So what do you get from it? From dismissing us? From quitting on us before the race begins? From forgetting who exactly raised us kids?
Now, I was told that the problem is that we too often point to bigotry. That we hide behind pointing out your sexist comments instead of realizing the truth your words wrought. I was told we are so focused on our victories, of a world that rallied for marriage equality, for gender expression, for the safety of survivors, for a healing nation - we call out instead of calling on. So I’m calling on you, Generation X kids. Here’s your free one. No bigotry spoken of. So speak. Explain what exactly you mean.
I get it. We asked for a country. The land is borrowed from your children, they tell me.
Now why are you so afraid when we show up and start collecting?