Service is not just a Catholic thing!

by Anonymous (b. 1982)
I have read a lot of posts about religion on this site. One in particular struck me because I felt so much in common with the author. Kate likens herself to others in her generation by virtue of the following: she feels “personally responsible for making a difference in the world.” In the same paragraph, she attributes this feeling of social responsibility to her Catholic upbringing and describes this feeling, this “calling,” as inseparable from her faith. 
As Kate points out, this feeling is something that is common to many members of our generation (at least common to those with whom I regularly interact, which I must admit is a very specific liberal-minded, highly educated, and predominantly coastal/urban subset). It is even something that feel defines “us” as GenY. If so many of us feel this sense of responsibility regardless of our religious upbringing or personal faith, how can that feeling be tied so tightly to Catholicism?
I am Jewish, and I spent a long time attributing my sense of social responsibility to my identity as a Jew. More than to the tenets of Judaism or to my personal faith, I attributed it to the culture of Judaism, a culture that every year on Passover implores every Jew to say out loud that he/she was personally spared from a lifetime of slavery under an Egyptian Pharaoh some 3000 years ago. I also attributed it to some sort of survivor syndrome based on the fact that I grew up with a very acute awareness of the Holocaust as something that could just as easily have happened to me. This led me to identify very personally with victims of injustice. It inspired me, drove me, and on occasion consumed me, with public service projects and to the pursuit of a Medical Degree. I even made the choice to be a orthopedic surgeon in part because that is how I feel that I personally am most capable of contributing.
If Kate attributes her sense of social responsibility to Catholicism and I attribute mine to Judaism, then maybe something else entirely is happening. Maybe rather than looking to our respective religions for moral and ethical guidance, we are bringing our own moral and ethical perspectives to our religions. For as long as religion has been practiced, it has been used by its followers as those followers see fit. So why is Kate’s sense of social responsibility so inseparable from Catholicism? Maybe it's only because she happened to be born Catholic. Maybe, she would feel that way no matter which religion or culture she was born into.
I believe, and I hope, that we are entering an era of post-religious moral and ethical codes in this country. I believe this is possible because we are each exposed to so many different religions and cultures. As a result, we are developing a collective consciousness that supersedes our religious upbringings. The influences on our personal ethics and morality have perhaps increased in number as compared with previous generations due to diversification of individual regions and due to the exposure to different lifestyles and value systems provided to us by the media. For example, my parents grew up in Jewish neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn and interacted primarily with Jewish classmates at local colleges whereas I and the majority of everyone I know grew up in diverse towns and did not associate primarily with peers of their own religious upbringing in college.
After roughly 18-25 years of all this external input, I chose what I consider to be the “best” of Judaism (at least for me) and made it my own. Kate seems to me to have done the same with Catholicism. We also both dismissed, or at least tried to dismiss, those aspects of our respective religions which did not suit our belief systems. The specifics of how this came to be is better suited for a political scientist than a surgeon-in-training, but the result to me seems to be this: we are bringing moral and ethical codes to our understanding of what it means to have religion rather than the other way around.

Yale: The decline of the bluebloods...

by Keith Stagg (b. 1983)

I am a graduate student at Yale. When people learn this for the first time, they assume one of two things. First they might look up to my intellectual stature, treating me as one would William Shakespeare or Isaac Newton upon first acquaintance: an archetypical broad-shouldered giant. The second reaction is to see me as a privileged Yankee, a robber baron member of the Ivy League. My old friends from Oregon and New Mexico would be amused by these caricatures, as am I.

Knowing that I do not fit these stereotypes often leads those friends to assume that I do not fit in here, but that too is a logical fallacy. I fit in well, for neither stereotype describes more than a very few in the student body. The students here are generally intelligent, but certainly not giants. Anyone from my obscure undergraduate school in eastern Washington State would feel comfortable in classroom discussions at Yale. That is not surprising, but the extent to which the second stereotype is wrong, is mindblowing.

This past fall I attended a research seminar for the thirty students pursuing Masters of Science degrees at the Yale School of Forestry. The culmination of the class was a “grant panel” in which we evaluated and ranked each person’s proposed thesis research. The top five projects were denoted with names in dark black marker on yellow sticky notes placed above the others.
Anna Pickett. Francisco Espinosa. Fauziah Fakhrunnisa Rochman. Caitlin O’Brady.
Not a single white male. And the top pick, the most distinguished of our Privileged Yankee Elite? That honor went to Fauziah, a soft spoken Muslim woman from Indonesia.
A generation before ours, this might have made the paper. Yet among our generation, no one seemed to notice that the most blue blood of schools was an institution that has grown beyond its ignoble beginnings.

And now for something completely different: A profile of a Gen Y Driving Vigilante

by Zach Blattner (b. 1982)

There are legitimate reasons for using your horn. Most often, rational human beings reserve their honking for situations of imminent peril – a car is about to move into their lane or someone is about to back into them. In these cases, instinct – by way of a honk – takes over. We honk because we have no other choice.

There are other moments when the horn is used without a clear safety purpose. Say, for instance, someone hasn't realized the light has changed from red to green. This is a honk of awareness with ensured understanding on both sides; the honker is communicating to the honkee that he needs to drive. Another good reason for honking is to say "goodbye" to a group of people close by or to a car that was leading you onto the freeway in a new neighborhood. I'm sure there are other appropriate honking situations as well. In fact, it seems rather simple to delineate between well-intentioned, helpful honks and useless, mean-spirited ones. Or so it would seem.

I only realized recently that a close friend of mine (a bright friend) struggles with this dichotomy. He honks at cars who he believes have committed any sort of driving misconduct. His reason is simple: education through shame.

These unfortunate drivers may be unfamiliar with an area and are therefore driving slower than his acceptable traffic flow. They may have left their blinker on longer than he deems appropriate. They may find themselves in an only left hand turn lane. They may be the old, the sick or the young. He does not discriminate nor contemplate the effectiveness of even a short, quick beep. Instead, he "really slams the horn – that's what it's made for". When asked about his long term objective, he responds that "maybe next time they won't stall in traffic or try to nudge into a shorter toll line."

So I've labeled him a driving vigilante, a man on a mission to right the wrongs of the road with no regard for his own appearance. Like any conflicted super-hero, he isn't overly concerned with public opinion, or the conventional wisdom that honking probably doesn't teach those drivers anything, other than that he is an ass. His vision is a world with better drivers who continually improve – through tragedy and suffering – until they eventually become the Nietzschean ubermensch.

I think I might start honking more.

A Gen Yer argues AGAINST change

As a whole, older generations know Generation-Y as the "ME" generation. In the eyes of many Millennials, if something isn't suitable for us, we change it to be more suitable to our own personal preferences. Millennials have been raised this way. Our parents told us, "Do whatever makes you happy," or, "You can do anything you want." These are both stellar ideals, even in a less than ideal world.

There are things that some of us can't do. People with serious physical limitations can't perform the duties of a firefighter. Becoming an EMT may not be a good choice for someone with an aversion to blood. Women can not become Catholic priests.

I, like probably most young, politically liberal Catholics, am asked by my non-Catholic and Catholic friends alike for my opinion on the last scenario. Why shouldn't there be women priests? I don't know the entire theological argument for this point, but I am a firm believer in the Church's position: I don't ever want to see female priests.

Society has changed for the better in the past forty years. Women are a major part of the workforce. Men are increasingly staying at home. But even with these changes in society, men and women remain different.

Women received an incredible gift in the beginning with the ability to carry children in the womb. It takes incredible mental and physical strength to see a pregnancy to completion. Though it may seem sexist, I think women are stronger than men and better suited for childbirth. I know I couldn't handle the pain inherent in childbirth.

I believe that pregnancy is a gift because of a difficult personal loss my wife and I experienced two years ago. We lost our son, Joseph Michael Koutsoufis, stillborn at full term.

I envy the woman's role in pregnancy because my wife spent forty quality weeks with Joseph, nurturing his growth inside her. She carried and protected him until the last week. Other than feeling him kick occasionally, my only contact with Joseph was after he passed. I cradled Joseph's lifeless body in my arms. I ran my fingers through his rust colored hair. I swabbed blood from his lips because his skin started to decompose in the womb. I sat in the front pew for his funeral Mass trying unsuccessfully to be a rock for my family. I knelt at Joseph's casket graveside and said good bye.
by Daniel Koutsoufis (b. 1982)

I often wish that I had that nine months with Joseph, but I'm happy that my wife did instead. She deserved that personal experience. As Far Eastern traditions teach us, life is about balance; Yin and Yang. As Catholicism teaches us, women can choose to sacrifice their bodies for the life of a child, while men can sacrifice having children for the privilege of becoming a Catholic priest. Balance.

Catholic society has existed in roughly its current form for two millennia, emerging from the contemporaries of Christ. Gen-Y is an incredible group of people. But, who are we to think that we should be able to change apostolic tradition just because we don't agree with it? When did our opinions become more important than those of Saint Peter and Saint Paul? The Catholic Church changed enough as a result of the Second Vatican Council. Let's leave well enough alone.

Roadblocks on the road to change: Why I am not (yet) all I could be

by Kate Henley Long (b. 1982)

Millennials believe that we, like the civil rights activists and suffragettes who were pictured on our classroom walls, can be agents of change. We volunteer at a high rate and, according to academic studies and market research, we're "civic-minded and socially conscious as individuals, consumers and employees." And to prove (to older generations, and perhaps also, to ourselves) that we could, as a generation, rally for change, we turned out and voted overwhelmingly for Obama's change agenda in November. We believe we're capable of anything, including making change anywhere we sense the presence of unfair limits on ourselves and society.

I fit squarely into this demographic. I've been involved in community service and social justice initiatives since high school. Not only do I, like my peers, feel "personally responsible for making a difference in the world,", I would even go as far as to describe this feeling as a calling, one that is inseparable from my Catholic faith. Catholic teachings on interconnectedness, responsibility for each other, and the evils of poverty and oppression are at the core of my worldview. Following this call, I spent a year after college working as a Catholic youth minister and then, as I had hoped to do since my sophomore year, I began my Master of Divinity at Harvard, which I completed this past June.

But in discerning what "ministry" means for me, I have hit so many roadblocks. However, within my faith tradition, as a woman, and as a queer person, most of the more traditional ministry options are closed to me." And while I loved working with middle school youth in my one formal "ministry" job, I felt spiritually constrained, and even stifled, by the Church. Every time I bit my tongue rather than give an honest answer to a student's heartfelt question about Church teaching on sexuality, every time I left out information or intentionally misrepresented myself to avoid coming out to my faith community, every time I gave up in another pointless and exhausting conversation about women's ordination, it felt like pieces of my faith were being chipped away. Maybe it's the inevitable outcome of a change-minded Millennial coming into contact with an old, slow-to-change institution like the Roman Catholic Church, but being in an environment that I feel so strongly needs change, and yet being unable to do anything to effect that change, is suffocating.

So what do I do? I know I can't change the institutional Church on this point. How then, do I even begin to make change in the world, and change in the Church, to make it a place where queer kids don't feel an ounce of self-loathing and queer adults aren't made to feel sinful, alone, and silenced? As a result, the way I engage my faith in the world - my "ministry" - takes strange and new forms. I choreograph politically minded dance theatre that deals with queer and Catholic issues. I write, and I write, and I write. I talk to anyone who will listen, and even when nobody is listening, about these things about which I am passionate, and by which I am driven. I don't go to Mass very often, and while I mourn that loss, I know I can't do good work feeling constantly worn-down and weary.

I suspect that, among Millennials, I'm not alone in feeling frustration with the seeming stagnancy of my faith tradition. Will this make us a less religious, or less faithful generation? Or will we produce new ways of engaging with our spirituality and religious beliefs, redefining what it means to be religious?

Kate Henley Long has her MDiv from Harvard University and is, among other things, a queer Catholic. She refuses to feel sinful, alone, or silent, and in fact has a lovely circle of queer Catholic friends with whom to make lots of noise.

No, God is not dead

This post is in particular response to Patrick Mongeau’s recent post, “Is God Dead?”

by Ingrid Rodrick Beiler (b. 1981)

The title of Patrick’s post of course alludes to Friedrich Nietzsche’s famous quote, “God is dead,” which first appeared in print in 1882, one hundred and two years before Patrick was born. I will leave it to those better educated in philosophy than me to elaborate on the meaning of the quote. My point in citing its date of origination is simply to highlight that the idea of religion’s imminent disappearance is not new.

While I agree with Patrick that a large segment of our generation in the United States and the Western world has concluded that all faiths or religions are in essence the same, I think the prediction that these views will soon hold sway among everyone overlooks the diversity of our generation.

First, to my own experience with faith: While some Christian denominations are losing many of their young members, evangelical congregations and ministries tend to be very young. At my own church, I estimate that half or two-thirds of the members are in their thirties or younger. My previous church experiences have been similar—and these have been in Norway and Massachusetts, that is, solidly outside the Bible Belt. Moreover, evangelical denominations in general are experiencing growth in the United States and elsewhere. I state this not as an endorsement of everything evangelicalism represents, simply as evidence of a trend.

Second, to my experience with friends and acquaintances: Through a friend who is a French Muslim studying in DC, I have had the opportunity to attend some Muslim student events locally. Representing immigrants and native-born Americans, these students may interpret their religion in varying ways but continue to identify as distinctly Muslim. At least the ones I know personally also hold onto Islam as uniquely true rather than equal to all other faiths. In addition, as an ESL teacher who lives in a primarily Latino neighborhood, I meet many Catholics, young and old, who help to sustain their local congregations. Latinos are of course a growing demographic, who play a significant role in shaping American Catholicism.

So, in conclusion, I don’t think we have seen the last of religion defined by distinctive beliefs. While religious beliefs and institutions will continue to evolve in the 21st century, I don’t expect Nietzsche’s declaration to reach fulfillment in this century any more than it did in the last.

Ingrid Rodrick Beiler is an adult ESL teacher and M.A. TESOL student, who lives in Washington, DC. She is from Oslo, Norway, and Chelmsford, MA.

Is God Dead?

This post is the first in an occasional series about Millennials and faith, or lack thereof. I am actively working to enlist multiple viewpoints on this issue, so if you feel yours is not yet represented, please submit a new post on the matter to! [FYI: One of our regular posters, Kate H Long, regularly posts about being young, female and Catholic on the Blog From the Pews in the Back. Check it out in our blogroll.]

by Patrick Mongeau (b. 1984)

My television has shown and shouted to me more than once some variation of the phrase, “The Future Is Now.” Whether it was used to promote a new brand of four-blade razors or advanced technology in surround sound, it’s a pretty regularly received message for all of us. If now is the future, though – what is tomorrow?

I have no answers, but a few ideas. If you ask someone my age about the end of the world, they will likely say, “Do you mean 2012?” It’s a well-known fact among Millennials that the year is signified to be the end of times on a Mayan calendar.

There are several other myths to back up the nearing of the end. The Catholic Church puts the faces of the pope in a circle around the dome of St. Peter’s basilica. After the current pope, there will be one space left. Ominous, no? I’ve heard other tidbits, though I forget them.
The shift that I predict will not be great and destructive, but constructive and sanctifying. I believe that there will soon be a major shift in the way the world thinks about God. No longer will we believe that different constructs of the universe are mutually exclusive. Instead, we’ll see that they are inclusive in many surprising ways. Faith is faith is faith.

Take the example of an all-encompassing power:

In Judaism, Muslim, and Christianity, there is a human-like deity which knows and sees and creates all. Yahweh, Allah, and God.

Eastern forms do not humanize the energy. Chi and Zen are energies that bond and form all things.

When there is a non-humanized power, the religion often names humanized spirits to deliniate properties of matter and explain phenomena. Theologians draw your eye to the differences, calling one thing “Monotheism,” and the other, “Polytheism.” The constructs are the same, only the side of the equation (energy = matter) which is humanized has changed.

Both views show surprising agreement with Science, which simply dehumanizes both sides of the equation.

One day, paradoxically, the Future will be in the past, and a new era will begin. The end of days will not be a horrible destruction, but a death of “God.” Peace will fall down to man from on high, and we will all see that we have been worshiping one thing. Faith.

Patrick Mongeau is a screenwriter, poet, songwriter, joker, thinker, friend, brother, son, cousin, movie critic, bike commuter, bus rider, babysitter, futon seller, pedi-cab driver, temp worker, production assistant, guitar player, and all around good guy. He lives in the world.

Millennials and alcohol

Read my latest mY generation column in The Oregonian! It's about Millennials and alcohol and whether or not we're smarter than Boomers in our drinking habits. What do you think?

There are no new ideas...

One of the truths I've always struggled to accept is that there are no new ideas.  How could that be true?  And yet, how could it not.  People have been around for thousands of years.  Even if your idea is the first of it's kind to get noticed, it is likely not the first idea of it's kind ever.  Lately, I have come to some peace with this.  The best one can do is try each new idea and enjoy oneself along the way.  Because, even if there are no new ideas.  There are plenty of exciting ones that will be new to you.

On this note, I have begun trolling the "Gen Y blogosphere" as it is called by Jaclyn Schiff of The Schiff Report.  There is a lot of junk out there to be sure, but there is also a lot of brilliance.  As I am always looking for new voices to add to my site I am going to begin recruiting this week.  If you haven't already, I hope you'll consider recruiting for me too.  to make THIS idea take off we are going to need more than just our current, though very insightful, authors, we are going to need to reach a critical mass of millennial voices, shouting, whispering, cajoling, and joking.  

It's our turn.  What's your idea?

Living simply in a new millennium

by Daniel Koustoufis (b. 1982)

We live in a complex time. There’s no argument that can be made to the contrary. Our nation is at war on two fronts. We are in the midst of one of the greatest political about-faces of the last hundred years. Technology is advancing faster than most people can keep up with. The economy is hovering somewhere between recession and depression. The unemployment rate is the highest it’s been in nearly twenty years. As Generation Y, we had a front row seat on the day the world changed.

Like generations before us, we have our moment of, “Where were you when.” Our “when,” of course was September 11, 2001. The Baby Boomers had the day that Kennedy was shot. The Greatest Generation had the day when Pearl Harbor was attacked. Each of these events changed their respective generation’s world forever. Gen-Y’s world will never return to the idyllic and booming time that was the end of the Clinton years.

As a generation, we should be flattered to know that many of previous generations think highly of our generation. Historians Neil Howe and William Strauss thought that Millennials could be the next great generation as far back as 2000. In 2008, Generation Y began to live up to that hypothesis and changed the political landscape. Largely because of our political activism, Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office.

As a generation, however, we should seek to take examples on how past generations struggled through their great problems. In the Great Depression, the Greatest Generation, largely children at the time, recall memories of meager suppertimes, and their fathers waiting in long lines for bread or for work as a day laborer. Nearly every member of the Greatest Generation can tell us a story of how difficult life was in the 1930’s. To me, these stories are inspirational. The story teller tells us of perseverance and simplicity.

Simplicity can be a foreign concept to anyone living in Generation Y. In order to make it through the tough times, one must realize that it’s the simple things in life that really matter: food, shelter, clothing, family. Some of the greatest joys of my life are simple. I love sitting down to a pancake breakfast with my wife and kids on a Saturday morning. I love taking the kids for a walk to the park, and to just sit and listen to their squeals of joy. I love listening to the Red Sox on the radio. I love sitting on my couch in the evening, looking across the room, and just admiring my beautiful, strong, independent wife.

Let’s simplify our lives. Let’s cook at home. Let’s go for a walk. Let’s let our kids play outside and be kids. Let’s pull through this most terrible economic slump and prove to the world that we are the next great generation.

Daniel Koustoufis is a firefighter in Massachusetts. He is also a father, a husband, an active church member, and a deep thinker.

To teach us children well

by A. Grad (b. 1983)

I am a graduate student at a major research University. I'm in my fourth year of study toward a Ph.D. in history and, to earn my living stipend, the University requires I teach or TA two classes per year. I just finished grading 15 undergraduate papers, and I am not encouraged.
Many grad students see teaching as a burden. Me? I love it. It's why I got into this gig. I love history, but when I teach, I get to share with people my love for what I do.

Of course, I am supposed to do more than that. And that's why I am a bit defeated today. Sometimes my students expect me to teach names and dates (the 'answers'), but they will soon forget those things. I forget those things. I use wikipedia more than I would like to admit. But my job isn't about names and dates. And my job isn't about giving students the answers. My job isn't even about teaching them how to find answers. It's actually not about answers at all. It's about the questions.

My job is to help my students to think more critically about the world around them; to get them to step outside the mental models they use to assess their everyday existence and to see the world as a more complex, complicated, and vexed place. My job is to get them to ask questions and then use those questions look for solutions, not just answers.
To be honest, I have no idea how to teach this. There's no manual. I just do my best and hope that, week-by-week, I will learn what works and what doesn't. I hope that slowly my students will begin to respond to what I do.

James Livingston , a historian at Princeton University, recently wrote an article entitled "Their Great Depression and Ours" where he compares the Great Depression to current economic meltdown. His primary point is that policy-makers aren't asking the right questions right now. His larger point about the meltdown makes abundantly clear that, if you aren't asking the right questions in the right way, you won't get the best answers (IE: what REALLY caused these meltdowns?)

I want my students to learn to be better; to understand how to get to the root of a complex problem like this crisis. The only way we will get solid, well-constructed solutions to the problems we face in the world today is if our generation knows how to ask the right questions.

After reading my students papers tonight, I am again struck by the headiness of the task in front of me. I am in the unique position of being teacher of my own generation, and I am terrified of failing us. We absolutely must learn to ask the right questions. Our future, and yours, depend on it.

A. Grad was a dancer for 18 years of her young life. Now, at 25, she dances when she works with undergrads. She especially likes when this happens after a few hours stuck in the archives, with just the old books to see her pirouette.

MySpace is silencing Gen Y's musical promise

by Jack Rampant (b. 1984)

In one of Bruce Springsteen’s most recent hits he sings, “This is Radio Nowhere. Is there anyone alive out there?” Each time I hear him on the radio, I scream, “Yes! Me, my friends, and my favorite bands!” There are people my age playing songs with conscious lyrics. But you can’t, or don’t hear us, Boss. Why not?

I am a musician and many of my musical cohorts are writing excellent songs. They stick in your head, the lyrics are meaningful, poignant, and reflective of the lives we lead as young people in a strange new century, and in a nation at a crossroad. But Springsteen is right. The radio is nowhere, playing to nobody, and what’s worse, playing nobody. At least, nobody new.

The median age of artistic success seems to be getting ever-older in front of us, so most artists in their twenties and thirties have yet to be heard. Old names like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan, and dead names like The Beatles, who all broke into the mainstream young, still hog the covers and columns of Rolling Stone, while bands our age face a catch 22. Labels prefer their old stars. New names can only get “development” deals, which sign artistic rights away to the company. They can’t just sell our music because of the internet. They need control of merchandising. A band can’t survive without that profit in pocket. Result? Canned trash goes to market, and the market value of artistic greatness plummets.

If Springsteen would like to hear who’s “alive out there,” he should spend some time reforming the business, though I don’t expect him to be able to. The universal soapbox which is mySpace severely blurred the line between amateur and professional. It looks like a screen door for real talent to get through, but it’s a fa├žade. It is a lucrative advertising business, which devalues developing artists and their work.

If we are all allotted 15 minutes of fame, most of us are out at least five, in particularly unsatisfying platforms, devoid of respect for our craft. Our voice, then, is yet to be defined, as we reach the age when the Boomers’ heroes were already dead. We’re taking a slower road, hoping for a hand. Our poets will be discovered postmortem. In the meantime, enjoy the silence.

Jack Rampant is an incredible guitar player. If anyone ever hears him, they'll agree.

Over-educated, under-employed: Was college worth it?

By Jillian Evans (b. 1983)

As I sit in the office of the temporary staffing agency taking tests on Microsoft Word and typing accuracy, I can’t help but wonder: is this what my $30,000 a year college education has bought me? After almost four years of work experience, I have suddenly found myself living with my parents and vying with hundreds of other applicants for an $11 an hour clerical job answering phones.

Don’t get me wrong; I know I’m lucky to not have anyone to support or a house whose mortgage outweighs its value. I’m even lucky to have parents that will let me stay with them while I find another full-time job. All the same, I’m not exactly thrilled with my current life situation.

In the words of Tony award-winning Avenue Q lyricist Jeff Marks,
4 years of college 
And plenty of knowledge
Have earned me this useless degree.
I have not one, but two Bachelor’s degrees that are collecting dust in my basement. I understand and support a college education for all those who want it; I have spent the last 3 years of my life teaching middle school students that a college education is the sole route to a bright future. If they wanted to be hairdressers or auto mechanics, I still encouraged them to spend the time and money to get a degree in entrepreneurship so they could own their own shops. Now I wonder: did I mislead them? While white collar jobs are declining in this economy, many blue collar jobs are holding steady or even increasing. So, is college really worth the investment? John Stossel and the investigative reporters at ABC’s 20/20 think it may not be. Watch the YouTube version of the segment here:

Of course, there is another side. My bachelor’s and post-college experience have given me the opportunity to accept a two month temporary job that will pay $35 an hour, which would certainly not have been available to me without my degree. But come May, I will most likely be back at the temp agency, answering phones and managing databases until the economy improves.

Jillian Evans is unemployed, but not friendless.

Millennials Defined

On Urban Dictionary, a site that proposes to define American slang, there are four different definitions of Millennials. Three are relatively benign, but this one (pasted below) is the type that gets me riled. I don't even know what LiveJournal is! The search term "generation Y" turns up significantly more entries. Most, like this popular one, are negative and some are just ridiculously over the top, like this one (pasted below).

One of four definitions of "millennial" or "millennial generation":
2. millennial generation 23 agree, 29 disagree
The generation which came of age in the 21st century. They're fond of tattoos and body piercings and spend all of their time exchanging pics of their latest drunken blowout on Facebook or Myspace. They talk constantly on their cell phones even in the bathroom and text messages back and forth even during exams. Reading is a chore unless its the latest entry on a friend's LiveJournal. The only books they have ever read completely are the Harry Potter novels
A particularly over-the-top definition of "generation Y" (one of fifteen):
9. Generation Y 8 agree, 8 disagree’s called the “me” generation and known by its egos, superficiality, sensuality, materialism, entitlement, instant gratification, selfishness, poor work ethic, and a general lack of responsibility. Generation Y has been bombarded by violence, sex and too much information—mostly bad—being shoved down their throats by the media and our culture. As a result, Generation Y is the generation of school shootings; you can’t even go to school anymore without fear of being shot. This generation knows more about the Simpsons than they do about our founding fathers. Generation Y also looks to miscreants like Brittany Spears and Paris Hilton as role models rather than Martin Luther King. It pays more attention to what’s going on in Hollywood than what’s going in the world around them. Generation Y has given us the cell phone, IPOD, the iPhone, the internet, text massaging [sic], PDAs, Nintendo 64, Nintendo Game Cube, American Idol, TIVO, Starbucks, MySpace and E-Bay.

Get out of the mayor's bed: Gen Y says leave politician's sex lives alone

by Patrick Mongeau (b. 1984)

If there is one thing Barack Obama did to influence presidential politics in this last election, it was to reverse the nature of the conversation from negative to positive. He responded in a positive manner to accusations against him, careful not to keep silent when attacked, but thoughtful and direct in his response. It wasn't always easy, but it gave birth to the important conversation always lurking underneath.

Obama made sure that the 2008 campaign talked about governmental issues, instead of frivolous scandals that might oust the right person for the job from the race based on hearsay. But Obama wasn't able to pull local politics up with him.

Case in point: the newly elected mayor of Portland, Sam Adams, had to skip Obama's inauguration because he is facing a personal scandal. Apparently, in 2005, he dated and had sex with Beau Breedlove (real name), who was only 18 at the time. Adams was 42. Now, the establishment is clamoring for his resignation, based on the pretext that he denied the relationship in his 2007 bid for office. I’m only two years older than Breedlove. At eighteen, I was fully capable of choosing a sexual partner, but I'm still not capable of telling the world specific details of my sex life. Why ask so much of our public officers?

The great triumph in Adams' election, he is openly gay, was that it seemed we had accepted the simple truth that his sex life has nothing to do with how qualified he is for the job. The mirror of Obama's election is too obvious to ignore. If someone wants to use his race against him now, they'd try to get him to lie about a personal matter dealing with his race. This is abusive politics.

In the private sector, Adams could easily win a suit against a company ousting him for the same action. We have a government that is run by the people, meaning by some among us. We must allow those in government, then, to be people, and that means accepting their humanity. Let us find compassion for each other in public life.

Patrick Mongeau is a screenwriter, poet, songwriter, joker, thinker, friend, brother, son, cousin, movie critic, bike commuter, bus rider, babysitter, futon seller, pedi-cab driver, temp worker, production assistant, guitar player, and all around good guy.  He lives in the world. 

A shout out

Check out the shout out Millennial Voices got this weekend on the Schiff Report!

From alienation to hope: A different experience of my generation.

by Daniel Koustoufis (b. 1982)

It’s ironic that in a blog about Generation Y, I write about my past contempt for my generation. In the past, I tended to have a view of Gen-Y straight out of a John Mayer song:

They say we stand for nothing
And there’s no way we ever could.

I left the comforting confines of adolescence much too early. I married my wife Jacqueline at nineteen years old, and I had my first child, Kaitlyn, when I was twenty. I left school, because, of course, I had to support my new family. I thrust myself into a demanding and stressful career. I became an EMT at the tender age of 19 and went on to deal with domestic violence, shootings, stabbings, cardiac arrests, strokes, and car accidents. I dealt with more death and carnage by the time I was 21 than anyone should deal with in a lifetime. Every patient I took care of throughout the course of a shift was having their worst day ever. I had to learn to deal with death before I even knew what life really was.

Many of my friends from high school fell away from me; partly because I didn’t have time for a social life, and partly because I couldn’t relate to anyone’s problems anymore. Turning in a term paper on time is stressful, but taking care of a patient whose legs had shattered because she was hit by a car on the highway was not even comparable. I never got to live my life for myself, and I despised my whole generation for that. I watched all of my friends as they went to school and lived according to their own wants and needs.

For my whole adult life, I worked in service to others, first as an EMT, and then as a firefighter. I still work as a firefighter, one of the few graduates of my high school class that remained in our home town. Along the way as my life became more stable (and brought me four more children), I began to accept my life as it was. Whether you believe in God or not (I am an ardent Catholic), I believe that every person is put on this earth to serve others. I serve my community, but I also serve my family.

With the election of Barack Obama and his call to national service, I have incredible hope for our generation. Generation-Y does stand for something. We stand for hope. We stand for change. We stand for something bigger than ourselves. Let’s hope Gen-Y lives up to the promise we made to this nation by never forgetting our call to service.

Daniel Koustoufis is a firefighter in Massachusetts. He is also a father, a husband, an active church member, and a deep thinker.

Have increased opportunities for women encouraged anorexia?

By Jennifer Petro-Roy (b.1982)

Anorexia has become a buzzword in our society, partially due to the utter confusion of many surrounding the true nature of such a pernicious and often misunderstood disease. Pundits and news reports blame the media, pointing to the glamorization of thinness that perpetuates every aspect of our society. The media is certainly not wholly innocent. However, although the media may play a large part in perpetuating the symptoms and the glorification of anorexia, the real danger, especially for today’s young women, lies in the values of our modern society, with its emphasis on perfection and constant achievement.

Women my age, no longer hindered by the label ‘the weaker sex,’ were encouraged from a very young age to pursue our dreams. Dreams that we were well aware were supposed to be grander than those before us were supposed to have dared. But what happens when a dream falls short, when reality does not measure up to the illusory future that one has built in one’s mind and strived for for so long? In an environment where one bases one’s self-worth upon achievements and effortless perfection, many young women will falter when they miss the mark for the first time, flailing about for a life raft to hold on to, something to give them comfort and security until they regain the courage to try again. For many women, anorexia is that life raft.

In a world that values constant achievement and unremitting perfection, both in form and in deed, restricting one’s food or exercising one’s shame and sadness away can serve as another way to strive for the perfection that could not be achieved in the professional sphere. Perfecting one’s body becomes a distraction from the belief that we are not good enough, starving our pain away becomes a way to numb the fear that we are not worthy simply as we are.
It is not the media that needs to be changed, but our values. Yes, society needs to send the message that women can strive, can achieve, can accomplish. There is absolutely nothing wrong with an impressive resume or a windowed corner office. But women also need to know that they can also relax, can fail, can simply be. It is not the unremitting pursuit of perfection that makes us worthy, but our inner selves. Society must ultimately embrace this belief, must counteract the illusory temptations of eating disorders with an embrace of perfect imperfection, in order for women to truly accept their bodies and their unique selves. The question is, will our generation be able to teach this to our daughters?

Jennifer Petro-Roy is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science. She is an advocate for eating disorders awareness and a recovery speaker in the Massachusetts area.

Back then: Connecting with the women who lived before Roe v. Wade

Kate Henley Long (b. 1982)

"You just have no idea what it was like back then," she remarked. The "back then" she was referring to was the days prior to the legalization of abortion, and "she" was a baby boomer.

I've been thinking about this remark this week because I've had reproductive rights on the brain. Not only was yesterday the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, but this week we inaugurated a new president, one who is arguably the most pro-choice leader our country has ever had. In his first few days in office, he's already stated his commitment to a woman's right to choose and for taking steps to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in our country, and is set to repeal the global gag rule that prohibits funding to international healthcare providers that offer abortion services.

My third- (or is it fourth?) wave feminist heart leaps for joy at this news. But to be honest, I fear that feminists of my generation are getting a little lazy around reproductive rights issues. We've lived our whole lives in a time and place where abortion was legal, safe, and sometimes even affordable, and the fight loses a little bit of the fire behind it when the "time before" is history, and a fuzzy history at that. Because, really, she's right - we don't know what it was like back then. We haven't lived it, and to date I've yet to come across a single person who had a "women's oral histories from the pre-Roe era" unit in their high school U.S. History class. And, in my experience, at least, the chances that we have to network and organize with activists a generation or two older than us are few and far between.

I have a feeling that one of the primary reasons for this lack of intergenerational organizing is technological. Like it or not, Millennials live on the internet. We do much of our socializing, networking, communicating, and even organizing via Facebook - just think, for example, of Join the Impact's November 15, 2008 nationwide Proposition 8 protest, which drew over 1 million protestors in all fifty states and was organized online in only a week, primarily via facebook. While these modes of organizing and interacting are certainly powerful, are they causing grassroots movements to sacrifice a depth of experience for the payoff of a breadth of exposure?

Kate Henley Long holds an MDiv from Harvard University and is a regular poster for the blog, "From the Pews in the Back: Young Women and Catholicism."

From the newsfeed...

by the Editor (b.1982)
Alright, you might have noticed the scrolling newsfeed at the top of this blog.  It's cued up to run stories about the Millennials or Generation Y.  Here's a great article that showed up from the Huffington Post about what Gen Yers are looking for in the workplace.  What are you looking for?   

A conflicted patriotism

by Brian A. Mongeau (b. 1988)

Coming of political age during the Bush era, there is little that cuts to my inner conflicts more than the struggle I face reconciling my patriotism for the country I love with the disdain I feel towards "love it or leave it" Americanism. I was only a 13 year-old on 11 September 2001, and my teenage years have largely been filled with tragic American foreign actions, heaped on top of similar stories about Vietnam from a father who was drafted into that conflict. At the same time, with all the opportunities and abundance of American society I truly hold that, to put a spin on a Winston Churchill quotation, America is the worst country in the world, except for all the others that have been tried. The countervailing emotions I end up feeling are rather reflective of the narcissistic and self-centered, yet also self-loathing, psychology found among many of my generation: a clashing of liberalism, disdain for "America!-ism", and anger over irrational foreign policy partnered with a very real patriotism. In my case, this has led, confusingly, to an overbearing desire to be in the Armed Forces.

At no point in my life, however, have I felt this conflict more than after deciding to apply for the Marine Corps Officer Candidate School this upcoming summer. I feel both great pride and painful embarrassment in this decision, both feelings based on people's differing reactions and prejudices. Going to school in the super-liberal town of Madison, Wisconsin, I often deflect or shy away from questions about my summer, and possibly post-college plans as I know most students will react negatively to my decision. Yet, with my pride admittedly hurt, this reaction angers me too, as it comes from a student body who has been granted and who has exploited every opportunity unique to US citizens. Conversely, and somewhat ironically, when I have similar conversations in ultra-conservative, rural, northern Wisconsin, the same disdain I feel for those students comes up when flag-waving, chest-thumping people cheer my decision. I often feel that these people have no clue that what makes America great is not its massive nuclear stock piles but its intangible ideals and dreams. It is the latter that I am fighting for.

My generation faces a world that is very different than the one our fathers told us glamorous stories of when we were children in the 1990s. Maybe it is the about-face in patriotism we encountered in our tween years that produces such conflicting emotions. Yet, it is these inner emotions – a fierce pride from our youth mixed with the disappointment of our leaders' failures in our teen years – that pull on and confuse us as to what is right and wrong in the world. At the end of the day, if nothing else, I take solace in the fact that I have made a decision to defend what I consider noble ideals and I am sticking with it – even if that is Bush-like.

Your Turn

by the Editor (b. 1982)

The Greatest Generation fought for freedom in World War II, the Boomer Generation fought for love, Generation X fought optimism, and now it's our turn. We are The Millennials, also known as Generation Y, and we are treading water right now, gearing up to fight for something. Right now "they" say we are selfish and self-interested, glued to TV, video games, and the web. "They" are shocked that we seemed to care about the 2008 presidential election and even the news stories noting our record turn-out at the polls insisted that it was only Obama's "star-quality" that got us there, not a genuine concern for the plight of our nation and the way we are viewed in the world. "They" don't know anything about us.

It is time to tell the world who we are.

This is not a political blog. There will be McCain voters, Obama voters, Christians, Jews, and non-believers writing on this site. The Millennial Generation in America is the most diverse one to hit the country since it began and it is our children who will tip the majority balance from white to brown by 2050. As your editor, I will do my utmost to reach out to the most diverse group of Millennial writers (politically, ethnically, religiously, geographically, career-ly and by every other possible measure) that I can get emails for. That said, my contacts are limited by my experience, so if you have something to say and you don't think your views are being represented here, email me your 200-400 word post, and I will upload it.* The only requirements for writing are that you were born between 1975 and 1990, and that your first post in some way relates to this fact.

*No profanity please. Also, I reserve the right to edit for basic spelling and grammar. I will ask your permission before making any changes beyond these.