Coming Down: Our Taste of Sobriety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

There is a reason that the dog that wanders tends to return home, because it has become accustomed to a certain quality of life, and comes to an understanding that it isn’t equipped to deal without it. As a generation, we are learning the lesson that multiple generations preceding us have had to learn, and have had to learn under much harsher conditions.

For most folks my age, we’ve yet to experience global tragedy. Natural disasters have done their worst, war has been waged on foreign soil, terrorism brought down our Manhattan skyline, all while most of us were too young to have a say in our Nation’s response. The COVID-19 Corona Virus, is, in no uncertain terms, as much our problem as it is our parents’ and grandparents’. We are now a brick in this wall, and the talk is over – what are we REALLY about.

The first thing we can do is come to an understanding that, despite our rage, we are not as generationally special as we like to believe. The Greatest Generation had parents that told them their music was too loud and obnoxious too; our arch-nemesis boomers were hippies before we were; and our parents were lied to time and again by the folks they voted into office – now does any of this sound familiar? We no longer have the convenience of philosophy on our side; now it’s time for action.

There’s a reason we are here, no doubt. We are a group that has paid attention. We understand the terrors of the past and have, more than any generation before us, a sight for sinister as strong certainty. We are good at this; we can call out corruption when we see it because the history taught to us (directly or indirectly) was littered with it. Our grandparents and great-grandparents went to war with the devil abroad, our uncles and aunts saw a crook take the most important seat in the free world, our parents fought a war under false-pretenses – this whistleblowing, it’s in our DNA.

So yes, we will have to work from home and many of us will lose our jobs. Maybe that vacation is canceled or your college degree will come in the mail; athletes that have worked tirelessly on their craft will be cheated a senior season; many young parents will struggle. What we’re getting ready to experience in the coming months is what so many souls before us already know to be true: that the common thread in the fabric of everything we call life, is strain. The majority of those who have lived here before us never got to see the next town over, much less the Islands of Greece; they never got a college degree or took graduation pictures with their friends; their senior seasons weren’t spent worrying about a recruiting process or what sort of scholarship they could earn, but what mode of service they would select so as to not experience the uncertainty of a draft.

Whether we care to admit it or not, we have had it, and will continue to have it, historically easy as a whole. In this, we’ve had the luxury to explore a new and uncharted customizable sort of world, one that answers to us rather than the other way around. This is why we are, “the way we are.” This is why we refuse to kiss the ring of authority – we ARE the authority, and we have been since birth. This instills something in a person that is hard to break up once the individual has grown used to it. We don’t fear the principal anymore, we dare the teacher to hit us without the fear of the great “or else,” we rally against racist and bigoted policy, we don’t see the president as a God amongst mortals; this has been one of our strongest qualities – it truly will take us far in terms of a better life on Earth. What we’re missing in this is intention.

Maybe it's because of the Hummer, or American Idol, or the wars in the middle-east; maybe we’re just competitive by nature; or maybe they’re right, maybe we are just too damned egotistical to act as anything resembling united – but I refuse to accept the extreme latter as true. I believe that the power we have given to the individual can only produce positivity when harnessed by the masses. I see a world where we rebel against the tribal trend, and boil identity politics down to its purest form, the form that isn’t bastardized as kindly-stated hate, the form that looks something like a neighbor rather than a radical. So when the world asks you to stay inside and avoid bars and wash your hands, do it. It matters little who you voted for, or what agenda you subscribe to, or what sort of conspiracies you choose to believe. This isn’t a debate in Philosophy 101, this is a real crisis where real people will die. We have been burned by government in the past, sure, and we’ve been fed propaganda that’s washed out wrong over time; but finding the best and most academic plan isn’t going to stop the lives being lost today. The Greatest Generation didn’t become great because they put together a genius plan and executed it perfectly, they became great because they tried to do the most daring and courageous thing civilization can attempt, to put their trust in one another, and figure it out as one through thick and thin.

The fact that we haven’t had to experience a global atrocity yet isn’t our fault, and we should be thankful that we’ve made it this far. Additionally, I don’t want this to come off as a holier-than-though “repent or else” lecture on the Great American Values; some of you have undeniably been wronged, disadvantaged, disenfranchised, discriminated against, and overall hurt by this administration and the 44 proceeding it. We are indeed, a generation that includes an alarming number of children left behind. What this is, instead, is a hand reaching out, a plea for unity, a chance for all of us to grow, but to do it together like we’ve not yet thought to before.

When I began this project my intention was not to speak for anyone, but to feature people like you and I who are doing their best day after day to figure out what it is we’re supposed to be doing here. This piece is a deviation from that, sure, but at the end of the day crisis seems to more than anything, uncover the truth about what it is we fear the most. When it’s all said and done, our generation will be judged upon how well we employ the philosophies we’ve held so dear and shouted so loudly about; love, compassion, empathy for your fellow woman or man. And so, I say, with the utmost compassion for you, it’s time that we all shut the fuck up and tame this ever-growing generational ego; for a brilliant generation that’s refused to unite behind anything, will die an eclectic collection of individuals with only wasted potential.

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