Tuesday, April 6, 2021

#96 / Letter To My Generation


Are we "Generation Screwed?" That's the question posed by Jordan Salama, who graduated from Princeton in 2019. Salama asked this question of this contemporaries in an essay published in the November 2020, edition of National Geographic. In the hard copy version of the magazine, Salama's essay was titled, "A Letter to My Generation." The essay reflected what Salama had learned as he wrote letters to his friends during the Covid-19 lockdown:

Who knew that stay-at-home orders could bring so much displacement? That’s how the spring of 2020 felt for many in our generation—we who were just starting to get a glimpse of independence and adulthood before the pandemic came crashing down.... 
As lockdowns were spreading earlier this year, hardly any of us seemed to stay where we were, racing instead to seek safer ground. I know where many friends sought refuge, because I’ve spent much of my time in quarantine writing letters—the classic long, handwritten letters—and that meant gathering mailing addresses.... 
In the letters my friends and I exchanged, we shared ... sentiments that weren’t expressed in texts or on group Zoom calls (which we still used, of course). Something about writing a letter seemed to draw out emotions and vulnerabilities in a way that many of us hadn’t really experienced before. And suddenly there was so much to feel....
As the pandemic wave washed over the United States, it became clear that the undertow was dragging people our age out to sea. Many were already struggling: wracked by debt from paying $20,000, $40,000, $60,000 a year for school. Priced out by the sky-high rents in major American cities. Exasperated by years of speaking out against systemic racism and gun violence and climate change, only to find corrupt and destructive politicians unwilling to act. The pandemic ripped the ground out from under all of us. (COVID-19 and climate change will inform how Generation Z navigates the world as adults.
We are, after all, a generation raised on post-9/11 dread and active-shooter drills in our elementary schools. If the future of the world looked grim to us before, what might it hold now?

Salama's answer was upbeat. Sort of upbeat, anyway: 

So although some like to call us Generation Screwed—and sometimes it might feel that way—I think that’s too negative. We’ve been battered and shaken up, but we’re certainly not going down easy....
For those of us at the beginning of our adult lives, the faltering start caused by the pandemic means that our choices will matter even more. We need reminders so we don’t forget what it felt like: Some suffered far more than others, but all of us were plunged into a period of questioning, of reevaluating, of trial. 
It’s only natural at times to feel as though we’re Generation Screwed—but I want to think that we’re shaping up to be Generation Renewed. We will not go down without a fight. And what will define us far more than our struggles in this moment is what we’ll do when we come out the other side.
I think Salama's idea of writing a "Letter to My Generation" is a good idea - for all of us. Don't we all have some sense that we share a kind of generational identity with others in our own age bracket? Let's communicate with each other, within our generational cohort. What should we do, given where we are and the time we have left?

Young or old, we ought to be discussing this. We should be figuring it out. With that global warming challenge becoming ever more apparent - ice storms in Texas and wildfires and drought in the West - we had better get right on it, too. 

All of us!

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