I wrote a blog a little over a year and a half ago called inbetween. After this past week, I went and revisited it. Scroll back and read it if you could; not because it’s an exceptional piece of writing, but because it would be hard for me to convey the amount of naïveté and bias that was flowing through me at the time.
This past week, I helped lead a week-long event on Drake University’s campus called jesus. justice. poverty. In years past, we’ve been met with open arms. Full support from students and staff—resounding praise even from those most cynical of Christians. As a student, I was proud to be a part of the event. I found myself saying See, not all Christians are hypocrites. In fact, Jesus cares for the lives we often overlook.
This week was different. Should I have expected such an idealistic response from campus? Probably not. But I thought that our statement of justice would have been more accepted.
I was wrong.
Our unpublished, non-advertised event on Monday gave me new insight into my generation. Maybe I’ve been around too many people that think the way I think—that live the way I live—even read the things I read. But I assumed when we confronted campus with the reality of sex trafficking, eyes would be opened, minds would be changed, ignorance would vanish, and apathy would die.
Instead, when I told groups of people that they weren’t going to get a burrito, I was met with some genuine interest, some placating smiles, some passive indifference, and some hostility and anger.
If not getting a burrito is what elicited the most passion out of you, I think I found the reason sex slavery still exists.
That very thought is why I wanted to revisit my idealistic viewpoint on the millennials.
I suppose I was giving my generation the benefit of the doubt—that when I read the NYT article, it pissed me off. That’s not how I live, that’s not how my friends live. There’s truth to that thinking. I’m not seeking after the same American dream created in the 60s because I see it as valuing my life over another’s. There is something ingrained in me that causes my very soul to cry out injustice. But that’s not necessarily true for the whole of twenty-somethings around the U.S.. As I look back, it’s almost embarrassingly naïve of me to have thought that.
Sure, we are passionate people; and the issues we become passionate about are important. But the way in which that passion is channeled is so incredibly selfish. We want a t-shirt with the organization’s name on it—shoes with an easily recognized logo to show how much we care—reposting a 30-minute video and refusing to do anything more. We’ve been bred into a purchase-power laden society. We grew up with parents that gave us ribbons just for showing up.
Yes, I’ve fallen victim to this type of thinking and living; but, when confronted with the reality that sex slavery can’t be eradicated with me just buying a bracelet, I changed. I expected campus to have a similar reaction. We gave tangible ways to get involved, to create lasting change in a bunch of different areas. Only a handful of people signed up and many were from our own organization.
Now, this isn’t to say that there isn’t hope. There is hope in all of this. I met people who hadn’t even heard of the issue—their eyes were opened to an atrocity. Did they decide then and there to volunteer with refugees or vow to live a more slave free lifestyle? No. But that’s neither the very first step nor an end goal in my eyes.
Our purchase power mentality coupled with the academic sterilization of global issues, wants to buy something that is only promoting a simplistic Band-Aid. Is this sort of thing helpful? Yes. It most surely can be. Does it fit with Drake’s mission to prepare students for responsible global citizenship? No.
While I’m disappointed that such a chunk of our interactions were either apathetic or angry for the wrong reasons, I have hope that the longer we stick in this, the more we continue to bring these issues up, the more experiences we give to campuses, the more things will begin to change.
Culture shift begins with a thought. When that thought becomes common, culture transforms. We’ve started. And we’ll never stop.