When I see pictures of Emma Gonzales and her companions on the Internet, or on the cover of Time Magazine, or in the news, something wistful stirs inside me. And shame.
I am a tail-end Baby Boomer.
I was born in 1956, so I wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye when the Korean War — the US involvement in conflicts in Korea — ended. I came of age just as the Nixon presidency crashed and burned.
The entirety of “the 60’s” — Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, Star Trek, the Apollo missions, the rise of rock-and-roll, hippies, the sexual revolution, mind-expanding drugs, the dawning of the New Age — all this was part of my civically-unconscious, small-Western-town childhood. I knew only a little of it, understood none of it, and parroted my parents’ prejudices.
I came of age as a new adult, a barely-conscious being, just as unrestrained capitalism was once again gestating: that rough beast my grandparents had survived, and my parents had seen in their youth, and that everyone thought had been left for dead in the Second Great War. But it was not dead. It had been re-born and re-branded in the 1950’s: it claimed to be responsible for all the benefits of the democratic socialism we then lived under — what was perhaps the first genuinely functional democratic national socialism in the modern world — and then, beginning with the Reagan Revolution, slowly began to dismantle everything that worked in America to restore the bread-lines and business failures and monopolies and extremes of wealth and poverty that my grandparents generation had known and fought and died to end.
I never protested. I voted, but I never engaged the system.
Like most of my generation, I never quite grasped what was happening, caught between a child’s understanding of history, and the relentless, glossy, sugar-coated propaganda of wealth and power.
Now, we are here: with a bloated national embarrassment in the White House, and Death walking the halls of our schools.
Adults blame the Millennials. Blame flourishes in the soil of guilt.
I look at Emma Gonzales, and something wistful stirs in my heart. And shame.
We failed. My generation failed. We had a future: we let it slip away into the hands of con-men and thieves.
I don’t think I have the right to offer Emma, or David, or Jaclyn, or Alex, or Cameron, or any of their companions or contemporaries any advice. But they have my respect, and my admiration.
And something wistful.