Remembering 9/11

Source: Wikimedia Commons, Dennis Cantrell

Fourteen years ago today, I hopped off the school bus after a long day of first grade. I was anxious to tell my mom about how strange it had been.

During the morning announcements, our principal stopped talking for a while. She called it a “moment of silence.” My teacher seemed tense too. While we were reading, I saw her hunched over at her desk. She looked like she was crying. I looked forward to watching PBS Kids at lunch time, but  all of the TVs in the cafeteria were turned off without explanation. Throughout the day, everyone seemed to shift in their seats and speak in hushed tones – especially the adults. By the sound of the final bell, I was ready to go home.

“Mo-ooom!” I yelled when I opened the front door. No answer.

I swung my Powder Puff Girls backpack off my shoulder and walked into the living room. My mom was standing there, eyes glued to the TV screen.

“Mom?”

When she turned around, I discovered that she had been crying too. “Oh, you’re home already? I guess I’ve been watching the news all day. . .”

“Mom, what’s wrong?”

I averted my gaze to the images behind her. There was a building on fire and smoke everywhere.

Don’t buildings catch on fire all the time? I thought to my six year-old self. Surely, that couldn’t be the reason why everyone was so distraught.

My mom sat me down and began talking about plane crashes, which seemed irrelevant at the time. Then out of the corner of my eye, I watched the building on fire fall to the ground in a pillar of ash and dust. Little did I know, there had previously been two.

In the fourteen years since I first witnessed the terrorist attacks of 9/11, I have seen that footage a countless number of times. To this day, it still sends a chill up my spine.

It is strange to me that my little brother (who was born in 2003) will have no recollection of this defining moment in our nation’s history. He won’t hear the lyrics to “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” and experience an unexplainable wave of patriotism. He won’t recall picking our dad up from the airport right at the gates. He’s never lived in this country during a time of peace.

It is strange to me that there is an entire generation of young people who have come to understand the ramifications of our nation’s conflicts in the Middle East as a simple fact of life.

Yet every year on September 11th, we remember the pain of a wound that has yet to heal. We remember great loss and great sacrifice. We remember mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, all of whom were taken too soon. We remember so that those who perished will not have lost their lives in vain.

In light of this, I can’t help but wonder how much we’ve forgotten.

Millennials in the media: 09/07/15

How most employers view Millennials. Source: Huffington Post

Wow! What a great week for Millennials!

Thanks to Forbes, I learned there’s a formula to get me motivated in the workplace (because being unemployed for months didn’t do the trick). Although “Millennials are different in a number of ways. . . [they] aren’t as different as many people think. . . [but] one-size-does-not-fit-all when it comes to training the next generation.”  For a moment there, I think they recognized that I’m a human being with individual traits or something.

Future employers aren’t alone; presidential hopefuls are trying to motivate me too. Although I prefer Hillary over Republican candidates, she made it awkward by thanking me for my vote in 2008. I could mull over my options by engaging in political discussion with my friends, but the New York Post reminded me that I don’t know how to have those – friends, that is.

I also learned that my credit sucks. My attempts to apply for a credit card are more likely to be denied, thereby lowering my FICO score even further. As a result, I’ve joined the 31 percent of my generation that has denounced credit cards altogether.

The good news? I don’t need good credit to apply for student loans! The bad news? My own debt is going to put me so far behind in life, I might not be able to help my kids pay for college. According to a research study by College Board, “Millennial parents will pay an average of $100,907.61 – not accounting for inflation– to send their children to a public college for four years, and that is without room and board, books or other costs.”

Maybe I should skirt around the social responsibility of furthering the species by becoming a nun. . . I would make one hell of a Catholic school teacher. After all, I am more likely than any other age group to be vexed by spelling and grammar errors. It looks like all of that texting has come in handy after all.

Despite all of this great news, the latest survey conducted by the Pew Research Center has me at a loss. For some reason, only 40 percent of people age 18-34 choose to identify as Millennials. Furthermore, I am more likely than any other generation to describe my peers as self-absorbed, wasteful, greedy, and cynical; older generations prefer the terms patriotic, responsible, hard-working, and willing to sacrifice when describing themselves.

The media savored the opportunity to point out how much I suck:

A majority of millennials don’t think they are millennials

Study Says Millennials Really, Really Hate Being Called Millennials

Millennials Sure Do Hate Other Millennials, According To Pew Survey

Millennials Are Pretty Terrible, According To A Poll Of Millennials

Show a little bit of pride, millennial generation

Interestingly, there were no headlines telling the Silent Generation to stop being posers – only 18 percent identified with their label, while 34 percent preferred to be called Baby Boomers and another 34 percent preferred to be a part of the Greatest Generation.

First, let’s ignore some of Pew’s methodology. I’m sure there’s a reason they surveyed twice more Baby Boomers than any other age group. I’m sure the researchers understood that descriptors such as responsible, hard-working, and willing to sacrifice typically increase with age, while being self-absorbed, wasteful, and greedy typically decrease with age (families and mortgages tend to have those effects). I’m sure their age markers are statistically sound, although more “Millennials” age 27-34 identify as Gen X-ers.

Pesky logistics aside, why am I so self-deprecating?

Maybe I’m less narcissistic than my older counterparts? Maybe just a little more self-aware? Maybe I don’t want to be represented by gaudy VMA headliners like Miley, Nicki, and, (I guess) Kanye? Maybe – just maybe – I’ve begun to internalize all of the negative connotations that come with being a Millennial, since I am repeatedly scapegoated for my predecessor’s problems.

Pew, what’s good?

An open letter to Kim Davis

This is an open letter to Kim Davis, the Clerk of Court for Rowan County, KY who is refusing to administer marriage licenses to same-sex couples due to “God’s authority.”

Dear Mrs. Davis,

Growing up, my mother always told me to keep to my mouth shut when it comes to religion and politics. What a coincidence – neither of us listened to her.

When you were elected Clerk of Court in November, I’m sure you had no idea that your actions would stir up nationwide controversy. I cannot imagine the media firestorm that you and your family are currently enduring.

I am not writing this to criticize your religious beliefs. I won’t toss around Bible verses or try to disprove what you keep closest to your conscience. I understand that we have different worldviews, and I respect your commitment to a concept of faith that I’ve never been able to grasp myself.

You see, I’m not a particularly religious person. A long time ago, I decided that I wanted to devote my spiritual energy to something bigger than myself, smaller than my doubts, and undeniably tangible: other people. In that sense, I think you and I share some common ground. As an elected official, you chose to place your faith in others, just as they have chosen to place their faith in you.

In fact, Mrs. Davis, you’ve stated all of this in your own words: “I was elected by the people to serve as County Clerk. I intend to continue to serve the people of Rowan County, but I cannot violate my conscience.”

Allow me to help.

Many Americans share the belief that there is only one definition of marriage. This is a misconception.

There are two definitions of marriage: a religious definition and a legal definition. Although they bear the same title, they are vastly different concepts.

What is the religious definition of marriage? I am nowhere near qualified to give you that answer. To some, it is a bond between a man and a woman; to others, elements such as love, trust, or even chastity are required. Ultimately, you must confer with your clergy, your church, and your God to deem what you believe is the appropriate explanation of holy matrimony.

What is the legal definition of marriage? I could put forth volumes of case law and statutes, but that would be a waste of your time. In short, it is whatever the states, the Supreme Court, and the Constitution deem that the public will recognize as the appropriate explanation of civil union.

What does a legal marriage entail? Tax benefits that come with joint filing. Government services, such as programs for military veterans and their spouses. Benefits tied to employment, including insurance coverage and family leave. Emergency medical and bereavement rights. The list goes on and on. . . and none of these items are religious.

Mrs. Davis, as a married woman, you are granted access to these privileges every day. By denying same-sex couples marriage licenses, you are only refusing them the legal definition of marriage – because the religious definition is between those individuals and their clergy, their church, and their God.

That is why each marriage license must be solemnized by an ordained minister – this can be a pastor, a priest, a judge, or that co-worker who earned his credentials online from the Universal Life Church. Their role is to affirm the religious (or irreligious) portion of the marriage. Conversely, your role is to affirm the legal portion of the marriage.

When you took the Kentucky Oath of Officers, you stated: “I do solemnly swear that I will support the Constitution of the United States. . . and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of County Clerk according to law.” There was a bit in there about declining to fight duels with deadly weapons, too. The oath hasn’t been updated since 1891, go figure.

The law, on the other hand, has been updated in 2015. In his Opinion of the Court for Obergefell v. Hodges, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The issue before the Court here is the legal question whether the Constitution protects the right of same-sex couples to marry. . . The Constitution grants them that right.”

As a public servant, you are obligated to uphold the Constitution and represent everyone within your jurisdiction. You do not have the right to decide to whom the laws apply.

When I visited the website for the Rowan County Clerk of Court, I couldn’t help but notice Kentucky’s state seal sitting in the right-hand corner. It displays two men shaking hands, enveloped by the words “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Please remember this motto the next time you are the arbiter of division.

If indeed there is a next time.

Sincerely,

Sarah Massey