Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Surviving History

Y'know, I'm one of the older vanguard of millennials. Graduated high school in the year 2000. Got a little less than a year of legal adulthood under my belt before 9/11. I'm only just now realizing what a rare treat it was to grow up in the late 80's and 90's - after the duck-and-cover drills, before the active shooter drills. My cohort is the last one to remember life before the Internet.

It does feel like we're teetering on the brink of something huge right now, and not in a good way. But I've spent so much time worrying about all the grim possibilities that it just now occurred to me to think: what generation ever did get to live out an entire human lifespan without enduring some kind of great global convulsion? Two World Wars - a flu pandemic - Great Depression - Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War - Cold War, arms race - energy crisis - Great Recession - 9/11 - rise of ISIS - and most of that still within living memory.

So maybe the adult thing to do here is not to lie awake worrying about whether or when the Next Dire Thing will happen. Dire things keep rolling off the conveyor belt of history with depressing regularity, and fear leaves us vulnerable to manipulation by the Powers That Be. Maybe the better thing is to plan for the worst, push hard for the best, and start holding on tight to our people - the ones already living at the edge, the ones who can't easily weather a national tempest.

I haven't been an Earth-person for very long, comparatively speaking, but I have studied history. I see that we've endured great trials over and over again, and survived every one. But I also notice that the periods of our greatest shame, the things we don't like to commemorate or discuss - Jim Crow, Japanese internment, McCarthyism, et al - are the times when we turned against our neighbors. I have no doubt that we will survive the Next Dire Thing, whatever it may be. The bigger question is what we'll be able to say for ourselves in its wake.

1 comment:

  1. I think that question can only be answered by the generation coming up 20 years from now into what we've created. I think the best we can hope for, what any generation can hope for, is that history looks at our time and can point out more places than before us and say, "They did the right thing."