other so-called Generation Xers, I have spent my entire
political life shivering in the shadow of the '60s. On
the one hand, I'm awed by the extent to which the '60s
generation in its youthful heyday was able to destabilize
the government and change some laws. On the other hand,
if I meet one more old head who attempts to rein in young
militants with a statement about how he"marched with King,"
I'm gonna hurl.
you ask me, it's way past time for the new generation
to step out into the warm sunshine of our own achievements.
The old school certainly deserves respect, but I hardly
ever hear its members--or any Gen Xers, for that matter--giving
props to the new jacks.
political history of our generation, which includes people
in their 20s to early 30s, began in one of the toughest
political periods imaginable: the Reagan-Bush deep freeze.
Yet Gen X activists during that time launched successful
struggles to support revolutionary movements in both South
Africa and Central
America. Nelson Mandela is president of South
Africa in part because
of us. And by calling for an end to the nuclear menace,
we kept the world's attention on the arms race while Ronnie's
finger was on the button.
X activists maintained a 10-year offensive to make college
campuses less hostile to "outsiders" and successfully
won or defended multi-cultural academic programs. We mobilized
for peace on the streets through the gang-truce movement,
and made the nation aware of environmental injustices.
Gen X optimism and commitment fueled the tidal wave of
volunteer community-service projects, such as Citycorps
and Americorps, that swept the
country in the early 1990s. In 1990, members of our generation
mobilized opposition to the Persian Gulf war,
and it was the creative theatrics of Gen X activists in
ACT UP that helped put the AIDS epidemic on the national
politics far outstrip the classic 1960s agenda of civil
rights, women's rights, and peace. We also passionately
support queer liberation, the rights of people with disabilities,
community control of police, human rights for immigrants,
and sustainable ecological development. We use technological
innovations to raise our voices above the mass media din,
and we eagerly embrace cultural celebration and spiritual
renewal. If you compare our track record to that of the
baby boomers after the 1970s, it's hard to see why anyone
would call us slackers.
Van Jones,reprinted with permission
from the September/October 1996 issue of the magazine
Third Force : Issues and Actions in Communities of
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