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Trophy Kids

May / 2017 by
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Trophy Kids

This story was printed in the DAWN issue.
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[dropcap size=big]S[/dropcap]ince 45 took office, the youth—which I see as more of a disposition than an age—are showing up in droves to protest, to resist, and to question the America we were sold in history class. While we exercise our right to dissent, the dis-logic of older folks keeps bothering me.

I certainly don’t wish to cast an umbrella of criticism over all generations that preceded us, as both their literature and teaching have been essential to developing my critical mind. I know plenty of older people who oppose the current administration and also know peers my age and younger who buy into the dis-logic of the administration. What I mean by older folks, then, is a particular group of people who subscribe to the baseless idea that the world is fine and the youth should accept what happens on face value.

In no group is this dis-logic more troubling than many of the Christians I know. I watched in 2016 as these Christians defended a man who openly mocked a differently abled reporter, who bragged about sexual assault, who practices daily degradation of marginalized communities through words (and now policies), and very clearly only cares about his own advancement. I speak of the Christians I know as a Christian myself, who studies theology in seminary because I believe that God must be saved from the dead theologies of today.

Some of these Christians attempt to defend 45 biblically; others just confuse their political party with religion. Still, more do not care if he is on God’s side or not: they just know he’s better than a Democrat, or a woman. I saw the argument about abortion played out, but unless these Christians come up with a different term than pro-life, they voted for a man who by his own admission signed a Muslim ban, and who consistently bares his teeth by criminalizing immigrant populations, erasing LGBTQ people from the next U.S. census, and remaining silent when white men commit hate crimes. He is all bark and all bite. To excuse any of these policies on some pro-life basis is to endorse the erasure of other lives.

45 is merely a symptom of larger problems that need deconstructing, but a symptom can still kill. To the Christians who would say, “It’s just a cough; it will pass,” remember that taking no side is still a position. King warned us about the silence of friends in moments like the present. Jesus had strong feelings about the lukewarm.

What I notice from many of these well-intentioned Christians is that they take serious issue with the younger generation. They level criticisms at millennials with labels of lazy, whiny, sensitive, politically correct, ungrateful, snowflakes, entitled, etc. Many believe most protesters are unemployed, and that they will be in for a rude awakening if they ever get jobs. They hurl insults at young people and then wonder why they are not going to church.

An idea amongst older folks is that we are a generation of trophy kids, the ones who grew up receiving “too much praise,” getting medals for mere participation, and not earning much of anything at all. They sincerely believe this over-praising caused us to collectively grow up and demand what we don’t deserve, never mind that our demands are for human rights for oppressed populations to live without fear of persecution, exclusion, or execution. Apparently, in their eyes, women and African-Americans and Muslims and LGBTQ people haven’t “earned” these basic rights.

The generations before us have miscalculated. The problem with the millennial generation is not that we were given too many trophies when we were young: the problem is that we reject the notion of empty signs of victory. We received the trophies made by older generations, and asked, “What value do these have?”

The problem with the millennial generation is not that we were given too many trophies when we were young: the problem is that we reject the notion of empty signs of victory. We received the trophies made by older generations, and asked, What value do these have?

A trophy, a symbol of some great accomplishment, means less to us than the accomplishment of having participated, having been a part of something larger than ourselves.

A trophy, which says we did better than others, was always meant to place us above others when what we want now is to be equals.

A trophy, a social construct that ultimately equates to a pat on the back, tells us to compete when we just want to create.

A trophy is just some symbol of an American dream of greatness that has been exposed for what it is—a dream and nothing more.

We seek to break these trophies and share the pieces amongst one another or throw them out altogether.

We seek to question the so-called answers given about history and American greatness.

We seek to bring real change to a nation that professionally fakes progress.

We seek to love radically and bring justice into reality in a nation that treats freedom as only hypothetical.

We seek a church where all are truly welcome at the table, and where open criticism of an oppressive administration is an act of faith and not a distraction.

I hear many Christians and older folks talking a lot about us, but they’re saying little. Their dis-logic paints us with broad strokes before we have finished the portrait. There is hustle in our dismantling of the Great American Hustle. We’re emotional, yes, but because people are in pain and we believe that our hearts should not be disentangled from our heads. If we’re ungrateful to any gift, it’s because the gift bestowed upon us turned out to be a gag. We feel entitled to pursuing a real American dream just like the generations before us did, to strive for the work that is never finished. Our criticism is aimed at realizing what this nation should promise everyone, not just the select few.

If you want to call us trophy kids, so be it. Just understand we’re working to earn a dream that has us woke and not sleeping.

___

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