To My Generation: We Can Do Better Than This

The entire world is watching us right now.

Regardless of this election’s results, the United States is facing a bigger problem. The problem is not just who is sworn into office on January 20. The problem isn’t which demagogue or miscreant is elected.

The problem is us.

The truth is, I’m disappointed in my generation. I’m disappointed in us.

Let’s face facts—we’re not passionate about getting it right with this country. We’re passionate about being right. We’re passionate about asserting our political perspectives and shoving them down each other’s throats.

What we’re truly passionate about are our opinions.

Want to sit down and do a critical comparison of the candidates’ fiscal policy? Yawn. Want me to craft a 400-word thesis on how my candidate is the only obvious and sane choice and post it on social media? Just give me five minutes.

We’re not interested in critical thinking and intelligent political discourse. We’re interested in a pissing match. We’re interested in the rush we receive from believing we are in sole possession of the moral high ground.

I get it. Politics aren’t sexy. Policy isn’t exciting. Reform isn’t enticing. Mudslinging, scandal, polemics—these are compelling. And the media and most politicians are acutely aware of this and exploit us ad nausea.

We can do better than this.

I’m not saying we all need to become political science majors. All I’m saying is that we should have the courage and willingness to peek behind the illusory curtain of emotion, judgement and self-righteousness. We should at least try to understand why the opposing camp believes what it believes.

The answers this country—this world—desperately needs are not in our Facebook news feeds.

You know, it’s funny. As Americans, we like to think of our country as “the greatest country in the world.” If that’s true (and that’s a very big “if”), I wonder what my generation’s contribution is to that greatness. It certainly is not our actual, tangible involvement in the political process.

According the Pew Research Center, only 46 percent of voting-age Millennials voted in the 2012 election cycle. This election cycle, essentially all Millennials are of voting age, and yet we continue to post the lowest voter turnout of any age group.

There has never been a time when this country has been more polarized, when people have been so deeply entrenched in their respective camps that to reach across the table for common ground would be tantamount to heresy.

If we are so utterly dissatisfied with our presidential candidates, then we should look in the mirror and realize that it’s us, the electorate, who have created the current political climate which has led to their rise.

This is a representative democracy, which means our elected officials are a direct extension of our collective will. Which means that we, and we alone are responsible for our future. And for those who claim that the electoral college is rigged and that our vote does not count, I cannot argue with you. All I can ask you is this: should we simply throw up our hands in apathy? Would you prefer we did nothing, claiming that the status quo shall be forever unalterable?

This isn’t human greatness. This is pessimism. Pessimism and cowardice cloaked in self-righteousness.

Regardless of who is elected, if we stay the same—never willing to look beyond our own staunch convictions—how can we expect anything to change in the next presidential cycle and the ones proceeding it?

If we continue to be so preoccupied with triviality, so glued to our technology that we’ve lost touch with our country, our identity and most importantly—ourselves—the outcome of future elections will surely be the same. Leaders not worthy of the name.

Why is it that politics tends to attract the worst of us, and repel the best of us? Because most of us view politics as a gladiatorial bloodsport. We prefer politics as entertainment. It’s what brings in the ratings, it’s what get’s us excited.

The entire world is watching us right now.

The challenges this country and the world face are unlike anything we’ve seen in the history of mankind. This is our time now. We are inheriting this world now, not our parents. The responsibility is on us now.

We can no longer afford the luxury of standing idly by like spectators watching a reality television show while we are led by the worst among us.

The world needs more than a new type of leader. It needs a new type of us. Because it is the actions that we all collectively take that will ultimately determine our future.

We can no longer afford the luxury of standing idly by like spectators watching a reality television show while we are led by the worst among us.

The answers this country—this world—desperately needs are not in our Facebook news feeds. They’re not found in the circles in which we only talk to ourselves, consistently having our own worldview confirmed back to us in an endless echo chamber.

They’re found in thoughtful discussion. They’re found in fearless exploration. They’re found in a sincere desire to understand, not just to be right.

The answers are found in the heart of the optimist. The one’s who sincerely believe that things can improve. Not just being guided by belief and wishful thinking, but by critical thinking and pragmatic action. The one’s who care not just because it’s morally right, but because it’s existentially necessary.

As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one difference between an optimist and a pessimist. When an optimist is right, everybody benefits. When a pessimist is right, everybody loses.

Things will not improve until we, the people, demand they do so. We must harness our collective voice and will and demand more from our elected officials.

It all starts with us.

Until we step up to the plate and accept responsibility for our democracy, we won’t get the leaders we desperately need, we’ll continue to get the leaders we deserve.

In the indelible words of Sir Winston Churchill:

Hear this, young men and women everywhere, and proclaim it far and wide. The earth is yours and the fullness thereof. Be kind, but be fierce. You are needed now more than ever before. Take up the mantle of change. For this is your time.



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