Welcome to Wherever We Are
Learning to navigate some dangerous intersections
I am a millennial. While my generation is not an incredibly popular demographic, we’re also the furthest thing from disadvantaged. In fact, if you only look at amenities and technology, we’ve been dealt a better hand than any generation ever, and by a great deal. My Gen-X parents, who were my age in 1990, wouldn’t have known what to do with themselves today: they wrote their college essays on typewriters and listened to their music on cassettes. Maybe 2017 doesn’t have the “Back to the Future” vibe, but we have plenty of toys — some might say too many.
My peers and I are peerless with respect to the physical blessings we’ve received, and we’ve done absolutely nothing to earn them. Any time I access Google, listen to a podcast on iTunes, or communicate with people thousands of miles away in seconds via Facebook, I try to be thankful for how privileged we are, especially when it comes to the information we can gather. Millennials are a generation of individuals each living the life of Spider-Man — a young person stumbling upon immense opportunity and learning how to handle it. If you don’t have an inner Uncle Ben reminding you that great responsibility comes with great power, you need to check yourself. Millennials live at an intersection of power and responsibility. We have a mandate to make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids than our parents and grandparents made it for us.
Add to my generational advantages just about every other innate privilege you can think of and you’ll end up with a picture of me. I grew up middle-middle-class, sure, but I never missed a meal. Yeah, I can adopt a Southern drawl, but not enough of one to scare city-folk away. I was born as a Straight White Male, and born again as a Christian. You can’t really offend me.
Based on these realities, I get to live at a unique intersection of various avenues of blessedness. Out of 100 billion-ish people who have ever lived, I’d say there are about 1 million or so whose God-given blessings obviously outnumber mine. (Side note: that’s a fun game you can play with your friends. Who’s more privileged — you or King Solomon? He was a trillionaire but you have air conditioning.) So that mandate I mentioned earlier is even larger for me. Most folks my age are more blessed than their parents, but I am more blessed than the vast majority of humankind. What kind of responsibility do I have? At age 21, I’m still trying to figure that out.
Though my intersection of time and identity has made me especially blessed, there is another such intersection that makes 2017 especially dangerous. We are in the worst kind of perfect storm. We all have massive platforms, most of us able to reach hundreds or thousands of people with our unfiltered thoughts on anything under the sun in a moment. I had a friend — an average-joe college student like me, nobody famous, but with a few faithful buddies — who posted a short film he made to Facebook. 10 or 15 friends shared it and the thing had 46,000 views a week later. It was a well-done video, but he couldn’t have gotten nearly that kind of exposure for it even 10 years ago. And if you post something that resonates with people the same way, you’ll get a similar response.
But our ultra-public lives come at a cost. A few years ago a PR agent with 170 Twitter followers ruined her life by tweeting an offhand insensitive joke. This past spring, in the sight of a few dozen spectators, the Cincinnati Zoo sparked international outrage by following basic animal-handling protocol (RIP though). When everyone has a platform and can see the platforms of everyone else, people are going to have more opportunities to get angry, and to do so in community. We get to express our frustrations alongside a multitude that agrees with us. That’s the intersection: everyone can see us, and we can see everything. It’s like somebody wanted to create perfect conditions for an angry mob.
As I try to figure out my place in this intersection of a world, so is everyone else. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump were our Intersection Presidential Candidates last year, both of them campaigning on collective outrage from a certain group of people and provoking it from another. Now President Trump runs our country and his provocations have made him more enemies than friends, with many of those enemies turning to Senator Sanders for reprieve. There’s a reason these two men were unprecedented in the history of American politics: we’ve never been at a place quite like this before.
It’s not just about the government or Harambe or Justine Sacco, of course: we live in a deeply divisive time, and things don’t seem to be getting better any time soon. Whether you base your identity on religion, region, race, or some combination of the three, you’re seeing all kinds of problems arise — from within your community and without. Most people respond by taking sides and sticking to them, all while deep down wondering whether or not they’re wrong. I’d like to chart a different path.
None of us know what’s next. Many are confused, many are furious, many are afraid. But all of us can look a little closer and do a little better if we use the right resources. I’m going to try to provide one of those resources with this thing — I plan to post once a week, but that’s about all I know right now. Hopefully what I write here will help us understand one another a little better, and ultimately navigate these nasty intersections. As a Straight White Male millennial, a West Virginian living in New York, a Christian being educated at an aggressively secular college, and a political moderate with strongly-held opinions that align me with both sides, I believe I’ve been blessed with my own set of intersections. Perhaps they will make me capable of saying something good with whatever this will be, something that will give us all a chance to figure out wherever we’re going.
So welcome to whatever this is. And welcome to wherever we are. We’ll see what happens.