Liberal Millennials, a.k.a college kids, are tired of being attacked for being “snowflakes” or having a heightened awareness and sensitivity to personal, societal and global issues. I often feel personally victimized by such remarks myself. Then again, I’m kind of dramatic.
The morning following the presidential election, I called my Pop Pop in a tizzy about our new, loudmouthed and orange president elect. We agreed that neither of us were surprised at the outcome, but disagreed on the gravity of the situation. But as I went on a verbal rampage on the phone with Pop about all the ways this might screw the world, he simply said to me, “We’ve been through worse. And we’ve always gotten through it, and we’ll be okay this time too.” Of course, a few of America’s past transgressions easily came to mind (slavery, internment camps, the Trail of Tears, etc.), but being the nosy girl I am, I asked him to expand on what he meant.
Listen to our post-election playlist to help you cope with the results
Pop Pop asked me a clarifying question: “So, college kids think they have problems regarding the election, the Middle East, China and Russia?” I told him that we did, among many other pivotal issues. “Think about living in the United States during your grandparents’ time…this is what you would have found…” he said.
In 1933, 13 to 15 million Americans, or 12 percent, of the population was unemployed and half the banks in the country had failed. “People who had prior to this earned a living…got in lines to get fed, in bread lines, in soup kitchens,” Pop said. Even those who still had homes didn’t have much else. In contrast, less than nine million jobs were lost during the recession back in 2008. “My father had a car because he needed it as an insurance salesman–cars were very, very rare. If you went to South Philadelphia then, chances were you had a walk a couple of blocks to find a car…If you go today, you have to drive a couple of blocks to find a parking space,” he said.
Some millennials have seen their parents go through rough patches of unemployment, and there’s no denying it sucks. But the unemployment and depression never stopped Pop’s generation from continuing to grow our country. They overcame adversities while having nothing. Millennials can overcome having a more-than-controversial President elect who thinks he can build a wall between us and Mexico.
Years later, a generation of men were absent from society as 16 million people enlisted for battle in World War II–my Pop included. “I was in the car driving to a high school fraternity meeting…The guy who was in the passenger seat, it turns out, died in that war when he was twenty,” he said. His name was George Klein.
Not only were Americans dying overseas during WWII, but they were dying in the states, too. The Dust Bowl gave the 1930s the reputation as the “dirty 30s,” destroying livelihoods, leaving people to starve and producing so much dust that children wore gas masks on their way to school. Plus, meat, dairy, firewood, gasoline, oil, sugar, coffee and other essential goods were rationed because of the war. Millennials probably can’t even image a life with limited coffee.
So, what does any of this have to do with today? To be clear, my point isn’t to say that things were so much worse then than they are now. Perhaps that’s my grandfather’s point, but not mine. We face so many serious issues as millennials—climate change, ISIS, the new, semi-impending Berlin-inspired wall between us and Mexico, systemic racism in the U.S. and countless others. A potential apocalypse has come knocking on our doors many times before yet we always survive it. Why should this time be any different? Our country has felt as afraid before, if not more, than how we feel now.
Just like our ancestors forced Japanese immigrants (many of whom were U.S. citizens) into internment camps due to a desperate panic, we risk putting ourselves in greater danger than we would otherwise be exposed to by fighting the things we fear the wrong way. In the past, I’ve wasted too much time screaming (or typing) facts at people who refuse to listen when I could have been doing things to enact change instead.
With Trump at the helm, speak reasonably, plan quietly and never give the newly vindicated alt-right haters a reason to discredit your valid concerns. Dissenters before us didn’t catalyze change by posting Facebook statuses about it (although I’m sure they would’ve done that, too, if they could). They marched, they debated, they boycotted and they won.