The time has come, dear readers, for the last Millennial Pulse column of the year. And what a year, am I right? The drama. The intrigue. The anxiety!
I don’t know about you, but when I look back on 2019, I’m kind of ready to heap it in the trash and set it on fire – not that I would ever set a trash can on fire, unlike my former classmates at Lakewood High School (circa 2002-2006), who seemed to think doing so was an annual right. Hot tip, high schoolers: when everyone else is protesting/lightly rioting, go to the pizza line. It’ll be extra short.
Whether it was internationally, nationally or locally, it seemed there were endless tragedies and controversies this year, from turbulent protests for freedom abroad, to increasingly inflamed political divisions throughout the country, to repeated and senseless gun violence at home in Long Beach. In short: good riddance, 2019.
I find myself pondering if my negative feelings about this year are the fault of the media, or if it really was that bad. In many ways, it seems like we’re moving backward. Like all the news is bad. Like leaving my house is a risky endeavor in itself – or perhaps that’s just the onset of agoraphobia.
Going into 2020, it’s natural to wonder what will be better, considering all the unresolved problems at play in the world today. But rather than assuming that everything will go to hell and a handbasket, perhaps it is more productive to consider how to start off the new decade on the right foot.
What can we do to ensure the 20s again will roar, rather than whimper? As the decade unfolds, Millennials ought to finally be gaining more influential traction in society as more of us are elected to office and promoted within our respective fields, so perhaps the answer is that we don’t drop the ball. Our best bet to do that is to consider what went wrong this decade – and 2019 was a pretty good encapsulation of those issues – and what we can do to turn them around (as decreed by me, Queen Sheba of Millennial Pulse, whose reach is vast and unshakeable, of course).
For the second time in the lives of Millennials, our country has endured a presidential impeachment inquiry – although last time around, I was about 10 years old, and both the substance and method of the proceedings were a bit beyond my fifth grade comprehension, if you know what I mean.
As for the current proceedings, I’m of two minds. First: Can’t we all agree that this kind of circus is bad for our country? And I hope we can all agree it’s a circus. Second: Now, whether or not it’s a necessary circus. . . . That’s what we elect Congress to figure out, and according to them, it probably is.
Moving forward, the question as to what to do when all this is over is the same one that I’ve pondered in several of these columns as our country’s political divide continues to deepen: How are we going to function as a nation when our branches of government, which are supposed to act in our best interests, are paralyzed by divergent political ideologies? And how are we going to function as a nation when those bodies are so focused on their political differences that governing has devolved into something of a Greco-Roman blood sport?
Most of our legislators in office today are Baby Boomers or Gen-Xers. Perhaps, as more Millennials enter the Capitol, our penchant to stray from party preference (according to Pew Research Center, the majority of Millennials are independents) will help mend fences and get things moving again. Heck, maybe we should really upend things and elect the only Millennial running for president, if not just for the sake of a generational power shift.
On a local level, one way Millennials can help improve politics in 2020 is by actually voting. Long Beach’s voter participation rate has been abysmal in recent elections, including the most recent special election that resulted in Long Beach Transit Boardmember Mary Zendejas winning the 1st District Long Beach City Council seat.
The first district has more than 20,000 registered voters, but only 2,723 people voted on November 5. While lower turnout is typically expected for special elections, our electorate doesn’t do so well in citywide municipal elections, either; about 13% of registered voters participated in the April 2018 city election.
Long Beach has cultivated a political machine for churning out anointed candidates. The pattern goes something like this: Mayor Robert Garcia announces his endorsement and within days most of the councilmembers and other elected officials, including our county supervisor and state assemblymember, send out their endorsements for the same candidate in quick succession. This pattern occurred most recently this year with the now State Senator Lena Gonzalez and her successor on the council, Zendejas. The same pattern is now playing out with 2nd District Candidate Cindy Allen.
All of these women are strong, capable leaders. I am not challenging their qualifications. But if it at all bothers you that our elected officials are being handpicked by the powers that be – even if you end up voting for that person – you ought to start paying closer attention to local politics and participating in elections. We need alternative voices, or the deck will continue to be stacked.
Beyond politics, the best way we can avoid totally flubbing the start of the next decade is pretty straightforward. With human rights issues flaring up around the world, most visibly at the moment in Hong Kong, and gun violence as perhaps the most pervasive danger in American society, it seems like it’s due time to stop sitting our hands and hoping these systemic societal issues work themselves out. Highlighting these issues on social media is not enough. Millennials are incredibly comfortable at communicating digitally – but we have to be sure that more of us show up in public spaces to effect change, too.