Karen Herzog | contributor
Note: Karen reached out to me after my short segment on CNN regarding a post-election protest The Fourth Wave organized. She messaged me on Facebook, asking me for solace and advice — but more importantly, as she repeated to me on the phone later that day, she asked me, “What do we do now?”
I wasn’t sure how to respond — I’m a senior in college, let alone an able, white, straight, cisgender woman with significant socioeconomic advantages. I felt unqualified to answer this question in response to a well-spoken, passionate woman who had just told me that she has been an activist and journalism professor fighting for equality her entire life. “The Boomers are there for you,” she told me.
As I rushed off to class, I hung up with Karen, considering perhaps the only hint of hope (at least the only one that wasn’t followed by a nauseating wave of white guilt) I’d had since election night — this fight is multigenerational. Including baby boomers and now generations X, Y (millennials), and Z, even if only half of us are committed to ending injustice, the number of allies ready for action is immense.
Though I am aware that the outcome of the election is much less paralyzing for me than for those of you who are not in positions of privilege, my conversation with Karen is something I often return to when I feel hopeless, or like my actions aren’t making a difference, or like nobody is listening to me or my comrades. I hope you can find solace in her words, and remember that even though it is our generation’s time to act, the multigenerational support we have will aid us in this fight.
— Zoë Hannah, editor-in-chief
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
— Preamble to the Declaration of Independence
When our forefathers, largely white Puritan males, came to America, women and slaves could not vote. In 1776, when the Constitution was signed, it stated that all men are created equal, but those words only existed in a male-dominated world. However, freedom of speech, the right to assemble, and free press opened new gates for further interpretations. After a gruesome war that divided our nation, Lincoln freed slaves in 1862, and subsequently in 1870, Congress passed the 15th amendment that gave African-American men the right to vote. Fifty years later, after countless demonstrations, the gates opened again, granting women the right to vote — and all hell broke loose. The Roaring Twenties, flapper women, and prohibition that lead to the Great Depression in the 1930s, and in the ‘40s women experienced work outside the home for the first time. It was the most patriotic period for our country — World War II.
While men went to war, women worked in factories, and when the war ended and the men came home, women resumed their roles of housewives, creating a period of disillusionment. After the war, there was an economic boom, but also a dark period in the ‘50s known as McCarthyism, which eventually brought on the Cold War with Russia, leading to a period of unrest. There were horrific assassinations of our beloved leaders — President John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy — and our country was in shock.
But it was the Boomer generation, the youth at this time of unrest, shock, and fear, who reacted and demonstrated for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, and helped the gate to open again. In 1963, the Civil Rights Act passed; the gates stayed shut until after a major Bush Recession, and reopened when President Barack Obama was elected. During his administration, the gates almost opened the whole way, when the Supreme Court guaranteed “Same Sex Marriage.” And today, just as we were looking to an agenda for higher living wages, working with other countries to deter climate change and environmental issues, and offer free public college education, the gate swung shut on Nov. 9, with no signs of reopening.
We voted, but our Electoral College system brought us a racist, misogynist, and xenophobic man for president. Half of the country did not want this. How did this happen? Obstructionism to many of President Obama’s bills, interference by the FBI and WikiLeaks to the awakening of racist tendencies buried for years, and middle class angst, which was mainly from jobs lost to outsourcing and technology.
The country elected a business mogul, thinking he might provide jobs. But the real success achieved by the Republican Party was in its ability to keep the Supreme Court out of President Obama’s hands, thus protecting the conservative seat vacated by Anthony Scalia. This Supreme Court would also protest the Citizen United decision, which ensures businesses the right to undisclosed candidate donations and keeps business regulation and taxes down and controls elections. This 2010 decision was the single most important issue that changed how our country’s politics are run. Citizen United must be defeated. This one, significant law is how conservatives win all over the nation. In simple terms, the Republican Party is solely for big business profits. And since Citizen United, this law has had a yin and yang effect concerning our country’s political outcomes. This Supreme Court rule changed it all.
What can millennials do? Organize peaceful Demonstrations if you see ANY injustices occurring. Call and write letters to Congress (phone calls get more results), get involved and donate to groups who fight for causes you are passionate about, especially when they protect rights that may be taken away in the coming months. Vote, vote, vote! Forty-four million people did not vote in the 2015 election. This must change.
As a Baby Boomer, who fought for the Civil Rights Act and pro-choice, someone who was married to a man who went to Vietnam, I am part of a generation who watched civil rights and political leaders murdered fighting for a better America. Our demonstrations resulted in many of the civil liberties extended to you today. And now with the Supreme Court ruling on “Same Sex Marriage,” the gate is almost open. Do not let it close. We are closer than ever to realizing what our forefathers wrote: Equality for all.
The morning after the election, I was in shock. I went to bed thinking I was going to have a woman president, and woke up to a President-elect who espouses fear, hate, and disrespect to minorities, and to military. A man who has never held any political office. A man who said he would clean the swamp, but jumped into the swamp. Many of my Boomer friends from all over the country cried. We cried because we may never see a woman president in our lifetime. We cried for all the injustices that this new administration will send our way. We cried because once again, our country elected a man who wants to rewind back to a time when only the white man ran this country.
We, the Boomers pass this to you:
Peaceful demonstrations and the right to organize are the basic rights of our democracy and the foundation of every movement that has brought change to our country. It a way of releasing anger and frustration and showing the world you strongly object with what is happening. Like the Boomers in the sixties who disagreed with political policy, we learned there is great strength in numbers and that the real work begins after the demonstrations subside.
Become a true activist. Read books — classics and historical nonfiction, books that make you think and reflect about all societies both present and past. Voice your opinions in classrooms, go to political discussions, get involved with a political party and debate issues. Recognize that Facebook and Twitter have no restrictions on articles posted, and in many cases, are incorrect and unvetted. Help bring back print objective, accurate, credible journalism. Read newspapers from all over the world. Demonstrations make a statement, but the real work begins after. As Bernie Sanders stated, “Run for office.”
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Boomer generation has tried to confront those in our government who do not care about global warming, but time is running out. Our earth is now yours and you must fight to protect it. Work hard to get rid of Citizen United and end or redefine the Electoral College. Popular vote should determine the winner of our presidential elections not this antiquated system started by Alexander Hamilton in order to include rural areas. Fight to get rid of privatization especially in health care and student loans which will strap you for decades.
Do not give up. Do not let this racism and hate change this great country.
You, millennials, are our country’s newest beacons, leaders who will make changes in our great country. I encourage you to fight for what is right. Your youth and energy is our hope. Make the changes needed to keep the gate open.
We are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too.
— President Barack Obama
We, the Baby Boomers, in solidarity, now pass the torch to you.
Karen Herzog is a retired 35-year journalism and film teacher from in Miami, Florida. She now lives in Ocala, Florida, where she writes poetry and screenplays, and is currently writing a mystery novel. She has taught at Miami-Dade College and on the graduate level at the University of South Florida. Herzog holds the following degrees: BA in Fine Arts from Florida State University, BA in English and MS from Florida International University, an MFA in Communications from University of Miami, and an MLS from the University of South Florida. Her interests include reading, politics, film, social issues, painting, and photography.