I (heart) Emily
By “The Observer” at the Arkansas Times, December 15, 2016
The Observer, being a known libtard, has been trying to do our part to shore up the sagging spirits of friends since the election. By making others feel like there’s some cause to get out of bed in the morning, we find reasons to rise from our own, even though there have been a peck of days since Nov. 9 when we have simply wanted to roll over when the alarm clock buzzed, remaining there even as our phone filled up with texts from The Boss, asking where in the hell we are and, if we ain’t coming back, could we please stuff the uniform through the mail slot?
A friend was in despair the other day. So, as we do, we sent her a message, along with a photo of a smiling stick figure of a girl. Here’s what we said:
This is Emily. She’s 19 years old, and has never experienced that “right on the tip of my tongue” feeling, because since she can remember, she has had access to a supercomputer in her pocket that can tell her the flight speed of an unladen African swallow in 15 seconds or less. She has never known what it is to be prejudiced, because she grew up with heroes like Beyonce and John Stewart, Bruno Mars and Michelle Obama. She has never known what it is to be homophobic, because she grew up with TV shows where several of the characters are LGBT and nobody ever makes a big deal of it, because who gives a shit? She has never known what it is to be selfish about money, because she has had it drilled into her head since kindergarten that the only thing you get from being selfish is misery and sadness. She has never known what it is to be willfully ignorant, because she has heard since grade school that the American Dream only works these days for educated people — an idea she believes in enough that she is currently burying herself in student loan debt. She has, however, known what it is to be deprived of basic health care and a living wage, because she and her friends have so often been forced to make do with part-time service jobs that offer no insurance coverage and leave them clinging to the hem of middle class by their fingernails.
This year, according to the Pew Research Center, Emily and her friends between 18-29 almost matched the Baby Boomers as the largest demographic block of voting age U.S. citizens: 69.2 million Emilys versus 69.7 million Boomers. By the time we vote for president again in 2020, the Emilys will have handily surpassed the Boomers. Meanwhile, Emily’s racist, sexist, high-school-edjumacated-and-proud-of-it Uncle Bob, who has been posting “Trumped That Bitch” memes all over Facebook since Election Day, is 60 years old, and walking to the graveyard on a path made of crushed Milwaukee’s Best cans and tater chip bags. The Uncle Bobs are shuffling off into oblivion, down from a voting age peak of 72.9 million in 2004 and falling like a rock ever since. His slice of the electoral pie gets smaller every moment of every day, while Emily’s slice grows and grows. While Uncle Bob bought into the con that Trump is going to Make America Great Again, Emily sees nothing great about looking back longingly on the economic bounty of a past she largely missed out on and which would have institutionally excluded her, her LGBT friends, her disabled friends and her friends of color from reaching their dreams.
A few days after the election, I saw a map which showed that had solely the votes for president cast by millennials been counted this year, the only states Trump would have carried were Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Alaska, New Hampshire, Maine and Oklahoma. And while you might be shaking your head right now, muttering the conventional wisdom that young people don’t vote, a Rock the Vote poll conducted before the election shows that 83 percent of Emilys are registered. We just have to give her someone to vote for.
Emily understands that her grandma, grandpa, mom, dad and Uncle Bob have royally screwed up this time. She knows the stakes. So if Emily and her friends can get some time off from their two part-time jobs and the cars they have put off replacing because they are drowning in student loan debt will start on Election Day 2020 — and, of course, if we can give them somebody to believe in and hope for in 2020 rather than just another left-center DemBot — Emily is coming to save us all.
Keep the faith, sister. Teach the children well. A change is gonna come.
Photograph of my daughter and her husband, taken in December 2014 by Justin Casanova.