Dear Younger Generations,
I am sorry. I am so sorry.
I apologize for what the generation before mine and my generation have handed over to you. We have created plastic bag and bottle islands. We have foregrounded playgrounds for the rich over clean water and green spaces for all. We have poisoned food production in favor of profit. We have polarized the differences between and among our world religions, instead of finding commonalities, recognizing other types of belief systems, and working towards defining the common good.
Instead of recognizing elements of healthy debate along a pluralistic political spectrum, we have become hyperpartisan, unable to compromise, and gridlocked. (I do not and cannot distribute blame equally here, but the result remains the same.) We have built up the military-industrial complex to an untenable level, lining the pockets of a select few as we build military machines whose primary purpose is to kill. We have forgotten how and why to talk about peace, which has become a quaint term reserved for the overly sentimental and the hippy. (*See this excellent piece by Jorge Gaupp on constructive conceptualizations of peace.)
We have allowed tyrants to prevail in too many countries. These power-hungry dictators stride through their days with narcissism on their sleeves, Machiavellianism in their pockets, and knives on the budgets that serve the public good. They promote those who look like them and brook no dissent from other parties, the press, the common people, even their own party. They don’t study the issues. They slash them. They are actively constructing a world of destruction, and, despite outstanding and sincere resistance efforts, we are letting them do it. In fact, the national dictators are giving birth and greater power to a whole host of state and local dictators, who seem to have been waiting for this moment.
I am so sorry.
Every single day, despite the resistance (for which I am eternally grateful), we are allowing groups of people to feel less than human. We are forcing people who already struggle to be seen and heard to feel vulnerable—vulnerable in the writing and enacting of laws, vulnerable in the workplace, vulnerable at a party, in the street, in a bathroom. Those who are already exhausted from the daily struggles for civil rights—basic human rights—are called upon to resist, again. Aren’t we all supposed to have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?
I’m sorry, too, that the right to basic healthcare has experienced such peril. The party in power has adopted such an over-the-top white, male supremacist approach that it forgets that all of us, every single last one of us, arrived in this world because a woman gave birth to us. I believe that means that all of us rely upon maternity care. How have we let even this basic tenet of healthcare be called into question? (*See this Mother Jones piece, with photographs of all older white men determining the future of women’s health. See also this Fortune Magazine piece on the AHCA being a referendum on women’s health care.) The party in power is so intent upon restricting women’s reproductive rights that it seems even to want to restrict healthy reproduction. That is more than cutting your nose off to spite your face. It is a policy rooted in fear and vindictiveness, which is no way to run a government.
Profound kindness and generosity still define parts of our world—across the political aisle, national borders, community organizations, and generations. Nevertheless, in many ways, your generation has become more thoughtful than mine. You know how to recognize and call out bullying, you grapple less with non-binary identifications, and you make long-lasting friendships through the social media that have shaped your existence. I see you harnessing this open-mindedness and desire for connection to think broadly about the social, economic, and political issues of our world. I’d like to believe that you are aware of racial injustice and more prepared to combat it than my generation has been. I imagine you fed up with limited gender messaging and creative in your approach to reshape it.
I have seen many of your generation(s) advocate for equal rights, study House and Senate bills to understand the pros and cons of proposed legislation, and state your positions clearly. I have seen the plays you write and perform in, listened to the music you create, and heard the conversations you have. Many of you are thoughtful, responsible citizens who will run for office and help to assert the priorities of your generation. Your voices and actions are complementing those of my generation and the one before me and, in some instances, are leading the way. Thank you.
As I conclude this post, I realize that the piece echoes in prose form what this poem attempts–to recognize, apologize, and seek change.