If I’m being completely honest, it’s pretty easy to feel hopeless as a 20-something-year-old college-going person in this day and age. I hate to start an article like that, but it’s true. There’s a lot that we’re dealing with.
I am 22 years old in 2022, and the Earth is warming. Ice caps are melting. Species are going extinct and a pandemic rages on.
I am 22 years old in 2022, and countries are warring and bombing. National parks are hiding places for women’s bodies, and people are murdered for the color of their skin, for the beliefs they hold, and for loving who they love.
I am 22 years old in 2022, and I have just witnessed two Nazi demonstrations near my school and home in Orlando, Florida.
Now, I never really believed that anti-Semitism was a relic of the past, the same way that racism, sexism, and homophobia still manage to thrive today. However, seeing a group of people stand so confidently on the busiest overpass in the city, saluting a dead dictator and chanting some of the most horrific slurs you could think of makes me sick to my stomach.
I am 22 years old in 2022, and I have seen flags boasting a symbol of mass genocide freely waving over I-4.
I see the people they hurt with their actions and words every day, and so do you. Jewish people have already seen so much loss and hatred — to be forced to relive that trauma or even be accused of believing in a time in history that “didn’t happen” is revolting.
And yet, we still face these struggles today. Some people say that speaking out against extremist groups is “giving them attention” and that there is no point in doing so. The truth is, even if we don’t give hateful people attention, they will continue to spread harmful rhetoric and perform heinous acts. Our ignorance does not, and should not, give us any peace, nor does it do us any favors.
What should bring us peace is knowledge.
You know where you have been, and you know your ancestors had known that too. We have records and history books and museums filled with artifacts of years ancient and recent, documenting the struggles that our people have lived through and the truth of their lives. We have data and statistics ready at our disposal. We have a social responsibility to remember where we came from and educate ourselves when we are unsure or forgetting. We should inform others, as well. This is how we learn to move forward.
For this to work, we also need to be willing to learn and accept others’ truths. Just because you have not lived through something personally does not mean you cannot empathize with others. Also, having an opinion that you want to believe really badly does not mean you get to ignore the facts that don’t serve your bias.
What if we want to ignore all of the hate in the world, willing it to go away?
It won’t. Sydney Harris once said, “History repeats itself, but in such cunning disguise that we never detect the resemblance until the damage is done.”
We need to know more, speak louder, and do better. We can not be complacent. What I saw on the I-4 overpass recently is not something I’d ever dream of staying silent about, and I wish for there to be a point in my life where such demonstrations indeed are stories of the past.
I am 22 years old in 2022, and I am, at most times, pretty hopeless.
I am 22 years old in 2022, and I do have hope that one day my generation will stomp out the fires that continue to stifle us today.