Go Ahead, Gen X, Join Us

We have written a response to Tim Kreider’s "Go Ahead, Millennials, Destroy Us".

To Generation X and Y, from Generation Z:

I question your statement about children forgiving nothing. That fact that I speak up in support of gun control didn’t emerge as a product of forgiving, or not forgiving, adults. I don’t use activism as a stepping stone towards taking revenge on older generations. Rather, I see it as a necessity, that provides a voice for those who cannot be heard, and an opportunity, upon which all generations can act.

I understand that government mechanisms can be infuriating, and embittering; perhaps not as well as you do, yet well enough to know that they must change. Maybe this is my “bottomless reservoir of moral rage speaking”, but I don’t think that these systems have to stay in place for ever, and I’m willing to put time and energy into that fight. As long as you stand with me.

Like some young people, I do regard older people with concern. The old—and the old at mind—can be uncompromising absolutists, similarly to the tendencies of young people, which you mentioned. While we might not have “faced life’s heartless compromises and forfeitures ... or glumly watched [our]selves do everything [we] ever disapproved of”, you seem to have forgotten about life’s small moments of hope; its many reminders to keep fighting for something more meaningful.

I am just as “creeped out” by the increasing apathy of Baby Boomers and Generation X everywhere, as by the “dogmatism and intolerance” of young people on the left. I also feel a generational divide between younger generations, and everyone over the age of 40, many of whom seem to think that arming teachers will protect students, and the rest of whom seem content to sit by and watch it all play out.

I’m glad that you find my generation, and the generation before us, inspiring. However, it should not take speaking up about our peers being murdered for you to recognize our power. You should have taught us about the value of our voices, and you should be modeling how to use the power of the people. The fear of younger generations, of which you wrote, should not have been seen in Wayne LaPierre’s eyes in the first place; Wayne LaPierre’s advocacy  for putting weapons into schools should not have been given any validation. I would find it as inspiring if more adults around your age, around the age of these “spokesmodels”, guided and supported us. That way, Wayne LaPierre wouldn’t ever be in a position to be afraid of losing power—he simply wouldn’t have it to lose.

Some of my peers ask me why young people should listen to anything that adults have to say about the world. My answer: because we need you. We don’t have as much experience navigating the world, and we should be self-aware enough to understand that we’re going to need guidance as we replace you. Besides which, if no one is there to listen to us, are we really heard?

I don’t believe that all adults are apathetic, and I don’t believe that all young people are absolutists. In fact, my perception of you, and your perception of me, are inconsequential compared to what we both face: a brutal and divisive world. Rather than analyzing one another’s weaknesses, we need to work together to develop complementary strengths. Don’t stand aside and allow us to build a brand-new societal structure, while destroying all of your years as leaders (whether or not you were always perfect). Instead, provide us with durable foundations upon which we can refine our ideas, and you can create a lasting legacy.

My message, as a young Gen Z-er to Generation X and those before them, is: write yourselves back into the narrative. Help us foster dialogue with those, from all ages and all walks of life, who go against what we stand for collectively. Give us the best of yourselves, and we’ll give you the best of ourselves.  

Work with us to make change.

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It's hard to keep living our lives in peace, security and without much fear, when we know that so many others aren't able to do so. We pledge to be grateful for our privileges and opportunities, but also to fight to ensure that they are offered to everyone. We pledge to engage others, strengthen our message, and share it with the world.