Tag Archives: Millennial Generation

Millennial Generation: Interview with James Queale

26 Jun

Many of you may recognize James’ name as a contributor to TSM.  He is a passionate advocate for social justice and he is a Millennial.

James grew up in New Brunswick, Canada in a conservative home with a Nazarene Preacher for a father.  James currently lives in  Philipsburg, Pennsylvania with his partner Tom. James is 21 years old and born during the Bush Sr. administration. Here is a chance to get to know James better.

On Coming Out: 

I came out when I was 14 and my friend asked if I was gay—which scared me and so I said I was bisexual, but then a week later I told her no, I’m just gay.  By the time I was 16 I was out to everyone except my family.  Even my teachers knew and really I did not experience any discrimination at school. I did face serious homophobia at home however.  I was watching an MTV show and my brother and I were watching a show with a gay kid who said he was gay and a Christian and then my brother and dad started the gay bashing.  I went downstairs and called my friend and I was very upset and it turned out that my dad and brother heard what I was saying. The next day my dad asked if I was struggling with homosexuality—I said I wouldn’t exactly call it a struggle and I was very scared.  But then he started crying and was talking about Jesus.  Then we got to the school and when I got out of the car I felt strangely free.  We went for two weeks without saying anything about it and then after two weeks my parents sat me down and asked what I meant when I said I was gay.  After a minute of silence I said, I like guys.  It kind of felt like they were trying to “cure” me from being gay.  Fortunately I was 16, so they could not legally force me into some type of “repairative therapy.”  From their point of view they now accept me, but from my perspective there is still room for growth.

On Politics:

I tend not to label myself when it comes to politics and religion. Labels come with baggage–baggage you may not realize is there. From a Canadian point of view, I have never chosen a party to follow. Honestly, other than knowing about our political system, I don’t pay attention too often. We have numerous parties to choose from which is nice, because I really feel that Americans are at a disadvantage because there are only two choices. Well, occasionally three, if an independent is running. Canadian politics are far less interesting than American. From an American point of view, I find myself most often relating to the Democrat side of things.

Historical Point of Reference:

9/11 was the biggest thing—by default for my generation this was a defining moment.  I think this is why immigration has become more difficult.  Now people are treated like criminals regardless. As a Canadian, I kept hearing that the terrorists came through Canada, but that did not make any sense.  I was in science class and a classmate said ‘oh the towers got hit.’ Of course, I was only 11, so it was difficult to make sense of it all.

LGBT Issues:

I was fortunate enough to have my rights as a gay Canadian by the time I was 15. Because of this I never knew what it was like to fight for rights until meeting my American partner when I was 18. Little did I know at the time that America was very behind on the equal rights front. I knew many things about America, but I had never REALLY paid attention until meeting Tom.

And this is when the predicament began. How were we going to be together with the law in our way? Well, we still have not figured this out. I can’t be here as his partner because of DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act), so we are no more than “friends.” Which is something I always tell the border guards so that I am not discriminated against or “turned away” by a homophobe. I am stuck as being a visitor because:

1. To be a student is expensive. American universities cost a lot more per year than Canadian universities. Plus, your sponsor has to have $20,000+ in the bank aside from the money I would have to have in my own bank account. And finally, you can only work on campus for no more than 20 hours a week.

2. I have no family in the US to sponsor me.

3. I do not have a “special” skill to get a company to sponsor me and hire me.

Why don’t we move to Canada? Yes, that would be cheaper and a little less tedious, but my partner has medical issues which has him reliant on his Disability. Most countries want someone who can contribute and since I am not exactly rich, I can’t sponsor him up with me.

Even if DOMA is repealed, it does not mean successful immigration. The American immigration system is broken, difficult, and expensive. I have heard numerous stories of heterosexual couples in Bi-national relationships and they have to move to their partner’s homeland instead. Like I said, that is not an option for me. So what does a young man in love do? Wait and hope.

Biggest Anxiety:

That I will not get to be with the one I love.

Biggest Dream:

1. That one day I will have a permanent home with the one I love.

2. I am an aspiring novelist and hope one day to write something good enough to get published and end up on the NYT bestsellers list. Unfortunately, I am very critical of myself and every time I start a manuscript, I throw it out and start again another time. Also, I suffer from what I call “creative ADD” so it is difficult for me to stick with one idea.

3. I hope one day to see everyone around the world treated equally and have the same rights.

Jamie, thank you for doing this interview and thank you for working so hard for social justice.

Number 4 Hero of the Year Award 2011: Zach Wahls

29 Dec

Number 4 Hero of 2011

Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to interview the very impressive and courageous Zach Wahls, who defended his two mothers in the state of Iowa.  Zach’s dedication to civil rights and his ability to stand up to a homophobic government earn him this year’s number 4 spot for Hero of the Year Award.

Zach’s moms, Jackie and Terry must be exceedingly proud of their son.  It is also nice to know that should Zach, and whoever his future wife should be, have a gay child, that child will be loved and celebrated.

FlashBack 2010: Admiral Mike Mullen earned the number 4 spot for Hero of 2010.

Wednesday Word of the Week, October 26: Epistle

26 Oct

Where is the SEND button?

This week’s word is EPISTLE

a piece of writing in the form of a letter

Over the past week, I have had two separate experiences which have caused me to ponder the value and relevance of written communication in the modern age. Both of these events are related to my work as a tutor for college students in the Boston area.

Although, at 29, I am barely a half-generation (at most) removed from most of the students with whom I work, the gap in communication strategies is wide. I willingly own a piece of this given my willful resistance to most social media, but as someone who participates in this online community and keeps in touch with many friends by email, I was surprised by how starkly the moments struck me.

The first event involved a conversation with a student about the novel Dracula. It was her first experience with an epistolary novel and she found the experience jarring. She understood the principle of writing letters and obviously knew that the Victorians had no email, but the art and value of letters as communication and persuasion was lost on her. Her entire context for communication was texting and occasionally exchanging emails. The results were immediate and the need for lengthy description and explanation was utterly absent.

Surely, she opined, the author was taking liberties with the form and no-one would ever have written letters like this in real life. This led to a fascinating discussion (and a good thesis for her paper, fortunately) about the very different requirements for communication in a pre-electronic age. Not only could weeks or even months pass between messages, but one party to the communication might well be in a place that the other would never see at all. This required a sense of description and a sensitivity to the information conveyed. It also meant that the writer of a letter had to reflect on his or her content in a way not required by modern communication tools. The result of the communication was INTIMACY

a close personal relationship; something personal or private that you say or do

not immediacy. Such reflection certainly prevented many of the consequences of thoughtless typing that we’ve seen in recent months.

The second event was a conversation with a student regarding his settling into life on campus. I asked, perhaps naively, how the transition from old friends and family to new acquaintances was going. He indicated that he hadn’t met many people outside of his roommate and casual classroom acquaintances because he was still so well connected with his friends from high school. This ought not to have shocked me, but it did. The prevalence of electronic communication (through a device always on one’s person) has evaporated the sense of DISTANCE

the fact or feeling that two people or things are far apart from each other

This student was accustomed to communicating frequently and consistently with friends by text and tweet. The physical distance matters to some extent, but the nature of the communication is not particularly jarring. Looking again at my own experience, things were quite different. I was certainly able to communicate with people via email, faster than the postal service and cheaper than the phone, but I had to be at a computer and had no expectation of an immediate response. That made electronic communication a poor second choice. As a result, I had to turn to the people around me for ENGAGEMENT

the feeling of being involved in a particular activity or group

I had left one home and was building an new community. That experience helped me mature as a person and develop new ways of thinking. The friends who remained from my life before college did so in new ways, reflecting their maturation and growth as well. Based on the conversation with the one student, I later discussed this with others whom I tutor. A significant percentage (not quite a majority) are at least as engaged with their pre-college friends as with any aspects of their new communities. This certainly provides a level of comfort and security, but it also stifles the valuable need to make the most of a new experience. One value of a college education is the development of coping and growth skills. How will people who have never truly needed to fully engage with a new environment succeed when thrust into a work situation that demands participation with new people? It will be interesting to see what employers are saying about this trend in three to five years.

Please do not misunderstand me. I believe that most modern advancement is a good thing. The abilities to maintain connections and receive rapid feedback can be worthwhile. I fear, however, that we are losing our sense of the art of communication. If all one’s friends are old friends and every message is a fixed length, where do we have room to grow as humans?

All definitions courtesy of Macmillan Dictionary Online.

Wednesday Word of the Week, August 31

31 Aug

Hurricanes in Vermont, what will they think of next?

This week’s Word is: STABILITY

a situation in which things happen as they should and there are no harmful changes – Macmillan Dictionary Online

For those of us in New England, recent climatic events have led us to question many assumptions about this concept. Storm winds and rain from HURRICANE

a severe tropical cyclone usually with heavy rains and winds moving a 73-136 knots – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Irene have wrought substantial havoc in my home state of Vermont and jarred my adopted state of Massachusetts. Dear Irene, please refer to the definition above. Vermont is not TROPICAL!

relating to or situated in or characteristic of the tropics (the region on either side of the equator) – Macmillan Dictionary Online

Flooding and power outages exceed anything most Vermonters have seen, certainly ranging beyond my nearly 30 years of experience. Fortunately, my family was 100 miles away, visiting my aunt in Amherst, Massachusetts, where the storm was felt but hardly damaging. Mom’s return to Vermont may be delayed a bit until the power is back on, but the neighbors say the family home is safe. That, at least seems to be stable.

I have had a number of reasons to think about stability recently. As I noted in May, I recently uprooted my HOME. This has been a very positive experience and has helped me move forward with my life and nascent career, but it is a tumultuous thing nonetheless.

Far more jarring was having one of the central pillars of my life shaken hard. In mid-July, my grandfather suffered a massive stroke. While he is recovering well, having this great oak of a man enfeebled by a tiny clot was a humbling experience. Granddad has been the one steady constant in my life, and I am not ready to lose that element of stability. Ironically, his need for better access to medical care is what brought him, Mom, and me to my aunt’s home in Amherst and spared us Irene’s peripatetic thundering.

As I get my career on track, I am working three different jobs (not uncommon for my generation). My sudden need to be in Braintree, Amherst, and Reading alternately for unpredictable stretches of time caused one new employer to unceremoniously jettison me as “unreliable” despite my best efforts to communicate at least daily and carry as much work with me as possible. I understand the need to run a business soundly, but a lack of compassion is a hallmark of bad business to me. Once again, stability was undermined.

As I make the most of my other two wonderfully supportive and engaging jobs, as Granddad recovers faster than he was supposed to, as we breathe a sigh of relief that our home and our neighbors weathered the storm reasonably well, I feel very lucky. I also recognize that an element of stability about which I have previously written bolsters me throughout this turmoil. I have a support system a FAMILY, upon which I can draw. Let the weather turn bizarre, let the employer have no heart, I have a stability which is steadfast and reliable.

Regular readers will not be surprised that such a turn of thought led me to ponder the great buffoons of Teabaggistan and their CANDIDATES. Ron Paul just finished assuring the nation that we didn’t need a Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Kudos to President Obama for his visit to FEMA and his vocal support of their work, now under effective management.) Rick Perry tells us that Medicaid is unconstitutional. Michele Bachmann wants to cut the minimum wage and reduce unemployment benefits, all while assuring us that earthquakes and hurricanes are God’s way of asking for a smaller Federal budget.

How dare they! The role of government is to make things better for the citizens. Huge military budgets and ghastly corporate tax loopholes don’t do that. Logjams over ideology when Americans need jobs programs don’t do that. Wasting precious revenue persecuting the LGBT community doesn’t do that. Plotting ways to remove women’s control over their own health care doesn’t do that. The programs these men and women are targeting very clearly do provide care and support.

Given my life events of the past four months, each one of those absurd claims and cuts is deeply personal, and the personal is political. Any American who believes that these Republican candidates would be a President who would look out for their best interests is seriously lacking in

a condition in which someone’s mind or emotional state is healthy – Macmillan Dictionary Online

STABILITY.

Elmhurst College Ahead of the Curve in Civil Rights

25 Aug

Embraces LGBT Students

Thank you to my friend Tim Jung for inspiring me to write this story. In the wake of the brutal murder of yet another gay teen in Iowa less than a week ago, here is a story of hope and progress. Elmhurst College in Illinois has included questions regarding sexual orientation and gender identity to their admissions application.

While students can opt out of answering the questions, those who do identify as part of the LGBT community may be eligible for a scholarship worth up to one-third of tuition.  Gary Rold, the Dean of Admissions, explains why Elmurst has included questions about LGBT identity on the admissions form :

Increasing diversity is part of our mission statement. This is simply closing the loop, in many ways, of another group who has a very strong identity. It may not be race and religion but it’s an important part of who they are.  More importantly, he said, knowing students’ sexual orientation will help officials direct incoming students toward services or groups that might help them make an easier transition to college life. We try really hard to take good care of students, have them graduate and be successful citizens in the world. The only way you do that is to meet people where they really are.

Dartmouth and University of Pennsylvania have started to include LGBT-centered activities that students can look at joining upon admission. How refreshing to see a handful of college campuses working to embrace LGBT students. What a stark contrast to the bigoted Republican Presidential candidates signing a pledge to discriminate against us and treat as sub-human, a la Bachmann whose husband goes against APA best practices with his “reparative therapy.”   I am hopeful that Millennials like Tim Jung, Lex Kahn, and Maria Khan have had enough of the fear mongering bigoted homophobic tactics of the right wing and will prove to be the generation that makes a safer environment for all people.  For those of you in the LGBT community looking for a safe school, you may want to consider Elmhurst College. Click here to read the full article.

Hero of the Week Award: August 12, Charlie Cavell

12 Aug

Hero of the Week

This week’s hero is a young man who has – at the age of 20 – already committed himself to the cause of social justice. Charlie Cavell, a social work student at Wayne State University in Detroit, isn’t content to wait until he has his degree to start making a difference in the world. Wanting to get involved with the struggling Detroit schools (where he intends his someday children to attend), he ran for a seat on the board of the city’s new charter schools. After winning the seat, he put himself for president (and was elected vice-president).

Charlie has an infectious grin and an astounding energy and enthusiasm. Not content just to work on the schools in his adopted home, he also runs a Facebook initiative, Pay It Forward, the purpose of which is

working every day to partner jobless residents of Detroit with internships at non-profit agencies around town. This helps at 3 different levels! The unemployed person, the non-profit and the new clients the non-profit is now able to serve!

He was recently profiled on NPR for his hard work and lofty goals. A great representative of the Millennial generation, Charlie Cavell is the kind of engaged champion we should hope to see far more often and a fitting recipient of the HWA.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Zach Wahls

2 Jun

Zach Wahls

Many of you may remember the name Zach Wahls; he earned a Hero of the Week Award on the TSM.  Seeing the courage of this 19 year old in Iowa made me want to interview him for the Millennial Generation Series.  I have to say that, had my husband and I had children, Zach is the type of son I would be so proud to have.  His parents, Jackie and Terry must be kvelling!  Than you, Zach.  We look forward to your many more contributions to making the world a better place for all.

Zach is 19 years old and studying in college.  He has a younger sister.  He identifies as “a lifelong Unitarian Universalist.”

Politics

I’m a registered Democrat, but am not opposed to voting for intellectually honest Republicans. My biggest frustration with politicians is not about specific policies, usually, but about whether or not the politicians are being honest about what those policies will do, why they are presenting those policies, etc. Way too much of our policy making is about emotionally-charged and intellectually dishonest claims instead of realworld problem solving. Any politician with the courage to put forward solutions–that actually solve problems, even if they’re unpopular–is worth consideration in my book.

LGBT Issues

As important as marriage equality is, I think the bigger challenge facing the LGBTQ movement is the quiet, presumed homophobia of our social interactions. The casual use of the words “faggot” “queer” and “gay” in derogatory contexts is what fuels the culture of discrimination. Once we have, as a society, gotten to the point where we’re unwilling to permit such slander, I think most of the other challenges facing the movement will resolve themselves. This isn’t to say that we don’t have to do anything–quite the contrary. Getting to that point will take a *lot* of work.

Frame of Reference

Growing up, certainly 9/11 was a defining moment, politically, for most of my generation. I also vividly remember watching keynote speeches at the 2004 GOP National Convention that viciously attacked my family and me–something you hope never to hear from your elected officials, the people who are supposed to be protecting you and representing your interests.

I’ll also never forget the day that the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that same-sex couples had the constitutionally-protected right to enter civil marriage. I don’t listen to a lot of U2, but I listened to their song, “Beautiful Day” literally all day. Restored my faith in our government.

Biggest Anxiety

People have expected big things from me my whole life, and I’ve come to expect big things from myself as well. From whence these high expectations came, I’m not entirely sure, but they’re persistent–at time frustratingly so. My biggest fear is of waking up one morning, realizing I’m 40 years old and having made no significant contribution to my community–be it local, state, national or global. I often find myself walking a fine line between “Don’t try too hard,” and “Work like you’ve got a gun to your head.” I guess this is related to the previous question as well, but I look at the world and I see lots and lots of suffering. One billion people on this planet wake up every morning without a secure source of safe, clean water. One out of six. Young gay people are about eight times more likely to commit suicide than a young straight person. This is terrifying stuff. But then I look around and see so much happiness and so many people enjoying life, and I think to myself that this is what life needs to be.

Biggest Dream

Haha, I’m not one for dreams. I’m more about what we can actually do. I did really like *Inception*, though.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’d rather make a significant contribution to something that actually mattered without recognition than canonized for doing something that didn’t matter.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Well, I think my generation is uniquely situated. I have more technological power in my cell phone than NASA had when they put a human being on the surface of the moon. I am–and if you’re reading this on a computer, you are too–a walking, breathing technological superpower. Not only that, but we grew up with this technology in such a way that it’s really second nature to us. We’ve got the capacity to advance the average human condition on this planet in immeasurable ways. Huge potential. The question is whether or not we’ll deliver. And that remains to be seen.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Tim Jung

21 Feb

Welcome to the fifth installment of the Millennial Generations Series.

I had the distinct pleasure of talking with Tim Jung, a 24 year old white male, currently in a Ph.D program for philosophy at U Southern Ill. Tim grew up Catholic and went to Seminary for two years to become a priest.  “Culturally I can’t get rid of the Catholicism, so I would identify as a progressive Catholic, but I don’t go to church anymore. I usually avoid questions about religion or God.  God is such a complicated issue especially with all the evil in the world (I say evil with a lower case e). “ While talking with Tim, one is impressed with both his intellect and his acute desire NOT to be an arrogant person, as I have omitted many of his self-effacing comments.

Politics

Politics is a bit tricky for me; it could be because I’m a middle/upper class white guy with a grad school education. It is hard for me to be sympathetic to either party.  I don’t see the Democrats as actual progressives—it is hard for me to see the differences between the two parties. I think they are both steeped in problematic dealings—I don’t hear the voices of the people. I guess the Republican Party is the more religious party.  I guess I identify myself as a progressive and that both parties are corrupt.  Republicans you know you will get screwed, and Democrats you will get screwed in a different way. I had held out a lot of hope for Obama.  There should be a better progressive party in the U.S.

LGBT Issues

I would like to say that I’m more hopeful for my generation. I think my generation has more tolerance for people with different gender issues, but there is a current of religious backlash against LGBT issues. I think it is crazy that even being supportive of LGBT issues would be considered as progressive. Being amidst the Catholic seminary and with people my age it shocks me that being gay is still an explosive issue. My hopeful statistic is that 70 to 80% of my generation would be supportive.  I don’t think that racism, homophobia, and transphobia will ever disappear. Of course, I’m not going to hang around some asshole that would not be accepting of someone gay. I don’t think it is a progressive issue. It is a very simple issue. I don’t care about your religious views, but then again I’m educated. Maybe if I had a different upbringing I would not have such a positive attitude—I don’t know how much ignorance will continue to breed.

Frame of Reference

I think 9/11 was blown out of proportion since America had never really experienced such an attack, excepting Pearl Harbor; in that respect it was a big deal–and it certainly was a tragedy that all of those lives were lost in the planes and in the towers. I don’t want to minimize the tragedy, but my point would probably be that 9/11 wasn’t as big of a tragedy when compared with the hardships of other nations–even at the hands of countries like America.

Biggest Anxiety

I don’t know. I guess my biggest anxiety is money. How am I going to have money while in grad school. There is no one prevailing anxiety. Well worrying about  friends and family—worrying about loved ones.

Biggest Dream

I don’t know. I’m trying to think, this is the hardest question for me. I can bullshit everything else because of my philosophy degree. Maybe getting some reform—but that is not my biggest dream. That I live a happy and fulfilling life would be my biggest dream, but that seems selfish– that America changes its policies and removing corporations from influencing the government. Better human rights and living conditions for everyone.  There is so much wrong with the world. There is so much it won’t ever get fixed.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I don’t know. I am going to be a teacher. I want to have a good influence over my students in a way that is not overpowering or fascist. I want to help others figure out who they are, but I want to be in the background—helping others think, and not forcing others to comply with something because I like it.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

I don’t know. I want my generation to be a little more sensible, that sounds so terrible to say, but you have these Tea partiers that don’t know what they are doing. I hope my generation never gives birth to a Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, but that is probably wishful thinking. I hope we are more willing to work with one another. That we are willing to see more sides to the picture, especially when it comes to religious views. I don’t want a preacher to tell me what the bibile says when he does not know what the word hermeneutics means. We need more education and more dialogue with each other.

 

 

 

 

Millennial Generation: Interview with Annabella Alexakis

15 Feb

Welcome to the fourth interview in the Millennial Generation Series.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking with Annabella Alexakis.  Annabella is 18 and a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College (SLC), in Bronxville, NY. She was born at the end of the Bush Sr. Administration. Annabella was raised in a secular home and identifies as agnostic.

Politics

Politics means a lot to me. Both of my parents are very opinionated. I am left leaning. I have not been able to vote yet but I keep current with everything that is going on.

LGBT Issues

I want to see complete equality.  I think it is completely ridiculous that in 2011 that we don’t have it. Especially at SLC I know a lot of lesbians that have friends that have committed suicide. It just makes me angry that gay people don’t have the same rights as straight people.

Frame of Reference

When Barack Obama was elected President, I was so ecstatic and I was so happy to see the first African American elected president; it was a huge milestone in our history.

Biggest Anxiety

My biggest anxiety is that I don’t push myself as much as I possibly can and that I don’t reach all my goals—I’m pretty ambitious.

Biggest Dream

Honestly, my biggest dream is to be happy and to enjoy my job. I know a lot of people that are not happy with what they do for a job, and I want to be satisfied with what I do for a living.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

At this point I don’t really think I know yet.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

I want us to be known for how forward thinking we are and that hopefully we get over any prejudice left in society.

Millennial Generation: Interview with Lex Kahn

13 Feb

Welcome to the second interview in the series about the Millennial Generation.

Most of you know Lex Kahn as a contributor to The Solipsistic Me. His witty and poignant Wednesday’s Word of Week post I look forward to with great zest. I am grateful for Lex agreeing to be interviewed for the Millennial Generation series.  After you read his interview, you will fully understand my exuberance in having him as a regular contributor to the blog.

Lex grew up near Reading, Vermont. His life has been contained for all of his 28 years in a small geographic area, hence his great passion for literature and wanting to expand his world. Although a Reagan baby, he still qualifies as part of the early Millennial generation. His father was Jewish and his mother was raised Methodist. While Lex certainly has the cultural literacy of growing up in a Christian world, he does not identify with any particular religion.  He did both his undergraduate and graduate work in Vermont.

Politics

Outspoken leftist. I was raised by a strongly anti-war Socialist father and a wannabe hippie mother who rebelled against her fairly straight-laced parents until she realized they were traditional but not conservative. I don’t have any patience for dogma without foundation, opinions without facts, or loud voices saying nothing.

LGBT Issues

I’m proud to be an outspoken straight ally of the LGBT community. I started out in the “so-what” camp, believing that there was no reason to care about anyone’s sexual orientation. I was actually the biggest prude in my family for years, frequently embarrassed by the frankness of my farming grandparents and very open-mined and outspoken parents. As I grew a political skin in college, I began to realize that sexual orientation and sex were two different things. More importantly, I discovered that just taking acceptance for granted would never move things forward for the gay people I cared about.

My best friend from my second week of college, Drew, has been out-and-proud since he was 16. He’s also very politically active. I credit him with much of my activism and political awakening.

I truly believe in the Kinsey scale and I also believe that some people move up and down the scale (at least a little bit) throughout their lives. I’m confident and comfortable in my choice to be heterosexual J and believe everyone should be respected wherever they fall on the continuum. As long as anyone is denied rights because of who they are or who they love, all of society is tarnished.

Frame of Reference

The most pivotal moment for me was the Bush v Gore decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court appointed George W. Bush President. The November 2000 election was my very first as a voter. I was excited and energized. Al Gore wasn’t my ideal candidate (and Sen. Lamerman was worse), but the choice for America’s future was clear. W turned out to be so much worse than we could have ever imagined. As with most of my friends, this dealt a horrific blow to our faith in democracy. Why should we engage in the political process if our efforts could be swept away by judicial fiat? Some of my acquaintances were so embittered that they still don’t vote. Fortunately, many of us recovered enough to use this moment as a catalyst for action. That was not easy.

I suspect for most of my generation (and many others born in the last half of the last century), the most pivotal event would be the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. I can’t minimize this event, but its impact on me was blunted by family circumstances. My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in August 2001 and died on November 11. It was hard to notice the world, much less respond to such huge events in the face of that kind of personal tragedy. I don’t want to trivialize the loss of life on Sept. 11, but I also think that the Supreme Court decision indirectly had at least as much impact on America. If Gore had been President, how would the actions of the next few months have differed? What would America be without the cynical posturing and illegitimate wars that W grandstanded out of our national tragedy? It’s almost too much to ponder.

Biggest Anxiety

That history is a cycle and we’ll never actually make any progress. Grant becomes Harding becomes Bush. Wilson becomes Reagan. Dred Scot becomes Citizens United. The wage gap and the decaying education system serve the powerful so effectively that I wonder if we can break the cycle. Unfortunately, the overall standard of basic comfort – even for any but the most abjectly poor – is sufficiently good to provide distractions and numb any instinct to rebel. Why protest health care repeal when American Idol is on and the fries are still hot? I see a great deal of political conscience in my peers but not a lot of will to action. Signing online petitions feels great, but it doesn’t move things forward. I hope that as the recession really ends and more of us find our paths that we can remember to be engaged and not become complacent.

Biggest Dream

Can I have two, or is that cheating?

I want to write something that really matters. I don’t know yet if it will be fiction or history, but there’s an important story brewing in me that will emerge someday. In the meantime, I enjoy honing my craft wherever I get the chance.

Even if the writing doesn’t emerge as I hope, my dream would be that when I’m in my waning years some flock of younger people will look to me and say, “That Lex, he really helped me see things in a new way.” I’m not a teacher per se, but I want to lend my words and deeds to others in some meaningful way.

I suppose that’s a selfish dream, in a way, but if I know even a small group improved themselves and their communities because of me, that would be a success.

What do you want to be known for—your indelible mark?

I’ll go back to my answer about my biggest dream here. I want my mark to be my voice. I yearn to know that something I’ve said will matter enough to this world that it will live on long after me and inspire others.

Failing that, I’d be thrilled to write an entire paragraph that is fully alliterative, no breaks.

What do you want your generation to be known for?

Despite my cynical words when describing my Grand Anxiety, I believe this generation has the ability to push the barriers and really make a difference in how the world works. We’re reasonably well educated, we have good tools; we have the opportunity to understand how things all fit together. Statistically, we don’t care about differences as much as individuality. (Meaning, I don’t care how you differ from me – by race, class, sexual orientation, and so on – as long as you respect me as an individual.) That makes us powerful forces for change if we can harness the power of that individuality in some collective way. If we can look past our immediate toys and tribulations and work together in person, we can really make a difference.

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