OPINION: THE KIDS AREN'T ALRIGHT
by ANNA DAVIDSON (United Kingdom)
Issue 1.1 April 2019
Teenagers are the ones who change history. They have to be.
It’s kids with lumps in their throats, bright blue sparks in their fingertips, and purple-braced snarls screaming for equality who are the ones who achieve it, their words the upbeat crashdrum of change. Their fresh, dewy-eyed anger is the fabric of The New, tectonically shifting the political balance and tightly weaving inclusivity and diversity in the same rainbow pattern. The teenagers of today are who inspire me to change what I can. It’s young people that shed light in a polar world, that stand up against the hate and ignorance that are so ingrained in our society that people deny it is even there.
Emma Gonzalez is this for me. A seventeen-year-old who stood up, stared the whole of America straight in the face and, without blinking, said that this was it. That she wouldn’t stand for the murder of children by other children. Gonzalez, a high-school student during one of the worst school shootings in recent history, used her platform to show the dangers the US government is subjecting children to, pointing out the corruption and greed driving the problem. Despite the brutal abuse and threats she faces daily, she continues to tell her story and fight for the safety of other children just trying to get their education.
Lily Madigan, another. A transgender woman who struggled through a wall of bigotry to become, at nineteen years old, the first transgender woman to to stand as a Labour Party Women’s Officer in Britain, November 2017. A teenager who not only is an inspiration to women everywhere for her journey of overcoming barriers and taking positions of leadership, but also one who has been so unapologetically public the entire time, a formidable political force for years to come.
It’s been like this through all of history. Red-puffy-cheek-black-buzzcut-mania has paraded through WWI and WWII and rock-n-roll and punk and Vietnam and shootings, stomps back all the way back to Joan of Arc, a teenage girl who would become a saint for her sacrifice and accomplished an incredible, impossible, feat for her country, at nineteen years old. The right side of history is younger, a little wilder, a lot angrier, revealing generations of truths and plunging their swords-fists-signs into what is unjust in their country. The bash of posters and hollers for change have always been fresh faced and dark eyed, youngsters frying up solutions with their morning eggs and pouring the future into their coffee like sugar, two spoonfuls at a time.
But how do you follow teenagers like this? With such inspirations, unstoppable teenage girls who were everything the world thought they couldn’t be, how can I impact the world? Kids with footsteps that shake the surface of the Earth. Punked-out children who spoke no lies, and fought injustice with fire. It seems like a daunting task, hounded by the worry of your anger bleeding out, worn away by disappointment and cynicism until you accept the failures of society around you, giving up.The same giving up that leads to imbalanced, disproportionate voter turnout, tainting elections where people have no candidate. The giving up we must rally against.
Start small. Choose an issue. One that tightens your fists, clutches at your throat, and grates your teeth. In today’s world, you’re spoilt for choice. Choose police brutality, choose sexual assault, choose voter blocking. Rape culture, or xenophobia, or homophobia, or access to healthcare, poverty, ableism, gun control. Preach Flint, Florida, Saudi Arabia. Then change it. Write post scream shout sign create retweet share argue debate fight your way to change.
I’ve realised that being part of the change is not hard. Educate yourself and write about your issue, fight against the huge problem of a lack of education about the reality of the world. Fight the chaotic ‘fake-news’ media frenzy we seem to be stuck in. Social media is a great tool for representation, and an easy way to be part of a change is to spread knowledge of the problem’s existence. By exposing others to the same problems you care about, you are doing your part to teach, inform, and spread awareness for the world’s problems. Go to marches, wave your banner, change one person’s mind, or make one person feel represented. Create and sign petitions which change nothing, but begin to creep up on ignorance, slowly building pressure on your environment until it snaps.
Politicians will find you easy enough to dismiss. Children seeing red and letting their lungs dry out with enough and time’s up and equal and this ends here and now. It is easy for past world retirees that won’t have to live in a stunted-growth world, melting away before the ice caps but leaving a rough brown world to the rest of us, to say that it’s ‘angst’ and a ‘phase,’ you should know these are tired claims which have been used since the beginning. Hold your head high, fight with tears in your eyes, ache in your bones and raw in your voice, bigots won’t wait for you.
And so on with the new wave of vertical hair and angry music and screams. Exclamations of peace, gasps of power, progress, intelligence, shouts that spit facts and solutions in the grey face of The Old, too loud too new too fast. For our activists, young politicians, people who continue to campaign through younger and middle and older years but never stop resisting, sick of the change they want still struggling to push through. These are the people who preach the change I want to make, people who inspire the change I try to make. On with teenagers in their fierce colourful glory. On with change, we need it now more than ever.
Anna Davidson , 17, is from Edinburgh, Scotland. She loves reading, especially classic literature, which inspires her to write.