The kids are alright

I’m writing a post I honestly hoped I’d never have to write. I grew up as a member of “Generation X.” I graduated from high school in 1988 and college in 1991. I lived through the end of the Cold War. I remember watching live coverage of the Berlin Wall coming down. I remember the first Gulf War and the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

I hit the job market during the first Bush recession. I struggled for two years to find my first professional job in my field of study. (I had gainful employment in the interim and worked with some pretty amazing people doing vitally important work during that time. It put food on the table, and I appreciate that.)

I graduated from college a year early with a double major and magna cum laude honors from a well-respected school. I went through medical bankruptcy at age 24. I dealt with insurance companies constantly hiking their rates (not a new phenomenon under Obamacare, despite what Fox News and talk radio want you to believe), lowering their benefits, and denying coverage for preexisting conditions, while politicians got rich off of insurance company and big pharma money and promised reform that never materialized.

Through all of this, I also dealt with many older folks ragging on Gen Xers. We were viewed as a single, homogeneous demographic unit — and not a good one. We were called slackers, angst ridden, spoiled, and every other bullshit name that now gets hurled at another apparently single, homogeneous demographic unit the powers that be have labeled as “millennials.”

Which brings me back around to where I started: feeling compelled to write a piece I never thought I’d have to. Why? Because many of the same people who had to deal with all those generational generalizations getting hurled their way back in the day are now parroting their propagandists of choice and perpetuating those same tired stereotypes against the next generation of young adults hitting the workforce today.

Generational politics is bullshit, pure and simple. “Generations” are market segments. They’re target demographics. And they’re an easy punching bag for taking out frustrations that should be aimed elsewhere.

Just like we weren’t a single, homogeneous demographic unit that embodied every perceived societal shortcoming to some people 20 or 30 years ago, neither are so-called millennials today. I called bullshit then, and I call bullshit now.

Millennials aren’t the enemy, any more than we were the enemy back then. They’re not lazy. They don’t feel entitled. And God so help me the next time I hear someone start blabbering on about participation trophies.

You know who millennials are? They’re us when we were in our 20s. Sure, a lot has changed (and not all for the better), but deep down, that’s who they are. Some are deeply religious. Others aren’t. Some are conservative. Others are more progressive in their views. Some are affluent. Others struggle to make ends meet. Reducing them to some contrived list of “shared” values that we can then turn around and criticize to make ourselves feel better is ridiculous.

Millennials have the same aspirations we did. They burn with the same passion we had before it was stamped out of us by decades of broken promises, body blows, and lies. They remind us of ourselves and what we once were. And that pisses us off.

Millennials are facing the same challenges we faced — the catch 22 of looking for jobs that demand experience that no one is willing to give them a chance to get. A political system that dangles identity as a carrot, while actually valuing corporations, special interests, and endless war over the lives of real people. They came to age watching their government give the banks and Wall Street firms that tanked our economy massive bailouts, high profile cabinet appointments, and a free pass in holding anyone accountable. Then they get criticized about lacking personal responsibility. Oh, please.

Millennials bought into the same system we did — work hard in school, take on a mountain of student loan debt, and you’ll go far. They’re busting their asses working long hours for shit wages and having to put up with a bunch of middle-aged pricks calling them entitled whiners for having the audacity to thinkour government should put a priority on the interests of we the people instead of continuing to cater to the fatcats who leech on those same middle-aged pricks who are calling them names.

Well fuck that.

I’m here to tell you the kids are alright. In fact, they’re more than alright. They’re downright awesome.

If you want to blame someone for all the crap that’s going wrong in the world, stop scapegoating and start looking at the people with real power and influence. They’re the ones who need to be held accountable. They’re the ones living in their parents’ (we the taxpayers) basement and collecting government handouts (cushy contracts and subsidies), while sending jobs overseas or paying starvation wages and expecting us to make up the difference with foodstamps and Medicaid for their workers — as executives pocket millions in salaries and bonuses.

That’s where your anger should be directed. But blaming the kids is a whole lot easier.

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