Author: Andrew Buddendeck
For as long as I can remember I have been told things have always been better in the past, or at least not as bad. Politicians supposedly worked together, the economy was good, people were smarter, pay was better, the world by and large was peaceful (or at least peaceful in the areas we cared about). Things by and large weren’t bad. They could have been better, sure, but they weren’t awful.
Now it seems we are living in a constant state of apocalypse. For as long as I can remember the world around me has traipsed from atrocity, to tragedy, to disaster, to shame in an endless loop. Another terrorist attack, the police shot an unarmed man, the government fighting to curtail rights, a person has been insulted, democracy undermined by corruption, the economy is falling apart, storm clouds on the horizon. Death, fire, foes! This has been the background noise of my youth, this has defined my generation.
I grew into adulthood in a post-9/11 world. I only had eight years of my life where the country I grew up in was not fighting in a war, four if you count being potty trained at the time. I didn’t understand 9/11 when it happened, I was eight years old. I was more concerned with the jellybeans my grandma had given me than I was with an attack that would change the world I was barely a part of. Why would I worry? My parents would take care of the bad guys, or the government and army would beat up the bad guys and none of it would be my problem. Besides, it was all far away, and there were jellybeans to eat.
Not six years later and yet more happenings occurred that I didn’t fully understand. All of a sudden every adult in my thirteen year old vicinity was freaking out about some kind of economic crisis. Being thirteen my understanding of the economy was generally framed around how stressed my dad was when he got home from work. I had a feeling the economy was tied to my Christmas presents somehow. But I was thirteen. I had other things growing on my mind, as well as other places on my body. What were sub-prime mortgage rates to me, or housing bubbles?
Now I am an adult. I have become that catch all term kids use to describe provider, oppressor, playmate, disciplinarian, and most of all perhaps, problem solver. I am an adult, and I cannot honestly say that I have any real means of solving the many issues that are buzzed into my pocket every day. And as I look back on my childhood I am tempted to say that it was better, that things were lighter, simpler, more innocent. I could say that, but it would be a lie. What I wish is that I had more time. More time for the adults of my past to fix the problems I never thought I’d have to deal with. However, the millions of adults in the world who could have solved these problems, have not. What chance do I, what chance do we, have to do any better?
The overwhelming feeling that is constantly sitting in my gut is the feeling of helplessness. I do not know how to stop the problems I see in the world around me. I want to make everyone happy, have all parties satisfied with the solution but I have long since learned that this is impossible. My solutions are vague and nebulous; I would not know where to begin if I were given the chance to put them in to action. I do not have the answers, I barely have the questions. And as I look around I am finding out that I am not the only one in my generation to feel this confusing, scatter minded fear, rage and sorrow.
We manifest it in different ways. I see some social groups blame the entirety of another social group; it gives a clear cut trouble maker that can be stopped and be made to pay. Some cling to the idea that we are not equipped to face these problems; because it give the illusion that they have more time for the real adults to fix these problems. Others become so desperate for guidelines that they will gouge out their own eyes (figuratively of course) to cling to an ideology or belief that seems to provide a clear way forward. And a growing number of my fellows just collapse; it’s easier to stop giving a damn, or just rage impotently, than it is to continuously worry about things that are beyond our pathetic capabilities to deal with. We are all trying these methods, and they are all failing.
The way I see it is that we have two choices. We can remain on our current path, hoping that things will sort themselves out, or that our beliefs in whatever will have a chance at bat and that our conviction to them will be vindicated, and one by one we will all succumb to apathy as it becomes too hard to bear the growing weight of these problems, and the guilt that soon this burden will be given over to our own children. Or, alternatively, we make a new way forward, nay-sayers be damned.
This second way isn’t a new proposition; it has probably been on the mind of every generation to come to age in crisis. I would say however that in modern America such a goal has not been achieved since the Civil War. It is time that we divorce ourselves from the old system of parties and methods of political division. The time is now to hold nothing sacred except our Rights. We must demand that every person be welcomed to the table to debate their point, no matter how much we may disagree with them. The ideas with the clearest points, the flexibility to change and the willingness to change and reach a new synthesis must be the ideas to take precedent.
The illusion of ideological purity must die. The myth of our powerlessness as common people must be ripped up by the root and burned away without remorse. Those who will not sit down at the drafting table have no place there, but no one must be turned away save those who will not drop failed ideas or baseless assertions. A new way of defining our relationship with ourselves, each other, our government and the world we live in must be decided upon now, or we are damned to suicide.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child. We all did. We were confident that the adults would solve the problems and that when we grew up we would solve our own problems. We are not children anymore; the problems of our parents, the sins of our ancestors are now ours. We can do as so many of them did, and wait for the adults to solve the problem, until we are gone and our own children are left with our unresolved mistakes, and no idea how to begin fixing them. Or we can put away childish things, and get to work.