When the Children Cry: An Open Letter to Tomorrow
Let my birthday gift to Holly Wood be to unflinchingly address both today and tomorrow in response to her call to arms and…
I’ve been writing on Medium for a year now. I guess because of how difficult it is to unsubscribe from accounts on here…medium.com
If you are turning to us, your yesterday, for guidance or even explanation, you are unlike any generation to have gone before. If we, your yesterday, held our own council (or followed our own advice), we too would be unlike any generation to have gone before. Note the generally absurd way that we instantly attempt to build some false report by pointing out some fractional margin by which we share common ground.
Attempting to predict the future is something we have done since before anything we would call deign to call civilization took it’s first breaths. Maybe it says something about humanity that those predictions have almost always been dire, doomsday even. The fact that we’ve been consistently and grossly wrong does nothing to deter us. Proof, as if any were needed, that we do not learn from our mistakes. One definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over with the expectation of different results. By that measure, we shouldn’t be advising anyone considering our clear lack of sanity. Before you take anything said here too seriously, watch a few movies.
There is nothing as humbling as watching the future seen through the past’s eyes. Back to the Future II is one of my particular favorites. We passed up their vision of the future and the only notable similarity is how disturbingly like Biff Tannen Donald Trump is. Please, take the time to let that image sink into your brain. I could say it hurts me more than it hurts you, I could say that you’ll thank me for it later. In fact, I will. They are small change compared to the many lies your yesterdays will tell you. The truth is, we take a certain pride in feeling superior. Oh, we say we want you to have a better tomorrow, claim that our greatest desire is that you should be more sucessful than we are. The truth is more complicated than that.
The harsh truth is that you, dear future, are living symbols of our own mortality. This may be hard to believe, but we were once someone else’s tomorrow! Like you, we ignored our yesterdays. Like us, our yesterdays were convinced that we were doomed to a destruction of our own making. We didn’t listen. We refused to heed their warnings. We were convinced that we knew better. Once, we were bright and optimistic, sure that we were going to change the world. Of course, our yesterdays had once felt the same way, just the way their yesterdays had once felt. Again and again, still expecting different results. The insanity never ends.
And in that, there is hope. You see, sweet tomorrow, you are our hope. As terrible as it is, and we do know it is terrible, we know you can make a difference. Oh I know that we grouch and grumble, we discount and dismiss you. We don’t mean it though, not really. We know that it was tomorrows that fought for abolition, women’s suffrage, civil rights, a sexual revolution, an end to the war in Vietnam, the first Black President, the right to marry and serve the country regardless of sexual orientation or gender, to feel the Bern, and we have no doubt that you have more change in store for us in this never changing cycle.
Still, you have every right to look at us and wonder how it got so bad. We were once tomorrows. We get it. You fought for LGBT marriage, we fought for “gay baiting” and beat downs to become crimes instead of ways people spent a fun Saturday night. You are fighting for #blacklivesmatter, we fought to legalize interracial marriage. For some of us, it is hard to understand that #thestruggleisreal for you. Yes, we sit back and tell stories about how in our day, we knew real hardship, real struggle, and managed to face it without hashtags or twitter. We talk about a time when bullies kicked your ass. Face to face instead of today’s psychological warfare taking place online. In some ways, we are waxing nostalgic over a time we felt vital, a time when we understood a world that moves faster and faster every day.
That is not hyperbole. Largely because of technology, we are “advancing” exponentially. For some of you, sweet tomorrows, you are already seeing the effects. Your prowess playing video games is being challenged by toddlers using tablet computers. Welcome to the first twinges of becoming a yesterday. Embrace the advancements. Right now, we still have you outnumbered. The baby boom, yesterdays to most of us, flooded American population. While we might view them now as romanticized characterizations in media, they were once tomorrows. They were rebelling in their love of rock n roll, Elvis Presley’s gyrating hips, the Beatles’ hair hanging over their collars. I know it seems tame now, take our word for it. They didn’t feel the Bern, they were the Bern. Woodstock, great weed, love ins, promiscuity, a message of peace and love for all… don’t hate them for becoming yesterdays, that is the nature of time and progress. They eventually dropped back in and gave birth to us and our own rebellions. Punk. Hair Metal. Excess. Grunge. Well, we tried.
We grew complacent. Content. Love one another was replaced by “me time”. We are indulgent, prone to care more about what afflicts us than what afflicts others. Our yesterdays questioned everything, we questioned nothing. Why should we? Our yesterdays had newspapers, the evening news, they had to care, to stay informed. We had the 24 hour commercial news networks spoon feeding us pablum, blogs and social media to strain out those lumpy facts, helping us reinforce our comfortable tropes rather than forcing us to confront them in the same way journalists showing footage of dead soldiers and caskets coming home from Vietnam confronted our yesterdays, forcing them to reexamine the world they thought they lived in.
For some things, we have reasons if not excuses. This is not one of them. Most of us had good educations, free primary and secondary school educations better and broader of most of your college educations. We became numb. Fat. Stupid. Naïve. Easily manipulated by corporate interests. Need was created for products that we used to fill our gaping emptiness as well as our landfills while emptying our pockets. We hated and feared anyone who was different, yet alienated ourselves until it seemed like everyone was different. We worshiped at golden towers… and the world burned because of it. It was so much easier to point the finger and blame others for our failures. And we don’t understand failure.
You see, your yesterdays grew up in an environment of false equality. Our yesterdays meant well. Coming out of peace and love they wanted to nurture, accept, be different than their yesterdays. As a result, everyone got a blue ribbon just for showing up. There were plenty of hugs and we were promised that we could be anyone we wanted… something we would remember with great bitterness once we realized we were no one that we wanted to be, quickly finding others to blame for this because it is easier to blame a stranger than the well meant promises of your yesterdays. We don’t understand how to fail, we had never been called a failure. We don’t understand personal accountability. The word “no” was always someone’s fault. Everything we “lost” was taken from us. We were such fools.
Such fools that we reacted all the same. For this, we should all be sorry. I am sorry. Our solution was to teach you to win. At all costs. If we had the means, we put you into the best Mommy and Me class, the best preschool, the best schools. If we didn’t have the means, we taught you to be tough, to survive through being stronger than anyone around you. If we couldn’t control you, we got you Ritalin and put you in front of a video game. We got Adderall so that you could be calm, so that you could focus, but we happily looked the other way when you abused both for all night cram sessions and better PSAT scores. Some of us told you there was no better… thank God you never really have listened to us. We wanted to look like good parents without really knowing how to be good parents.
One thing we were never good at was leading by example. Our yesterdays, so involved in the politics of their time, wanted to think they had changed the world enough that their tomorrows didn’t have to worry about “that stuff”. So “stuff” it became. Stuff for other people, maybe. We were the disaffected. The generation of degenerate beauty queens. We failed you. We didn’t fail you because we didn’t care, we failed you because we started to care too late. Some of us looked up from our tiny houses, pausing the vinyl and putting away the artisanal jam. Others stopped keeping their head down, stopped trying to be safe in favor of yelling out their pain and anger. We looked up, but we were still the disaffected. We cast our votes in a corrupt system without ever trying to change it.
We left it all to tomorrow, forgetting about our yesterdays that served on the PTA, City Council, Neighborhood Watch… No matter our beliefs or our vision for change, we rolled our eyes and talked about politics and politicians without realizing that many of them got into it because they wanted to do something. I’m sorry. The fate of this country should never have been between the clown and the crook. We should never have looked up to pin our hopes on something as ephemeral and ultimately disappointing as a Presidential election. We should have been going to City Council meetings, voting in local elections, picking the policies and politicians that would be building our, and your, daily life in the way that national politics never will. We should have been running for the school board, volunteering at the local party offices, running for local and even state office. We should have been leading by example, building a better country from the ground up instead of doing what we’ve always done… turn to someone else to fix the problem for us.
So now it is up to you, tomorrow. The sorry truth we’ve left you is that even if we did not bow down before a clown, setting him to rule from a golden tower, we still didn’t do you any favors. Change, significant change, will have to come from the roots and work its way up. I take a great amount of hope from the fact that you seem good at doing just that. The same social media that annoys us, that keeps us ignorant, informs you. You use it as a tool to mobilize, to get your message out. Even in defeat, you have seen how momentum can build, how movements can morph and change, growing into something more powerful than anyone had imagined. You organize communities.
Maybe most important, you are able to understand just how much is wrong with the version of reality the media circus posing for “news” is feeding you. Yes, too many of us are willing to worship golden idols, but you are not. We have resigned ourselves to rising tides, changing weather patterns, even our place on the World stage. We are in our death throes. Our yelling is impotent noise in the background of your demands. Your demands for equality, respect, truth, change. As you try and fail, you will learn. You will add to yesterday’s long list of incremental improvements. Eventually, you will reach that precarious precipice between tomorrow and yesterday. In that moment, you will realize that you are by far the greatest of our improvements and that the greatest mark you will make on this world is to pass it on to yet another new day.
Thank you for reading this piece. If you enjoyed it, and I sincerely hope you did, press the cute little ❤ down there to share the love. I would love to hear your thoughts, and constructive criticism is always appreciated. Check out my Twitter for the flotsam and jetsam of life.