Talkin’ ‘Bout My G-Generation

Last week, the Day After the Madness in DC, my daughter and I had a conversation. We packed a lot into a few minutes, she and I – and that conversation has stuck with me, because of what she asked and how she asked it.

On the Day After the Madness in DC, she said that each of her classes took some time to let everyone talk about the events of the prior day. What were their thoughts, what were they feeling, what might they do (if anything) about it? The sort of questions you might expect, especially in a high school history class (one of her classes that day).

This is what stuck with my daughter: her teachers reminded her and her fellow students that they are the future and they can make things better. And she wanted to know, appealed to me to know if I am honest, if I was told the same thing when I was her age. It was clear she felt the message was that the onus was on her and her peers to figure out how to fix what we did not. She wanted to know if the same demand was placed on me, because her eyes and her person was telling me it felt like too much in that moment – too much for her and her peers to take on alone, unfair that my generation was asking them to repair and change what we could or would not, and not right that we should deny responsibility for the mess that we made or allowed to happen.

I assured her that yes, we were told the same thing – that we could and should make things better. That yes, with each generation some of the responsibility to make change is passed on. We tried our best, we got some things right and some things we clearly did not. There is work that takes more than a generation to get right, change that was started before I was born that still needs our voices and labor to bring to fruition. I did my best to assure her that it wasn’t all on her and her peers’ shoulders, I and my peers would be standing with them.

In that moment I saw her fear that change wasn’t possible, that hatred and bigotry are more powerful than inclusion and justice. All I could do was assure her that we can still aspire to be better, we have been working for and will continue to work for change. That while we have made progress for equity in some places, in others there is still a lot to do and I will be there along side her as the generation before me stood with me in the work of justice and change. I’m not sure it was enough because I couldn’t tell her that there will be an end to when each new generation is asked to pick up the mantle, that maybe, just maybe, she will see real change in her lifetime. Because in that moment, I wasn’t sure that I had seen it yet in mine. (Yes, with distance, I can see that there has been good change, real change, but in that moment it was hard to see.) The kids have picked up the mantle, of that I am sure, but don’t let them carry it alone. We still have time. We don’t have to take our hand off the baton in this relay just yet. We can still make change.

Have you ever felt like too much was being asked of you? What did the prior generation pass on to you that you weren’t ready for just yet?

30 thoughts on “Talkin’ ‘Bout My G-Generation”

  1. Such a great question. My parents were great role models for doing the right thing and volunteering. Not activists mind you, but loving, kind and generous people. I went to a high school called JFK Preparatory HS with the motto “To go forth and lead the land we love.” It was a sort of progressive, hippie, co-ed boarding school (oxymoron, I know) that was a great experience. They were all about taking up the mantle and being the change.

    I’m not sure I’ve exemplified that change in my life — at least not in a big outward way. But I think Solveig is certainly on the right path and up for the challenge. Best wishes!

    Liked by 7 people

  2. I think previous generations have some fault because we all wanted to make life easier for the next generation! By not making them aware of the burdens life in general places on each generation, and by not making them aware of the responsibility they needed to bear, we allowed them to think they could allow some to depend on others than themselves to the point that today we have vast numbers who pretend to be victims and DO NOT share the responsibilities life places on us all! Will all those who consider themselves victims drag the rest down to hell?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. My generation was not told we had to mop up the messes from earlier generations. Quite the opposite. We were told to behave, trust our leaders and concentrate on getting our share of the good stuff. In spite of that, I’ve witnessed dramatic progress for a variety of groups, especially LGBTQ folks and women. Progress has never been simple and straight, and yet to deny there has been progress would be foolish. I hope–and am actually quite confident–that the regression we’ve suffered in the time of Trump will be seen by future generations as being as aberrant and ultimately futile as Trump himself.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I feel the most onerous element in play is the widening gap between the rich and the poor – it seems there is no ceiling for greed at the top. If there were enough (food, housing, status…) for everyone, perhaps there wouldn’t be so much of the dissatisfaction that gives a player like Tr… his power.

    I do remember starting in teaching, thinking I could change some things in education. It took me four years to realize it might happen, but so slowly that I simply lost my drive. Got interested in bookstores, another form of education: “Here’s some knowledge, come and get it.”

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I never felt pressured to do anything by my parents except do my best and try to succeed at whatever I did. Both our children went into the helping professions (social work and counseling), as I think that they have a natural inclination for that kind of work. Husband and I never once told them to do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Perhaps it comes of being of a generation whose parents and teachers had been involved in the protests and movements of the 1960s (I went to my first protest after getting help making my banner from my mom and got my first copy of “The Communist Manifesto from a friend’s dad who was an active part of the anti-war movement), but I very much had the sense by the time I was in high school that each generation picks up a part of the work to move forward. What “forward” means changes – by the time I was in college AIDS was at the forefront along with the anti-apartheid movement – and I definitely didn’t feel prepared to take on everything. The worst parts of our class system that reared its head in the 1980s (see BIR’s note above) was far more than I was able or willing to take on… accepting the mantle from my grandmother to take on the Norwegian baking, sure. Picking up the work of fighting inequality in the educational system from her?… that was harder.

    Liked by 3 people

  7. My guarded optimism about progress in social justice do not extend to my expectations about global warming and the fate of the planet. For me, that is a much more depressing case of older generations passing on to the young a crisis that the earlier generations cold not solve. Throughout my adult life I’ve been particularly concerned about two areas: women’s rights and sound management of the natural world. The effort to offer women more respect and better life choices has succeeded better than I expected. Conversely, there has been far less readiness to treat our endangered planet with appropriate respect. About that, I’m gloomy.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I’d like to present a slightly different perspective on that. Women’s rights weren’t magnanimously “offered” to women, any more than civil rights were “offered” to people of color, sexual orientation, or others who over
      the centuries have had these rights denied. These were hard fought for, and won, rights, and the fight still goes on. The Equal Right Amendment has still not been ratified.

      With that in mind, perhaps the natural disasters, of every thinkable kind, that seem to be happening with increasing frequency and force, will force us to muster the collective will to do something about it before it’s too late? Humans have along history of not changing their ways until they are faced with a major calamity. Can’t say that I’m overly optimistic about that; there’s certainly some hard work and choices ahead. I stubbornly remain hopeful, though I’m also increasingly more alarmed.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. You remind me of reminder I have seen in a variety of forms – the 19th amendment didn’t “grant” women the right to vote, it finally acknowledged that they had it (and probably should have had it long before then). I would take another 40 years before women of color would be recognized for having that same right.

        Liked by 5 people

    2. The progress realized in the recognition of the rights and equality of women and LGBTQ persons (and I don’t understand the distinctions either) as well as minorities has resulted in the backlash from those who think that those recognitions are a zero sum game and that their status has been proportionally diminished. Societal change seems to be particularly hard for those with a fragile sense of their self and position.

      Liked by 2 people

  8. Anna, I love that you and daughter had that conversation. And I can’t think of any better answers than what you gave. I’m just so proud to call you my friend.
    Speaking of Human or Civil Rights (And thank you American Gov’t class for teaching me more about them last semester) I don’t recall ever discussing it at home. My parents were active in church and other organizations and I learned how to be a good volunteer. But I don’t recall any discussion on the greater world issues. I do recall one night at the dining room table talking about a play that involved some homosexual characters. A pretty harsh negative comment was made about that and it was simply never discussed again.

    When I was maybe 18 years old, Dad asked me if I thought I wanted to continue farming. Because if I did he was going to build this new machine shed and we’d make some major farm improvements. But if I didn’t, we wouldn’t. Well, I knew I wanted to farm, but I also kinda felt like at that point I had BETTER want to farm. And I wonder if it was fair for him to sort of dump that on me. He wasn’t pressuring me, but I also knew what answer was expected.

    Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know.
    This theater remodeling I’m in charge of. I’ve learned a lot. If I knew then what I’d have to learn now… well, I guess I’d still have done it, I just wouldn’t have lost so much sleep.
    So many things in the past 12 months have piled up to all sort of become the last straw. We “just” have to get through this thing. Or JUST get through that next thing. or JUST the next thing. Now it’s Wednesday. JUST get through Wednesday! Or will it?? Maybe it will be the next week? Month? Six Months??

    Our local Sheriff plans on coming to our monthly Townboard meeting on Wednesday evening. Just to touch base and see if we have any concerns or questions. He’ll be there unless there are issues with Inauguration day events. We JUST have to get through that.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. In the world of volunteering, it can be easy to sing on for too much. I find that I go in waves – hit an energetic patch where I say yes to everything that crosses my path, and then later have to back off from some things. Right now, of course, several things (singing groups) are on hold. But I’ll have to rejoin all these groups gradually when it’s “all over”, if that ever happens, or I could become easily overwhelmed.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I am late again, Baboons,

    Life has been a struggle here. We seem to still be recovering from the first phase of restoration after our leak. It is a very small area (about 4 feet behind the fridge and along the hall, but the fans, which they removed Saturday Thank God, rattled my brains and created a massive allergic reaction to dust.

    My entire childhood was an example of taking on more than I was ready for. However, this was usually contained to my family, and was not an issue of the larger social structure like your daughter is experiencing Anna. She seems so perceptive. I can certainly understand her feelings of being overwhelmed by the responsibility. I feel overwhelmed by the mess of the last week, the last four years when I look at it.

    From age 6 on, after my dad became ill and my diabetic Grandpa moved in with us, I was taking care of adults and children. I was the only 8 year old I knew who could bring my beloved, diabetic Grandpa out of insulin shock. (Orange juice carefully trickled into his mouth, head tipped up so he swallowed it). I was actually very competent at all these responsibilities. I could change my brother’s diapers, wash the dishes, put my sister in her clothes for the day, and on and on. I did not even mind much. I felt necessary. However, I did mind that in my mother’s eyes I never did it well enough. I minded that a lot. When I was old enough to leave, it was hard to do because I knew my skills were needed and would be missed. I think I felt very overwhelmed by both my parents’ needs.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. There’s no denying you were dealt some cards inappropriate for your youth. But that experience, along with your recognition that you needed to separate from that dysfunctional environment is what made you the person you are now. So it’s not all bad.

      Liked by 4 people

  11. I’d like to second Ben’s comments above. You handled that conversation with your daughter very well, Anna. I find it encouraging, too, that she has teachers that understand how important it is to engage students in the subject matter and helping them understand how it relates to current events as well as their own lives going forward.

    As you all know, my growing up experiences were shaped by influences that were somewhat different than most baboons’ because of where I lived. WWII was still fresh in everyone’s memory, but the world seemed to be moving forward in a hopeful way. Yet, there were also beginning rustlings of conflict and discontent; an awareness that young people were demanding that their voices be heard.

    I consider myself extremely fortunate to have grown up at a time when the challenges we were faced with seemed surmountable. I always felt confident that we could change things for the better if we put our minds to it, but that confidence seems to be eroding. I’m hoping that young people today still believe that their actions can make a positive difference, otherwise we’re all doomed.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. It takes generations to change views and opinions of the majority. When I heard a woman say she was teaching her grandchildren to hate as she does, it really sunk in; the grandchildren will have to get old enough to feel comfortable challenging those thoughts and to be confident forming their own opinions. It won’t change overnight, but slowly and surely we work toward it one person at a time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I can think back to my high school years and how it seemed (mostly) okay if someone came out as gay, but you didn’t talk about gender as anything other than a binary determined by your sex-assigned-at-birth… even though we might not have used quite those words. And it was (mostly) okay to be gay so long as you didn’t wind up with AIDS. And if you had AIDS it was less bad if you didn’t get it from ____ and and and… And it took decades for us to get from, “I won’t tease you about being gay” to “I will volunteer and speak out in support of marriage equality for everyone.” But we did get there. And when I was out volunteering in support of marriage equality and Solveig asked what I was doing (astute tot that she was) – I replied that I thought it was unfair that her dad and I could be legally married and get all the benefits from that but our friends A and K could not because they are both women. Her response, “well that’s dumb.” True, indeed. But it wouldn’t have occurred to me at her age that it was dumb, because at her age I didn’t know any families with two moms. And now my friends from high school are finally comfortable saying, “the name and pronouns you knew me with back then were never the right ones…” and that is, in part, not only because of the generation before, but also the generation after who picked up the relay stick and used it to start asking new questions and making their own change. And at least one of her friends that she has known since kindergarten was able to say, without having to wait decades, “my name is actually ____ and my correct pronouns are ___.” Change happens, but as you pointed out Ben, it may take a generation or two.

      Liked by 3 people

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