Our modern political climate is a hell of a thing. It seems that no matter what you say or do, someone accuses you of being on the “other side” of the political spectrum. I recently wrote an op-ed in The Hill about how we need more Millenials in public service, and how too often I hear my peers complaining about the government without any intention of trying to help fix whatever problem their experiencing. Within an hour of it being published, there were already over 500 angry comments raging in all sorts of directions. Some people were shouting Democrats vs. Republicans, some focused on Baby Boomers vs. Millennials, and others focused on privilege vs. poverty. None, it seemed, actually read and responded to my opinion.
Since this was the first time I’d set off a troll fight due to my writing, I reflected on what I could’ve changed to be less offensive, or maybe less harsh. In reality though, I was pretty mild in my views and it confused me how it could have made people so angry. Eventually I realized, however, that writing is not about the writer. It’s always about the reader.
People identify themselves in everything we see, hear and read
The reason the best story-tellers in the world capture our attention is because they put us at the heart of the conflict. Whether it’s about hardship, perseverance, anger, or happiness, we the reader/viewer/listener are drawn in when we see ourselves in the story. As I was reflecting on what I had written, and my confusion to the response, I recognized where every argument was being drawn from my words.
Democrats vs. Republicans
To the people who were in the Democrats vs. Republican rants, I wrote a call to action about joining the government and not relying on elected officials. Of course, at this time, nearly everyone in the U.S., and likely the world, feels affected by the U.S. elections and political in-fighting.
Millennials vs. Baby Boomers
In the middle of the Millennials vs. Baby Boomer rants, I had called out specifically for Millennials to step up and join public services. This re-opened the debate about Baby Boomers ruining the economy and careers of Millennials and about Millennials being the whiny/lazy generation (we’re not). Of course, I recognize my call to Millennials to join public service puts the burden on a younger generation to step up and take the mantle from our predecessors – but this has to happen every generation. Transition is never easy, but we have to do it.
Privilege vs. Poverty
And to those embroiled in the privilege vs. poverty debate, we live in a time of severe discrepancies between rights and quality-of-life between racial, social, and economic groups. My call was specifically to Millennials who work in Silicon Valley and complain about the government to step up and join public service. Inherently that subset of people is among the more privileged in the U.S.
As an aside, everyone needs to read "So You Want to Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo. It's the primer on racial inequality that everyone needs to read.
I stand beside my call to Millennials to join public service
Despite the challenging feelings we are all experiencing in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 elections, and the most challenging job market in decades, we need to make sure we have fresh perspectives coming into government. Public service at all levels – local, state, and federal – can be frustrating. Hell, it will be frustrating. But that’s where the most impact can be had. Small progress in public service has an outsized impact on our country.
Join in whatever way you think fits you best. If you want to teach in your local public schools, that’s public service. If you want to fight wildland fires, that’s public service. If you want to serve your country in uniform in the military or public health corp, that’s public service. There’s no single way to do it, but we need more Millennials willing to step up and serve their communities and their country.
This call is not because we lack motivation or ambition to do good things, but because this is the time of transition for our generation. Our country will not be the same as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, and it will be time for Millennials to take significant leadership roles across all of our communities and our country.