There aren’t a lack of #hottakes on the internet that attempt to fashion some sort of correlation between millennials and previous generations, and how much of an impact the youngest demographic of voters have had on our political climate. This period of our country’s history will be a popular form of anthropological study years from now, as researchers study the protests and other reactions from both the left and right to the ascendancy of President Donald Trump.
But Bob Huggins, coach of the University of West Virginia’s men’s basketball team (ranked seventh in the country), doesn’t need any additional academic understanding to know why this generation is, as a whole, vastly different from predecessors. Huggins’ rationale? A lack of respect. From Mike Casazza of the Charleston Daily-Mail:
“We’re in an age where young people in general don’t pay as much attention as they used to. We’re in an age now where young people have not nearly the respect that we had for the police. You remember when you had respect for the principal, your teacher, your coach? You know, those were people you looked up to. Those were people you respected. Scared to death of the police. Now they’re out there throwing bottles at them. It’s a different time.”
Huggins, of course, seems to casually forget the Civil Rights era and Vietnam War protests, but I digress. This is one special form of #hottake — one that is particularly lazy. It’s completely understandable for people to express their right to peaceably assemble and protest if their civil rights are being infringed upon; if their rights to their own bodies are being trampled; if their rights to live in a country they’ve contributed to are being discounted because of their ancestral background. But to make a blanket statement attributing protests to just ‘acting out’ discounts the national tenor, which shouldn’t be taken as lightly as Huggins’ comments would seem.
Two weeks after the election, writer Masha Gessen explained why protesting is an essential element of both the nationalistic and societal fabric.
Finally, protest is a powerful antidote to helplessness and confusion. Autocracies work by plunging citizens into a state of low-level dread. Most of the powers commandeered by the autocrat are ceded without a fight, and the power of imagination, the claim to a past and a future are the first to go. A person in a state of dread lives in a miserable forever present. A person in a state of dread is imminently controllable. The choice to protest, on the other hand, is the choice to take control of one’s body, one’s time, and one’s words, and in doing so to reclaim the ability to see a future.