On Tuesday, Florida lawmakers voted down a motion that would ban the sale of assault rifles – days after a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed seventeen high school students. In response to photos that went viral of Parkland survivors crying in the House gallery as the bill failed to pass, conservative commentator and felon Dinesh D’Souza tweeted the following:
Adults 1, kids 0 https://t.co/24iqKtnTxy— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 20, 2018
Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs https://t.co/Vg3mXYvb4c— Dinesh D'Souza (@DineshDSouza) February 20, 2018
In the days after the Parkland shooting, much of the rhetoric propagated by these conservative voices encompassed ideas along D’Souza’s train of thought. Comments became conspiracy theories; they were pretty much anything that weren’t acknowledgements of the validity and bravery of student voices. At the crux of it all is a message that is explicitly false but devastating for morale: we millennials don’t understand how the “real world” works, and we’re too immature to discuss serious issues like gun control.
Look, we’ve heard all this before. Millennials and Gen-Z youth have been given the shaft by our older, conservative counterparts for as long as we can remember; we’re seen as lazy, sheltered, entitled and ignorant, and we are subsequently belittled and denigrated for our opinions. Essentially, we sit on our asses, doing nothing to contribute to American life, and we expect handouts. That is what they suggest – all the time.
The conversation about our generation is oppressive. To infantilize us by dismissing our opinions as immature and naive is to strip us of our autonomy, our rationality and our ability to think for ourselves. Florida lawmakers voting down a gun-control bill in front of the survivors of a shooting is a slap in the face to them; conservative commentators stripping them of their voices adds insult to injury.
The gag, though, is that all of this is happening because conservatism has never been more in danger. Seventy-five percent of millennials identify as liberal or left-of-center, according to the conservative Brookings Institute. At the same time, Pew Research states that recent college graduates mostly identify as Democrat (when it comes to non-white voters, the number rises to seventy percent). There’s a reason why our generation is skewing so liberal. The right may be correct in that liberalism is founded on naivety, but in naivety lies the promise of hope – the same hope that put a Black man in office and gave me the right to get married. Hope incites action, and naivety can serve as fuel for innovation.
These are threats to the establishment. When the consolidation of power is threatened, it is natural – even expected – that this power begins to be used to suppress dissent.
Thus, this manifesto of sorts isn’t addressed to people like Dinesh D’Souza. It is not meant for Trump, nor for conservatives who believe we’re talking out of turn every time we vocally disagree with their beliefs. They’re already in power. I am not here to beg people in power to listen to us anymore; I’ve spent most of my writing career telling stories about, and then advocating for, marginalized voices by asking for our visibility from people who turn a blind eye when it benefits them.
And I’m done with that.
My generation is not much older than the victims of the Parkland shooting, or the victims of Columbine when they died. We’ve lived through Orlando, Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and Charleston; children have been killed, LGBTQ+ and Black people have been killed. If you’re reading this and are part of my generation, you probably get it. You’re sitting with me, watching people not much younger than us get thrust into the national spotlight because they decided to advocate for their dead classmates and fight for the killing to stop. And you’re watching those in power mock them for it. But you’re probably also recognizing that the concept of old people attacking kids is reflective of a desperate, last-ditch effort to stop a tide that will inexorably turn in our favor. We’re on the brink of taking the world that was promised to us and steering it in a direction that reflects our collective commitment to progress.
And if you’re willing to contribute to this effort – if you’re willing to stand up with the survivors of Parkland and fight for the change we’ve demanded for years – this message of hope and the call to action that accompanies the unbridled ideas of our generation is for you.