Caveat: By no means am I claiming to speak for my generation or even represent a small portion of us. This is just my take on certain things/ideas we share, and some personal opinions of mine.
I’ve had this conversation with a few people, some my own age and some older, recently, so I wanted to post about it here. I’ve been asked what my generation’s shared experiences are, and what some of our shared ideas and notions are.
Politically, we came into political consciousness on 9/11/01. I have no personal memory of the Clinton presidency and only vaguely remember the 2000 election. Certainly at the time (I was 11), I didn’t care what was going on. But we all, probably without exception, remember where we were the morning of 9/11 (7th grade Geography class with Mrs. Rye, for me), and suddenly, in that collective moment, we realized what we already knew intellectually- there was this incredible world around us and not everyone is like the people we’ve grown up around. And since 9/11/01 – since we became aware of many of the political dynamics surrounding us – we’ve been at war. Our country has been fighting abroad the entirety of our political lives. I don’t remember a time when we weren’t at war. I don’t remember airports without the over-the-top security. I don’t remember when people trusted each other (especially those who look different than they do). The only other united shared experience we have is that I think a lot of us remember where we were when bin Laden was killed. That night was probably as close as my generation will come to a VE or VJ Day. That was as close as we will come to victory. We will eventually stop combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it will just be unsatisfying. Wars aren’t what they used to be.
Culturally, my generation grew up watching the same Nickelodeon shows and Disney movies, and those shared memories unite us still today. We grew up with characters like Harry Potter and Andy in Toy Story, who were actually our age as we were reading about them or watching them, allowing us to strongly emote with them. I’m not sure if any previous generation had this same experience, or if the current one is either. That may be unique to us.
Politically, on our more personal beliefs, maybe this is naive, but I have seen that my generation shares a wide dearth of opinions. Not everything of course – and there are plenty of extreme conservatives and extreme liberals – but there is something of a collective identity it seems, at least compared with our parents’ generation. Fiscally conservative and socially liberal seems to be the consensus. Socially, we widely agree on most things- things that are just assumed among us- like race doesn’t divide us, sexual orientation shouldn’t be treated differently in any way, etc. Personally, as my political beliefs were developing, I knew I wasn’t a Republican because of George W. Bush’s presidency, and I affirmatively knew I was a Democrat because of Barack Obama. For many of us, the election of Obama is something we’ll always remember- he seemed to embody something for which we were searching, something we had no memory of since our entire political consciousness was taken up by Bush. He embodied this moderation and sensibility we longed for. As invested as I felt in him, his election night was a moment of sheer joy- a vindication of all opinions and my disgust of the previous 8 years of Bush.
So, that’s all for now. I have a big memo due tomorrow and a Civil Procedure midterm on Tuesday, but then we’re on Fall Break from Wed-Fri. Hope I can get to do something fun then; school’s been very intense lately.