I am an old millennial, one who just barely squeezes into the age category. I graduated high school in 2000. My first presidential election was Bush vs. Gore – a rigged election with widespread allegations of electoral voting machine manipulation and a dubiously-legal intervention of the Supreme Court to stop the pivotal Florida vote count, followed by the Democrat’s spineless concession to the decision.
I am part of a generation who has lived, formatively, through the experiences of the Princeton oligarchy study that demonstrated unequivocally that rich people get what they want from Congress, while the rest of us get ignored. I’ve seen, year after year, political pandering to the wealthy and mega-corporations while regular Americans have been pummeled by cruel and unusual economic policies pushed through Congress via the stratagems described by Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine.
I lived through the tumultuous protests of the 1990s-2000s against corporate power, globalization, and neoliberal policies. I’ve been waiting my whole life – all 34 years – for Congress or the White House to do something real about the obvious threat of climate change. Solar panels and wind energy have been viable – but politically unpalatable to oil and gas funded politicians – since I was in diapers. I watched the snow in my home in Northern Maine dwindle from power line high drifts to small patches of white. My fellow millennials in other areas of the country have grown up bucketing gray water to plants, limiting showers, being evacuated from catastrophic forest fires or by disastrous 100-year floods crashing down every 5-10 years.
Millennials are largely non-religious and, therefore, do not believe that the record-breaking temperatures of global warming are sent by a wrathful God . . . we’re well-aware that the fossil fuel companies are under investigation and facing lawsuits for funding decades of climate-denying pseudo-science to cover up the fact that their industry is intentionally killing our planet. Some of us were hoping our first car would be electric, but unfortunately the gasoline companies squashed that idea – which was just as well, since we can’t afford a new car due to the high levels of student debt we’re carrying. We can’t afford to settle down and start families, for that matter.
I was raised to believe in multiculturalism and the beauty of diversity, which is good, since 45 percent of my fellow millennials are non-white. To be honest, however, mass incarceration, racist over-policing and police brutality, economic injustice, the War on Drugs, unequal funding of public schools, and racial-economic segregation of society are making it challenging to have meaningful relationships across color lines. We’re learning to build friendships by showing up as allies in social justice movements working for change – which is profoundly important, but a far cry from the world of raising our kids as friends, working as colleagues and playing soccer together on the weekends. That rosy dream was dashed when we grew up and inherited a grossly unjust society stratified along racial and economic inequities.
The only equality left in the nation is in the NSA’s mass surveillance operations, which spies on everyone equally. However, even the equally applied violation of our 4th amendment right to protection from unwarranted search descends into injustice and discrimination when a data-sorting filter is applied based on your racial, ethnic, religion affiliations, or political beliefs — not by connection to a probable cause of danger or harm to others.
As an old millennial, I’m not a dewy-eyed, corporatized, naive college student. I’m 34, informed, active, organized, and irascible. I’m ornery, rightfully outraged, and cynically disillusioned at the two-party duopoly. The two dominant parties are courting my vote like a thick-headed douchebag who just wants to get laid. They don’t want to get to know me. They assume they know what I’m thinking. They don’t ask about my hopes, dreams, and visions. They just want to screw my young vote and dump me on November 9th.
My apologies for the strong, but truthful description of my relationship to the two-party system. I can almost hear the mad scramble of excuses starting in everyone’s minds. But, if people truly cared about millennials, they’d sit down and ask what we’re thinking.
I’m thinking it’s time for nonviolent revolution. (And, I’m thinking the NSA just put me on their watchlist.) I’m thinking about the 50+ nonviolent revolutions that have occurred around the world in my lifetime. They’ve been twice as successful as their violent counterparts. I’m thinking about the bloated US military budget, and wondering if we could cut the nukes, fund nonviolence, and still have enough left over to end student debt for the next generation.
I’m thinking about the laundry list of other crucial issues that the two parties are oblivious to or intentionally ignoring: living wages, ending mass incarceration, stopping police brutality and the surveillance state, building renewable energy, the dire need for a real strategy to address climate change; the logic of the universal, single-payer healthcare system; taxing the rich and stopping the gravy-train for the one percent so the rest of us can rise out of poverty. I’m thinking about what the Princeton oligarchy study demonstrated about my statistical probability of having any political representation for these issues (an ironically precise 0.0 percent likelihood, in case anyone is wondering).
I’m thinking that I’m just one of 75.4 million millennials and that readers shouldn’t assume that I’m speaking for everyone my age. Because we don’t do that; that’s so last century. If the two parties want the millennial vote, they’re going to have to stop telling us what’s good for us, and start taking the time to listen to millions of us articulating our hopes, fears, ideas, dreams, solutions, and strategies. Then they’re going to have to do the impossible and act in very big, real, and scary (to them) ways. Revolutionary ways . . . because to my old millennial eyes, the clock has been ticking on these issues for three decades – all my life – and the frogs aren’t in hot water – they’re either dead or they’ve long since hopped out. According to the statistics, my fellow millennials and I have been hopping out of the establishment’s simmering pots for ages now, ditching religions, political parties, and social organizations. And the old toads are croaking at us to come on in, the water’s fine, get involved in the old way of business-as-usual. And when we refuse to boil ourselves alive, they call us apolitical or apathetic, ungrateful and self-absorbed.
We may have been born into the age of the Internet, but we also all studied ecosystems in elementary school. Caring for the planet isn’t for tree-hugging hippies, it’s a no-brainer for a reasonably intelligent human being. Some of us don’t look at the two major presidential candidates and see Woman In Pants Suit and Orange-Haired Man (arguably space creature). We see the cliff’s edge of extinction, poverty, endless war, mass incarceration, corporate coups, and shackles of unbearable debt. Charming.
Trump and Hillary are fighting over the steering wheel like two-party parents who should really just hurry up and get divorced. Meanwhile, they’re both yelling at us to get in the backseat of the car . . . but the GPS on the automated corporate-oligarchic political machine is programmed for the cliff’s edge of extinction. Pardon me for the cold feet, but that’s not my idea of a family vacation. Hillary’s claiming natural gas is our transition fuel, but neglects to mention that the exhaust pipe’s still connected the inside of the car and serves only to slowly asphyxiate our rational thoughts while we hurtling over the edge of disaster. Trump and Hillary have packed the trunk full of nukes, border walls, war and more war, prisons, pipelines, and unsatisfying gig-economy sandwiches.
And they can’t figure out why we won’t get in the car.
Newsflash to the Parents: we’re not kids anymore. We’re adults. The millennials are roughly ages 18 to 34. We have our own drivers’ licenses. We can drive, but to be honest, we’d rather walk. Or bike. Or take public mass transit. Anything but get into your car.
So, thanks, but no thanks. Deprogram your GPS’d agenda. If we don’t show up at your elections, it’s not that we’re apolitical or apathetic. It’s that your vehicle sucks. It’s broken, corrupt, controlled by greed and headed for disaster. It’s spewing exhaust and killing the planet. It’s packed with your cronies.
More and more, millennials are on the move. You can find us in social movements for change, organizing, boycotting, blockading, building new systems, standing up to injustice. Come find us. Come listen. Come check out our vision for the future. Come take a look at our solutions, strategies, suggestions. Old millennials like me have been active for more than a decade, engaged in the struggle. We’re smart. We’re savvy. We’ve been working for years to protect our planet and communities. We’re trying to save our lives . . . and yours.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the co-initiator of Live Share Grow: A Movement for the 100%. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Counterpunch, Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com