I haven't written much since you know who took office. I have struggled with what to say that hasn't been said, what to do with my emotions, how to translate them into productive action. The national gaslighting that is going on that "he's not that bad" and that the horrible fears faced by many Americans (LGBTQ, people of color, immigrants, Muslims, etc) "probably" won't come true is almost too much to bear.
But all that aside (as if it can be truly put aside), I can't help but notice another type of polarization - one that cuts to the very core of who we are as humans: whether or not to be kind and what that means. There is one camp that believes "political correctness" and "identity politics" are an affront to freedom of speech and get in they way somehow of the business of life. There is another that argues that our emotions are valid - our anger is real and you should not tone police us or ignore the power of language. There are those that "don't see color" and others who feel they are literally being erased. There are those who think everyone needs to "toughen up" and grow a "thicker skin" and not be such a crybaby, and those who think that it's high time everyone stopped being such a goddamn asshole.
This article by Ferentz Lafargue sums up my feelings exactly: "‘Coddled’ students and their ‘safe spaces’ aren’t the problem, college official says. Bigots are." In it he states:
"Therefore, whether one is suspicious of the merits of college as a whole or cynical about the existence of “safe spaces,” the truth of the matter is that “coddled” college students aren’t the problem. The real culprits — on campuses and in the real world — are the persistent effects of homophobia, income inequality, misogyny, poverty, racism, sexism, white supremacy and xenophobia."
I couldn't agree more. Why attack those calling out injustice and asking for a better world? Why defend the utter shittiness of the "real world" as if it is good for anyone? I've recently overheard an older woman (at a craft show no less) saying "Sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never hurt me." I wonder if she truly believes that or if it's a lie she tells herself. I wonder if she needs a hug. That if someone told her her feelings matter, that she is a good person, that her pain is real if it would shatter her into a million pieces. To face our emotions is hard work. To remove the coping mechanisms, the denial, the band-aids of drugs, shopping, and distraction. To really sit and think about what we are feeling. It's one of the hardest things a human can do. I imagine it's why many prefer to live an unexamined life - to plow forward surviving, day to day, doing what needs to be done. Self-care, self-reflection, and self-compassion are extracurricular activities. Questioning the status quo, getting really angry about the way things are and shouldn't be - these are the province of the young and naive, as described by Hua Hsu in his article "The Year of the Imaginary College Student":
“The imaginary college student is a character born of someone else’s pessimism. It is an easy target, a perverse distillation of all the self-regard and self-absorption ascribed to what’s often called the millennial generation. But perhaps it goes both ways, and the reason that college stories have garnered so much attention this year is our general suspicion, within the real world, that the system no longer works.”
I think it's easy to criticize "millenials" because it allows the older generation to deny responsibility. It's a tale as old as time, one that really serves no purpose other than to divide and conquer. Read this amazing thread that calls out millenial-bashing for what it truly is. I recently watched this video by Adam Conover, comedian of "Adam Ruins Everything" fame. (A great show, by the way). Essentially he states that millenials don't exist and I would tend to agree with him. Our obsession with times past and generations keeps us from living in the present. I can't tell you how many episodes of "I love the 80s" I have watched. It's fun to look back at so-called gentler times. In fact, the Donald won on a "Make America Great Again" ideal. When it was ever "great" is up for grabs. What does "great" mean? Were we ever free from death, poverty, and oppression? Was there ever a time where all humans lived in harmony free of worry, fear, and desperation? Hardly? If anything human existence has been cruel and harsh the entire time for most of the world and continues to be so. We modern Americans are the luckiest, most privileged and best off by comparison. So if anything, we should hope to make America "great" (whatever that means) right now.
So back to safe spaces. The criticism of them is that they prohibit free debate, discourse, and discussion about difficult topics. Professors and teachers don't want to give "trigger warnings" because they fear half the class will leave and therefore shut down learning altogether. I can understand this. It's fine to disagree with this and assume that everyone can "handle" difficult topics.
But not everyone can. This comic beautifully illustrates why trigger warnings are important.
Essentially if you have experienced trauma you may have some form of PTSD. Being "triggered" isn't being sensitive - it's a psychological and physiological reaction to real emotional pain. The Donald made an offhand remark that combat veterans with PTSD are "not strong" and this is dangerously wrong. The effects of trauma are real and it should not be taken lightly especially when suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States and an estimated 22 veterans die by suicide each day.
Safe spaces were created to keep people safe - because most of the world isn't. And saying this will prevent them from being successful in the "real world" is saying at least two things that are problematic. 1) We have to toughen up instead of trying to change the shittiness that is the real world. 2) That young people don't actually live in the real world and somehow are currently protected from it by being in college or under the care of their parents. Who are these imaginary bubble children? Guess what - college students and young people have jobs, have children, are soldiers and veterans, have mental illnesses, are caretakers and breadwinners for their families. They are not insulated in some bubble. That may be the "imaginary college student" of lore but it is not the reality today. I have not met these imaginary students throughout my work in higher education and if they exist, they are vastly outnumbered by "non-traditional" learners.
Maslow's hierarchy of needs is one of the most basic concepts of Psychology. It essentially states that without having your basic needs met you cannot get to self-actualization, one's full potential. You need to have water, food, shelter, security, and love in order ot be the best person you can be. If you don't feel safe, you cannot thrive. If you are not safe you cannot learn. If you are not safe you cannot smash the patriarchy. Our anger is valid. Our feelings are legitimate. Our pain is real. By allowing students and anyone for that matter to feel their feelings, process, and heal, we are opening them up to doing the real work of changing this so-called "real world." I'd give a thousand bubbles to young minds to free them from the prison of oppression and harm that is the "real world" if it would allow them to make real change.
We can rant on about how millenials are selfish, entitled, lazy, etc. But there are no facts to back this up. We can whine that they got too many participation trophies and expect too much. Or we can remember that the so-called millenial generation was raised by the very generation complaining about them. Who gave the trophies? Who put the iPad in their hand instead of having a conversation? Who told them they were special and could do anything they wanted if they just worked hard? Instead of viewing a hugely diverse group of people as a monolith that can be easily defined and dismissed, see them for what they are - the future. They will take what was handed to them and change the world for better or worse and it's up to us which one it will be.
Nice to meet you!
I am a tech pro, blogger, DIY'er, reader, TV binger, music lover, nerd and semi-crunchy mom. I write about professional development, being crafty, motherhood and politics. Thanks for joining me and letting me share my thoughts with you!