I wrestled with whether or not to publish this note from TPM Reader CJ for reasons that will likely be obvious. I decided to because I think the note shows beliefs, feelings, lived experiences rumbling under the surface of our society. They are good to hear even if we disagree with them or are offended or even angered by them.
Let me say first of all that I think there’s some factual issue over the danger that COVID-19 poses to young people – and here let’s define ‘young’ as people between 25 and 45. Young people can, do and will die from this disease. I suspect CJ would agree with that but I want to restate it clearly. To me, CJ’s point also pulls to a breaking point how we think about generations, generational cohorts. They are in many ways fictive concepts.
With all that, TPM Reader CJ …
I have been a longtime reader and member but have never felt compelled to comment before.
I share the experience of “time dilation” Josh mentioned. As a millennial, I have been happy to do my part in social distancing, while urging my parents to take all of this more seriously.
That said, I never anticipated the degree to which this would begin to affect my life. My brother just lost his seemingly secure job due to covid-19 shutdowns in California. Today, my boss kindly emailed me a link to California’s unemployment website. I estimate a 50% chance of losing my job. This seemed unimaginable a few days ago, since I chose a “recession proof” career after 2008.
The thing is, I accept my social responsibility, but am also keenly aware that all of these sacrifices are primarily to protect the older generations from an illness that poses only minuscule threat to my personal health. Many millennials hold those same older generations responsible for the dreams deferred after 2008, not to mention the chronic underfunding of social welfare and health systems that could have mitigated the impact of this crisis. At the age of 32, I was finally able to start paying a mortgage and I have a job with enough income to even think about savings or starting a family: just as soon as I can pay down some of the $70k in student loans I needed to qualify for such jobs.
While I value the life of all people, I have to admit that the prospect of losing my job, my home, and all possibility of future retirement is a massive gut punch. All the more so when it is in service of protecting the future of a generation that has failed so miserably at protecting mine.
Let me add a few words here. I’m one of those Gen-Xers, older than the millennials and younger than the “boomers” who seem to be their generational foils – and vice versa. One of my reactions to reading CJ’s note is anger. But I can also see from this and prior emails that CJ is an informed and thoughtful person. (They seem to have forgotten a few earlier emails – the first from all the way back in 2012. In another from two years ago CJ shared that they began reading TPM in 2004, when they would have been in high school). And I greatly appreciate their sharing this with me and with our community. There is a series of pre-COVID assumptions CJ is speaking from and they are clearly widely among people in their 20s and 30s. Whether you agree or disagree with those assumptions is in many respects besides the point; they are a social fact.
Social solidarity is critical to any ethical approach to life. It is all the more critical at a moment like this. Mutual support also requires we hear and understand each other.