My dear Millennials,
As a feminist of the older generation, I would like to reach across the great eldering divide to you of the more recent generation. As Bernie Sanders might say: “We may have a disagreement. Can we discuss this?”
So what’s the “this?”
Guess what? It’s the election and really it’s about the spiritual future of our country. Now don’t recoil in rebellion at this serious topic, but you are the only ones that can mold this; after all you are the future, and the future always rises up to challenge us, your elders. It will do the same for you; this is the law of spiritual karma.
Now about this Bernie fellow: I have a colleague, Ruth Nemzoff, who says that she knew him well enough to date him. “Well, not actually him, but guys like him, smart, articulate, with great ideas to save the world . . . and from Brooklyn.”
Well, I married Bernie or a guy who “tawks” like him, who escorted me to the March on Washington in 1963, where the entire crowd took three steps forward when Martin Luther King was introduced, and who wore our children on his shoulders while we demonstrated against the Vietnam war. So, I have a political crush on Bernie, and an intellectual feminist respect for Hilary. Many of my colleagues are head over heels staunchly in the Hilary camp; they think that Bernie doesn’t have a practical chance in hell to change this country. On the other hand, there are folks that resonate with a spiritual JStreet Judaism that generalizes to helping the world.
All this is related to the point of this letter. I have been conducting research about millennials with Brandeis University students, stopping kids with buds in their ears at shopping malls, and generally quizzing my grand children to understand you. This is a massive effort to “get” what’s with the emerging generation. So here are some of the attitudes and characteristics culled from these conversations. Correct me, please, if I am wrong.
· You really don’t swallow everything we tell you. We have to earn your respect, because it is not assumed that our opinions are relevant to you. You don’t want to be like us.
· You don’t like to be described with the stereotypical millennial generalizations as “entitled,” “complaining” and “lazy,” etc. You live in a more challenging less rewarding world than ours was at your age, and you are dealing with it as best as you can.
· Your debt is enormous, prices are higher, and real estate has skyrocketed. Therefore, “breaking up the banks,” the demons behind your financial woes, sounds attractive.
· You are NOT going to settle down into the old marriage lifestyle of a house and 2.5 kids though you may have a dog. You are probably third or fourth wave feminism that engulfs racial equality, minority representation, sexual freedom that embraces LGBT and alternate fluid lifestyles, even communal living. You want to hook up without commitments if you so desire. If you do have a child, you may not even marry.
· You do not identify as feminists of the old guard.
· Your job prospects are not guaranteed, because your expensive education is impractical in today’s job market.
· Even if you are forced to live with your parents, you want your independence.
· Bernie is the grandfather you want to turn on with, after weed is legalized.
· Hilary is “old school,” and does not earn your vote just because it’s time for a woman to be president.
· You may not even vote, because the government does not address nor represent the life you live.
Of course there is another side and, if you have read this far, here it is:
We also resent the ageist generalizations that you apply to us as well. Some of us did not live the “stable” lives of which we are accused: some divorced; some were indeed more hippy than grandpa Bernie; some of us tried drugs and were wrecked from “bad trips” and bad decisions. We didn’t want to be like our parents either.
And my dear young people, give us some credit: some of us did engage in fluid life styles, in the closet. During the opening monologue of the Academy Awards, remember Chris Rock saying “Why didn’t we revolt in the old days?” Because the consequences were much more punishing. Just like black folks who find themselves in life-threatening positions today, radicals were followed and harassed by the FBI and closed-minded people. Just like today. We liked sexual freedom just like you, but we liked it with protection, AND in those days it had to be kept secret, because society didn’t accept it then.
Really, we did have inter-racial relationships, gender fluidity, unisex dressing, women athletes, (even though we were warned that too much physical exertion would damage our health-remember the half court only basketball rules for women), and attitude. The ones you read about are the icons of our time and were considered artists, “bohemians,” and the like – “The Other” was what we were called then. We did blaze some trails for you. As for pot, some of us tried it, but we now believe you can get high on life; what do you think the whole Mindfulness Revolution is all about? We were there, but we didn’t talk about it now, because we figured we had to be “stable” for your mental health!
And now for the final plea. (Drum roll please.)
Do you want to live in a world that has wasted and polluted its resources?
Do you want to deny your own potential to influence this world to represent the life you live and the issues that you believe are important?
Do you want to be the stereotype you deny? Uncommitted? Too lazy to work at your own revolution? Too short-sighted and high to see that this here and now moment makes the future you want to be possible? With little faith in your own power to transform yourself, or this political system?
Remember as we are now you soon shall be. Buddha says you can’t avoid old age, sickness, and death.
Some feminists feel that Hilary is the one who does know, from her long experience in politics, how to get things done. While my heart is for Bernie, my head will support Hilary when she gets the nomination, but that moment when everyone stood up for Martin Luther King in Washington was so inspiring, maybe it will happen again. Maybe this time our country will change for the better and come out of gridlock to live up to its potential, which is, after all your potential. We want those moments for you, so that the future you deserve will come into being.
Maybe prayers for the welfare of all humankind can be answered.
If I were to give that biblical three-fold biblical blessing, I would add this as the fourth one: Please, be the best being you can be! Please, regardless of who you support (as long as it’s not Trump) VOTE in this election. There’s a Talmudic injunction that directs all of us: “You are not required to finish [the job], but you are obliged to continue the work.” Or something like that. You can make a difference, and it can matter. The government may not reflect you, but don’t reflect the grid lock of government now.