The general view of my generation, the millennials, from older conservatives is that we are weak, overly emotional, lazy, and entitled. This consensus is often expressed through use of a particular one-word insult: snowflake, as in “You spoiled, weak little snowflakes, when my granddaddy was your age he was storming Normandy, not playing Pokémon Go and listening to Joy Division”!
It’s a powerful image. Snowflakes are paper-thin, weak, and blown this way and that by the elements. When older folks use it, they are saying we are human embodiments of those fragile forms.
But let me say here today, enough is enough, I am sick of this slander against my generation; we deserve better than what these critics say. Certainly it is true Millennials have had a tougher time growing up than previous generations – our high-rates of depression and anxiety show this.
This is perfectly understandable, however, for we also face tremendous burdens that our parents and grandparents did not.
Consider today’s economic numbers. Even though we are the most educated cohort in American history, my generation is entering a job market where half of positions pay less than $18 an hour. That is the definition of a low-wage economy, and it makes Millennials disproportionately likely to occupy jobs that don’t provide a livable income.
In addition, many young people start their careers with massive student-loan debt, which eats away at whatever wages they can garner from work, making an already difficult situation even harder.
These dynamics combine to create a depressing circumstance: the average college-educated Millennial has less purchasing power than a high-school graduate did in the 1970s.
Then, when one considers the tremendous cost of living in the 21st century, the reality becomes clear: millions of us stand to suffer deep financial hardship for reasons beyond our control – not the American dream.
Older conservatives just don’t see this point of view; their perspective is far more narrow. In their judgment, if my generation is struggling, we have no one to blame but ourselves. They have no grasp of the overarching social problems that prevent our success, no matter how hard we work or how educated we become.
Which brings one to a delicious irony. The troubled country we see today, with its scarcity of good jobs and expensive cost of living, was not built by my generation. We are just kids, thrust into the eye of a hurricane, trying to do our best to survive.
Rather, it was built by the same older conservatives who so callously insult us today. It was their policy proposals that helped destroy economic opportunity in America: the destruction of unions, the passage of trade deals that sent good jobs overseas, budget cuts to higher education, opposition to minimum wage increases and affordable housing programs.
Of course, they take no personal responsibility for this. They are too prideful to do so. Like children caught doing something they shouldn’t, they point the finger at everyone else but themselves.
Though they like to think differently, the reality is clear: they are the real snowflakes. They are the snowflakes for not owning up to the world they wrought; instead, they cast the blame on their victims: today’s young people.
Unfortunately, with the election of Donald Trump and a Republican Congress, we now have a government run by these snowflakes. As a result, we can expect them to continue their ways and pass the same policies that helped make our country a mess to begin with. It is going to be a long winter.
But as is the law of nature, eventually a new season shall come: my generation will ascend to power. We will replace these folks who denigrated us when we were just coming of age – and we will pass the policies needed to ensure our children live in the kind of fair, opportunity-rich country that we deserved for ourselves.
So to the Trump-tie wearing bully boys of the older generation, my message is this: know that when you call kids snowflakes, you speak from a place of weakness, not strength, and implicitly admit your own ignorance of the world around you.
The problem facing Millennials is not an absence of personal responsibility; studies show young people today work just as hard as everyone else does.
Rather, our burden is a modern economy full of low-wage work; an education system that saddles us with mobility-crushing debt; and the consistently rising cost of housing, health care and other essentials.
Today’s older conservatives could offer their expertise and constructively address these problems. They could fight for legislation to help kids succeed and meet their challenges, the way President Franklin Roosevelt enabled the success of returning WWII soldiers through the passage of the GI Bill.
But they far too often prefer the lazy route of condescension, insults, and scorn – and when conservatives take this posture, they place their boot on the neck of kids today, spit in the eye of our ancestors, and weaken the social fabric of this great country.
One cannot engage in such dastardly behavior and make any claim to patriotism, maturity, good sense, principle, constructive citizenship, basic ethics, moral hygiene, intellect, or human decency.
Joshua Heath is a Valencia resident and a political science student at UCLA. He has served two terms as a delegate to the California Democratic Party.