Of Millennials, Protesters, and Anarchists

I live in a city filled with diversity. We are home to a strong, active, civic-minded, engaged, and involved African American community. We have been and are home to refugees and immigrants from various countries in Eastern Europe, India, Africa, Asia, and more. We are home to a large, entrepreneurial,  hard-working, contributing Hispanic community, some of whom may be undocumented, but are valuable members of the communities they live and work in. Our LGBTQUIA community is friendly, fun, fierce, fabulous, and fearless. We have strong, courageous, dedicated women in all sectors: private, government, and social service . We are known as the place, “where the young go to retire,” where the “dream of the 90’s” is alive and well, and where the hipsters, post-millennial hippies, and bicycling eco-activists work hard to honor and respect diversity and work to make inclusivity a way of life. We are a blue city flying a rainbow flag.

Don’t twist it and get me wrong. We have our negatives and our misunderstandings. We have our prejudices and our biases. We have our oppressed and our oppressors. However, we also have enough people willing to have the conversations, listen to each other, learn from each other, and stand with each other against the inhumane things humans do to other humans.

Therefore, it should come as no surprise that we’ve had three days of protests since Donald Trump won the Presidential election with the electoral vote, if not the popular one.

What was surprising is that last night’s protest turned into a bit of a riot, with projectiles being thrown at police, them firing non-lethal rubber bullets and the like back, windows getting smashed in, property getting destroyed, physical altercations between protesters and frustrated motorists trying to get home after 16 hour workdays or get out of the city to get to an emergency. That isn’t who we are as a city. This isn’t who we are as people . . . most of us anyway.

Since the protests started, I’ve seen a lot of posts by people I know, who are criticizing and dismissing the protesters as entitled brats who are upset that they didn’t get their way in the election. These people, many of whom are friends and family of mine, or people I went to school with 30-40 years ago, are claiming that the protestors are whiny, spoiled children who don’t know or understand what true hardship is and are doing this because too many participation trophies were handed out. This couldn’t be farther from the truth . . . at least for the majority of the protesters.

First off, let me say this: There were people, self-proclaimed anarchists, hiding behind masks and wearing distinctive clothing, who inserted themselves in the crowd of otherwise peaceful protestors. Some of these people may be of the Millennial Generation and may have been handed too many participation trophies, but, their actions have little to nothing to do with the intention and message of the protesters. They just want to cause chaos and destruction. They get a kick out of doing it and their payoff is distracting from and derailing the dialogue which the protesters are trying to have.

Secondly, the true protesters, Portland’s Resistance, have disavowed those who committed the violence and caused the damage. Additionally, Portland’s Resistance is taking responsibility and corrective action. You can read more about it here.

Now, on to what this post is really about . . . clearing up the misconceptions about the protestors and the Millennials among them. What needs understanding is this, the world Millennials grew up on is completely and drastically different than the one I, and others before me, grew up in. The differences go much deeper and are more far reaching than participation trophies. I have some perspective on this because I am parent to a pre-millennial, a millennial, and a post-millennial.

My Millennial child was born in 1993, was a pre-adolescent at the turn of the millennia, and came into adulthood in the 2010’s. She’s an amazing, compassionate, passionate, determined, and civically active and aware woman.

You see, she and her peers grew up in a time of unprecedented globalization. The internet led to social media: Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WordPress and so many more online spaces where people of all ages, faiths, nationalities, colors, genders, sexualities, health conditions, family structures, educational levels, and economic levels could communicate with, see, and hear each other. All of these people created and shared the things that represented who they are, where they’re from, what they believe, what they’ve experienced, their gifts, talents, and passions.

The internet and social media became the great equalizer, even if anonymous (or not so anonymous) bigots and bullies trolled to see who they could attack, threaten, heckle, diminish, and demean.

Which brings me to my next point: rising awareness and rejection of bias, prejudice, bullying, and violence.

My Millennial daughter and her peers grew up in an era where many of the previously hidden and accepted isms of our society rose up in awareness, because the people who were stigmatized and terrorized by these things courageously began rising up and speaking out about their experiences of injustice, violence, suppression, and oppression. Domestic Violence, Rape Culture, Racism, Sexism, Gender Inequality, the dehumanization of LGTBQIA people, Ableism, Ageism, Body Shaming, Cyber Bullying, Xenophobia have been an inherent part of their lives, throughout their lives. There have been so many actions, organizations, events, and movements to rise against these things and our Millennial children were taught in school, on television, in social media, and even by their parents, that these things are not acceptable and that this is not who we want to be as people, as humans.

We taught and they learned that everyone has a place and everyone has something of value to contribute to the world, even if they aren’t the MVP. That’s what participation trophies taught them.

They learned to use their voices, the privileges they may have, their personal experiences, their gifts, talents, and passions to stand up, stand for, and stand with people different from themselves, to stand against the things which destroy and devour the hopes, dreams, identities, and lives of the people in the world around us.

Don’t dismiss them. Listen to them. Learn from them. They’re the future policy makers, leaders, and caregivers we’ll be dependent on in a few years.

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