In the aftermath of the apocalyptic violence that engulfed the people of the world during the Great War from 1914 to 1918, the children of Europe returned home from the trenches, beaten and shattered, languishing in the misery they had endured.
The broken and fallen would come to be known as the Lost Generation.
As members of the Millennial generation, we were raised by parents who enjoyed the highest standard of living of any generation, their parents having secured it for them after surviving the Great Depression and then uniting behind flag, faith and country to defeat the Axis powers in World War II.
The by-products of those two generations in American history helped usher in an era of global stability and international diplomacy, as well as racial equality and sexual freedom. Our parents and their parents before them each carved out a slice of the American pie and helped define our nation today.
The onus remains on us as a generation to now make our mark on the American experience.
Yet in America today, a place of plenty and prosperity, our generation seems to deny the burden of our birthright and rejecting the task at hand. At a time of great peril and panic, there seems to be no real urgency to determine what exactly ails the state of our union and people.
We live during a time of unbounded prosperity for some, alongside unprecedented income insecurity for others. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported on Sept. 9, 2009 that two-thirds of the nation’s total income gains from 2002 to 2007 went to the top 1 percent of U.S. households. Wealth distribution is more unequal than at any time since the Gilded Age of the 1920s.
We live in a time when constitutional liberties shrink in size and scope as our nation’s weapons and wars grow by leaps and bounds.
David Carr, a media and cultural reporter for The New York Times, recently reported that the Obama administration, after vociferously criticizing President Bush for his frequent usage of signing statements and unwarranted wiretapping of U.S. citizens, has cited the antiquated Espionage Act of 1917 — originally written into law by Congress to prevent internal dissent during WWI.
They have issued a record number of injunctions toward American investigative journalists and government employees in order to prevent whistle-blowers from exposing federal corruption and abuse.
And with the gutting of our national infrastructure and industries comes the glutting of our supermax prison farms that now incarcerate millions of U.S. citizens who constitute what is quickly becoming a new underclass in American society today.
The New Yorker recently chronicled the skyrocketing incarceration rate in a frightening exposé piece detailing life behind bars inside America’s growing penal colony. In 1980, approximately 220 people for every 100,000 languished in prison; that number rose dramatically to 731 in 2010.
These are the causes of our day: to rid ourselves of the military-industrial-congressional complex and national security state that arm our young abroad and incarcerate our poor at home, to undo the harm decades of disastrous economic policy have done to our nation’s under- and working classes and to restore the freedoms to our citizens that our republic demands us to defend.
We remain as lost as the children of old Europe were before us, wallowing in a world plagued by inequities and injustices. Until we find our cause worth fighting for, there is no better description for our time here on Earth.