I have listened to conversations, snippets of words and full sentences this week from several of you. There is a resounding note of confusion and apathy that I want to wash over in your voices. I wish I could sit with each of you and explain what you need to feel, how you need to feel, and where you can direct your anger but I am not so fortunate as that. These letters are my only way to speak into the spirit of your generation with hope, with explanation and maybe, with a little rebellion against my own peers.
Rebellion is to act against a norm, a socially or culturally accepted practice. It’s also often used to discuss generations who “rebel” against those before them. What is it that you need to rebel against? Your protests, your apathy, your frustration, your confusion, your tears, laughter and anger- what do they mean? Can you articulate that? It’s hard even for those of us who have spent 40 and 50 years on this planet. I think I am rebelling against an unspoken, inferred norm. I am lashing out in small ways against something we all recognize but we would say “That’s just how people are.” I don’t believe we have to be this way. I believe we can each speak into this new normal and decide it’s not good enough.
My friends, we are stonewalled against each other. Screaming “our side” isn’t working. I think we see that right now. I think we also can see that it has been building for some time- becoming the social normal- and even if there are small victories, we never truly win by pushing our point of view. This division, this anger and hostility against the “Other Side” is very obvious in my generation and in the boomers. Strangely, I don’t see it as much in you. I like to believe it’s because you aren’t capable, but alas, we usually follow some paths because it’s the only way we get noticed. Many of you, in order to feel engaged and to be heard, follow in our example and get into the arguments alongside.
My friends, can I ask that you not? You are going to have to set a better example by ceasing the behavior that has so damaged us. I say that because the fighting, the anger, the “my side/your side,” the obsession with pushing opinions has also created open hostility and grumpiness in person. Have you been in an airport lately? Have you noticed how shitty people can be?
I am going to rebel against that both for me and for you. I am going to start looking people in the eye. It’s hard- because I will have to put down my music, take off my headphones, move out of my twitter and speak to strangers. One of the ways we have been, all of us, so stunned at the election results of this past week is because we haven’t NOTICED. Not just others’ opinions, not just how angry people are, not just the politics and policies, but we haven’t noticed OTHERS.
This past weekend I participated in a half marathon event in Las Vegas. I did so without the headphones. And at each meal, I looked around at others. I noticed the servers, the housekeepers, the employees of the hotel. In my mind, I pretended they were all my friends, they were all someone who wanted the same things I did. I called them by name when they wore a nametag. I said thank you every time someone did something for me included the security staff at the hotel and on the race course. There was this one moment though… I looked at the angry older women and men who were clearly judging me and my companions as we rolled into breakfast at the Denny’s looking like we have been out all night. We hadn’t of course. We all flew in late and needed to fuel for 13 miles. But their expressions spoke volumes and I wanted to say, “How dare you look at me like that, you crusty old geezers? How dare you judge me for what you think I did? You don’t know me! You think I am not living the kind of life you find acceptable and it’s written all over your face. So you can take these pancakes and shove them up your ass.” I didn’t say that. You see, instead of getting angry, I smiled at them. And I spoke. I offered them some of my delicious looking pancakes. I told them I don’t eat at Denny’s – I’m a southerner and I usually eat at Cracker Barrell and Waffle House. You could have knocked them out of the booth they were so stunned. I was pleasant. And it stopped that judgy-crap right there in that moment. They wished us a good day as they left. They smiled at us on their way to pay the bill. I didn’t change their minds, y’all. I don’t even think I changed their thoughts about us (I didn’t tell them why we were there because it was not their business.). But in the middle of discomfort, in the middle of a moment which could have pissed me off for the rest of the day, I stopped making up a story about them. I stopped being offended that they didn’t know me and gave me that look. I rebelled against that part of our social construct which encourages us to separate, to divide, to see the other as not up to “MY Standard.” I spoke into that moment with peace and with a smile. It was hard my friends, I wanted to give them a piece of my mind. You know what else I did? I laughed louder and I joked with my waiter (His name was Willy). I spoke to the couple- a black couple – wearing Dallas Cowboy Jerseys with Dak Prescott’s #4. I told them I love Dak- I am a Mississippi State Bulldog afterall. I wished them well as they planned to enjoy the game. You want a better world? Start making it better by rebelling against what WE have made the norm.
We aren’t surrounded by bad people. You all have not been given a good example. You are confused about our fears and our anger. Many of you have told me that you feel disengaged, ignored, overlooked and talked down to by my generation and those ahead of me. I am so sorry for that because even as I want to say “No, that’s not true” I know it to be very true. We don’t mean it. Our behavior, much like that of the couple at breakfast, is a reflection of who we are, our fears, our worries, our own experiences that have left a great deal of scars. We are actually more alike than you know. It just shows up differently.
I want to encourage you all my friends, to start your own rebellion. Rebel against the stereo-types of your generation by showing US what you want your world to look like. If you want your world to be more inclusive, then start being that not just with your friends but with strangers. If you want us to stop yelling at each other and you, then stop those arguments by showing us what a mature response should be. If you want to be engaged, don’t wait for us, jump in. I fear we are too consumed with our own fears and angers to ask you individually so I am asking collectively. Please jump in- rebel in little ways by shaping the world you want to live in. Don’t wait for us to bring it to you.
Take over the world, my Millennials-
I love you so-