In 2001 the oldest Americans who are considered a part of the Millennial generation turned 18 and were legally allowed to vote, coming just in over the wire for the Bush v. Gore election. While growing up they, as all Millennials were, were told that in America our vote was our voice, to use our voice, and to stand up and be counted. For the next 4 years they attempted to use that voice, only to realize that the words they wanted to say to the government were not appearing on ballots. But with the internet they had the option of sending emails and filling out petitions. And by the time the 2008 presidential election rolled around they thought that their voices had found listening ears. I personally was not able to vote until 2009. From then on, especially with the advent of social media, we began to post our opinions, to engage in discussion, and to post images with humorous captions meant to express our viewpoints and engage in dialogue. But it was at this point that a disturbing trend began, the people who had taught us to form our own opinions began to scoff at our opinions.
When entering into a debate about politics with older generations it almost felt like that first Thanksgiving meal where you were permitted to move from the kid’s table to the “adult’s” table only to find that you could not contribute to the conversation and when you could your statements were more tolerated than encouraged. We could practically feel the condescending pat on the head and the slight mocking tone from that point and time “How cute, the children think they have an opinion.” Arguments going into 2010 of what changes should be made and how the world could be better were met with derision, “Oh they don’t know how the world works, in a few years they’ll grow up and realize the truth.” By this point we, as millenials, had realized that a vote alone would not change anything, that to make changes we would have to write, call, get involved, share our opinions. And we turned back towards social media.
Recognizing that one of the greatest obstacles to the progress we hoped to make was financial backing a new idea sprung up from the depths of social media. By using social media we would create a perpetual protest on Wall Street, the legal rules for protest were looked up and information was spread and explained through the tag #OccupyWallStreet. Other major cities began to pick up the call but as the movement grew it ran into the problem where no one wanted to take up the mantle of leadership to organize. With too many signs, too many people wearing masks, and too many people blocking doors and pathways which were legally required to remain clear without a permit to organize the protest was declared illegal. As confrontations with the responding police began to heat up what was supposed to be a peaceful protest erupted into violence and riots. It was at this point that the anti-millenial rhetoric changed from “they will learn” to “this is what happens when you coddle your children/don’t spank them/give participation trophies.” This was not to say that the movement accomplished nothing, but rather that it was but another stepping stone towards our identity in regards to our activism.
Going into the 2012 reelection of Barack Obama we came to realize that the great flaw in the Occupy Movement was a lack of coordination and leadership, or at least this was realized in the groups that would spring up in response to the events that were to occur over the next four years. Through high profile criminal and civil cases that occurred in the years to come, along with the greater dissemination of information through social media, millennials began to become more involved and aware of issues and discrimination in society. (Here I again exclude myself because at the time these issues arose, much to my shame and dismay, I blindly turned away from the issue raised in favor of my own prejudices while mistakenly thinking myself enlightened for my moderate stance and that those on either extreme as being misguided and uninformed.) Which in turn lead to the events of the previous year, 2016.
Now as I have elaborated above, Millennials were still finding our voice prior to 2012, and when that election rolled around there was little capability for us to change things as it is very rare to have a party nominate a new presidential candidate when the incumbent candidate is still eligible for reelection. Thus 2016 was a year where we could actually direct the forces of change for the next 4 years, and the vast majority of left-aligned Millennials found that direction in Senator Bernie Sanders. A cry was put out to vote for Sanders in the Primaries, get involved, petition, campaign, don’t just use your voice but your feet as well! (Here I must, once again, admit that I do not count myself among this portion. In the events of the 2012 election I decided that I would vote third party in the 2016 election unless either party had an extremely strong candidate I felt was more worthy of my vote. And while Senator Sanders may have gotten my vote in the General Election I felt that it would be dishonest to the system to vote in the primaries since I did not intend to vote major party, feeling that it would be akin to the sudden influx of “residents” in Kansas prior to them voting whether or not they would be admitted as a state in which slavery was legal.) In the end, as you all remember, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic nomination. This caused a bit of anger which was fanned a bit by word that plans for the Hillary Clinton 2016 campaign had started back in 2009 (Hardly surprising, as mentioned in the top portion of this paragraph) but made all the worse shortly before the National Convention made Hillary’s election official with word that the Democratic National Committee had been actively sabotaging the Bernie Sanders bid.
The Millennials, having worked so hard for a candidate they believed in only to find that the decision had been made before they were even asked, were understandably upset. (This MAY be a slight understatement, I didn’t even care about the DNC nomination as previously stated and I was pissed.) And while loudly voicing our discontent, the same people who all our life told us to stand up and be heard, told us to sit down and shut up. We were blamed for decisions made by the people now discarding our views. And it was made EXTREMELY apparent, that polite discourse would get us nowhere. That no matter what we say or do, that we are children to be ignored. But we remembered something else you taught us, you older generation who continue to discard our views when they inconvenience you; who forget your own fiery passions in favor of cynicism and apathy, mistakenly labeled as maturity and stoicness. A simple phrase.
Be the change you want to see in the world.
So we are. If you will not listen, we will shout ourselves hoarse and wave signs when our throats are scarred and we can shout no more. We will march until our ankles swell and our legs give out, then we’ll sit in the streets until we can stand and march again. And while you call us impetuous children who have been coddled for too long, and shake your head and ignore us I want you to remember two important facts.
1) 2020 will be the first presidential election where a Millennial can run for the office of President of the United States.
2) 2020 will be the first time a child born in the 21st century will be able to vote for the President of the United States.
You still think of us as children, but we are not. We are adults, we have found our voice, we are not afraid to use it.
We are here.
We are watching.
We are listening.
We are speaking.
We are sending our message:
We will not be silenced.
We will not be dissuaded.
We will not be ignored.
We will not leave.
This is our world, our country, we will not let it be destroyed before we have our chance to save it. We are the future and the future is now!
WE ARE THE FUTURE AND THE FUTURE IS NOW!
WE ARE THE FUTURE AND THE FUTURE IS NOW!
And if you can’t handle it, then you shouldn’t have raised us as well as you did.