Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Let us try

Young people still have resolve
(Will Katcher/ Daily Collegian)

My family has suggested that I leave the country. I’m probably not the only young person who’s heard that, either.

The confirmation of now-Judge Brett Kavanaugh is the latest apocalyptic-seeming event, and for parents who yearn for safety and justice for their children, I’m not inclined to argue with their reasons. Yet I’ve heard them all before: that it seems like nothing changes; that no amount of uproar or campaigning seems to affect the political calculus that happens on Capitol Hill and in the White House; and of course, that America is over.

Maybe it is. But we young people should have a chance to do something about it first.

No doubt do we feel these frustrations. But when past generations of people who support us obsess over that hopelessness, it erodes confidence and fuels liberal stereotypes. If the left, or anyone who opposes the current administration, wants to win any more elections or be part of the solution, we need to acknowledge the opportunities that lay before us. The resolve of this generation is one of them and I’m beginning to think it’s the only way out of these dark times.

Part of the reason for this resolve is that our future is here. A vast majority of this generation is not going to leave. Our friends, our culture and our opportunities are tied to this terribly flawed country. Moving is difficult and expensive. Sure, some have a calling toward other countries, and I support them to pursue their dreams. But I, for one, don’t know where I would begin — I’ve put way too much effort in my young life to understand Americans, understand our politics and understand our problems.

Moreover, as these survival instincts kick in, we cannot ignore the risk of “white flight” in this matter. This very real phenomenon is a key component of the history of demographics and city planning — when communities start to deteriorate, the people with the most means to leave will leave. I’m privileged enough to consider leaving this country, but many of my friends and colleagues simply do not have that option. To leave now would be to break solidarity and leave people with fewer resources to handle a dire situation alone. Many of us want to stay for that very reason.

The resolve isn’t inherent, it’s obtained. A common implication is that hope knocks on your door. That’s utterly false — you must find it yourself. You might find it while reading about a person, a family or a community that makes a small but important change. Or you might find it by visiting a classroom, seeing young people discuss high-level policy and politics better than some politicians on television.

You can find positivity in bigger stories, too. Voter enthusiasm is one. During National Voter Registration day, almost a million Americans were added to the voter rolls – and that’s not including the months of work groups have been putting into registering young people. Interestingly, I don’t see these organizers — some of them younger than myself — doubt their work for a second. Even if they aren’t successful, they are trying something — and something is hope, too.

On the left, many young people flock to politicians like Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes and Beto O’Rourke who, despite being imperfect, generate optimism from dire problems, acknowledge diversity and invoke the patriotism of being involved in the political process. In the eyes of these leaders, there’s always a way to make a difference — if not in the political arena, in our communities.

I’m not here to repeat platitudes about how young people need a vision to rally around, though. It runs deeper than that. The resolve to change is a worldview: it’s the only way out for young people. Some of us are pessimistic too. But even the pessimistic know what the problems are. That’s why so many are desperate for a leader demonstrating a backbone, practice community engagement and refuse to tolerate disrespect. It represents hope. It defies defeatism.

We haven’t got an idea of what this country will look like when we are parents and grandparents. We don’t need to be told there’s nothing we can do – our world is a different one from previous generations. No matter what we do, collectively or as individuals, we are part of an experiment — and we’re going to keep experimenting. There isn’t much else to do. For the most part, we’re here for the long haul.

Those of us who believe in protesting are going to keep at it. Those of us who are trying to form dialogues across the aisle are going to keep at it. Those of us who are working to change the justice system from the bottom up are going to keep at it. And those of us who are trying to get millions of young people to vote will keep at it. It should be that way, too.

It doesn’t weigh on us to hear how the system never changes. History is there for us to see — we know that. But we are still young enough to want to have a conversation about what comes next. Let us have it.

James Mazarakis is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    NITZAKHONOct 11, 2018 at 10:22 am

    “Terribly flawed country”?

    I’ll help you pack, and I’ll pay for you to move. I hear the no-go zones in Europe are particularly fun.