Editor’s Note: Kevin Patrick Kelly’s “Towards A Millennial Revolution” is published every Monday OR Wednesday.
In less than two weeks, Hillary Clinton will be elected president.
Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts and invective against our society’s most marginalized have run their course. His strain of demagoguery has done irreparable harm to the Republican Party. As a result, the GOP may lose both the House and the Senate, and could give Clinton the seats necessary to enact her policy prescriptions.
Yet no president entering the White House has been more detrimental to millennials than Hillary Clinton. She supported trade agreements which transported America’s manufacturing base into countries that welcome corporations with open arms. She supported legislation that incarcerated an entire generation of young African American men and women. She sent millennials to every armed conflict since 9/11, and she associates with the very corporate forces that brought the American economy to its knees in 2008.
There are those who will advise millennials to work within the confines of the Democratic Party to enact an agenda that will uplift our generation. As one can see from the emails released by Wikileaks, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) has no interest in appealing to millennials. It made this clear when they enacted onerous rules and guidelines against the candidate my generation prefers to Hillary Clinton: Bernie Sanders.
The message that the Democratic Party sent to millennials, who were seen with tears streaming down their face at the convention in Philadelphia, was the same message it sent to unions, African Americans, Latinos, and women: Similar to other demographics that traditionally vote for the Democratic ticket, we intend to take you for granted, because you have nowhere else to go.
I, as a millennial, refuse to be consigned to this fate.
Our task now, as millennials, is to form the necessary movements that will create a policy agenda that will begin to dig our generation out of the crater that leaders and policymakers have created for us. This task seems daunting and frightening to some of my fellow millennials. To those young Americans who hail from my generation, and who are more comfortable strumming their fingers on a keyboard than marching with their feet, ask yourself the following question: What will you tell your children and your grandchildren?
When that young child is sitting on your knee, what will you tell them when they ask you what did you do to combat the greatest threat currently facing our existence: climate change? An existential crisis that is now expected to cost the millennial generation over eight trillion dollars. Looking at the destruction of the ocean reefs as they wither away and die, one can almost hear our planet screaming out in agony for assistance.
When your children grow older and read their textbooks summarizing the historic events of your youth and adolescence, what will you tell them when they ask you what you were doing when police officers, who violated their job description and overstepped their duties, murdered African American men and women such as Eric Garner and Sandra Bland? Were you too busy filling out your Facebook profile to peacefully march for justice?
As your grandchildren watch you grimace in pain as you look at your student loan payments, what will you say to that child’s face when they ask you, what’s wrong? Will you tell them that you could not be bothered to protest in order to demand that elected representatives make it easier for millennials to seek higher education without drowning in debt?
There is the possibility that we, in our millennial social movements, will fail. Still, let us not be the generation that future generations look back upon and remark, “they faced an uphill battle and they did so little or sat passively.” Let us instead be an example that future generations look to for guidance and motivation as they erect their own movements and institutions of civic empowerment.
Let us as millennials, as we look at our lives in retrospect, be able to quote the poet Nazim Hikmet when he wrote:
Living is no laughing matter:
you must live with great seriousness
like a squirrel, for example–
I mean without looking for something beyond and above living,
I mean living must be your whole occupation.
Living is no laughing matter:
you must take it seriously,
so much so and to such a degree
that, for example, your hands tied behind your back,
your back to the wall,
or else in a laboratory
in your white coat and safety glasses,
you can die for people–
even for people whose faces you’ve never seen,
even though you know living
is the most real, the most beautiful thing.
I mean, you must take living so seriously
that even at seventy, for example, you’ll plant olive trees–
and not for your children, either,
but because although you fear death you don’t believe it,
because living, I mean, weighs heavier.
Let’s say you’re seriously ill, need surgery–
which is to say we might not get
from the white table.
Even though it’s impossible not to feel sad
about going a little too soon,
we’ll still laugh at the jokes being told,
we’ll look out the window to see it’s raining,
or still wait anxiously
for the latest newscast …
Let’s say we’re at the front–
for something worth fighting for, say.
There, in the first offensive, on that very day,
we might fall on our face, dead.
We’ll know this with a curious anger,
but we’ll still worry ourselves to death
about the outcome of the war, which could last years.
Let’s say we’re in prison
and close to fifty,
and we have eighteen more years, say,
before the iron doors will open.
We’ll still live with the outside,
with its people and animals, struggle and wind–
I mean with the outside beyond the walls.
I mean, however and wherever we are,
we must live as if we will never die.
This earth will grow cold,
a star among stars
and one of the smallest,
a gilded mote on blue velvet–
I mean this, our great earth.
This earth will grow cold one day,
not like a block of ice
or a dead cloud even
but like an empty walnut it will roll along
in pitch-black space …
You must grieve for this right now
–you have to feel this sorrow now–
for the world must be loved this much
if you’re going to say “I lived” …
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