The Kids Are Alright

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Forgive me for copping the title of this post from a movie I have yet to see (though I love Mark Ruffalo, so I very much have to see it.) It was the first thing that came to mind when I decided to write about today’s subject. It isn’t news to anyone who has been reading me for a while that I have a problem with ageism, especially the copious amount my generation, and those older than us, heap upon the younger generations. Mostly I have concerned myself with the meme (repeated with each generation) that somehow this current crop of adolescents somehow have it too easy.

Today, however, I want to step up and address the most recent generation of adults. I know it is hard for us Gen Xers. We are no longer the youngest grown ups out there. Our rebellious youth has passed us by. The usual suspects of jealousy poke their heads up. We didn’t have Facebook, or Tumblr, or Netflix, or any of the other wonderful toys these Millenials got to grow up with. They went to school with cel phones in their pockets. They got to research their papers with a few key strokes, while we spent hours mastering the Dewey Decimal System. We complain that somehow all this technology has left them disconnected.

Which is so unbelievably funny, since the point of most of it is to connect people. And connect they do. They learn first hand accounts of the lives of people half a world away that they have “friended.”  They mobilize with amazing efficiency on issues that they are passionate about, and so many of them are so very passionate. They march to protect our environment. They camp out to protest corruption. They go door to door to activate their neighbors on the issues they care about.

My generation, on the other hand, was smugly proud of our ambivalence. So much of the culture of Generation X was centered around that apathy. While our musicians and other artists cared deeply about all the same issues these kids do, most of the rest of us responded with a resounding “meh.” We were convinced we could make no difference and therefore should not bother to stand up. Most protests I ever attended were dominated by my parent’s generation, not mine.

I know my experience provides me with a skewed perspective. I work with people much younger than myself who spend their evenings elbow deep in activism. I know not everyone in their generation is a super motivated social justice warrior.  I also know my generation aren’t all uncaring lay-abouts. The organization I work for would have faded into nothing if they were.

I also know, though, that these kids deserve our respect. They get up, get out, and do good work. Ultimately they are no better or worse than us. We have no ground to stand on when we paint them with a broad brush, especially when that brush is so very much the wrong one to begin with. We should remember what the Boomers and those older thought of us. We should remember the kids really will be alright, and already are.


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