To Future Citizens, or to whom it may concern:
Like every generation before ours, we’ve failed you.
It seems every decade or so there’s a new movement, a new fight. At first it was a war. Then it became a siege. And now, I fear, we are merely children shouting in frustration at those in power. With each decade and every new fight, it seems we never left the playgrounds where we skinned our knees and fought imaginary battles. The sandboxes and forts where we pretended to love, to hate, and, when the sun set, left it all behind to go home.
More and more, with each passing fad, the doubt at the back of my mind grows and I wonder, “Was there ever really a war?” Like the monsters that hid in my closet, were those wars nothing more than figments of my imagination? Silly things that I should have put away along with my other childish things? There were real wars. Wars where bombs were dropped and the quick became the dead. Real wars changed the land physically, politically, and socially. But the wars I fought left no such evidence. What remains of the wars I fought are scars that only I can see.
I did fight, didn’t I? I can’t be sure because I see the same headlines now that I saw then, back when I felt more than nothing. The scars are there. They’ve healed over now, but when I look in the mirror I can see them, and at times, I can almost remember those moments of passion, when I thought to change the world. But nostalgia passes more and more quickly each morning.
I remember there being others. People who could get angry. Shouts that would deafen the pundits and cries that would awaken the people. I would watch them on TV, or follow them online, and I would nod my head, and move on to the next, but I can’t remember what happened next. There are new others now. I wonder what happened to the old ones. They probably died or retired. They seem to have faded away like distant notes in a chorus.
If I did fight, what has changed? I think the words have changed. Not just the slang, but the words they use to describe the next great war. Did I fight to change the words? No… if I fought, I fought to change the world, but the world hasn’t changed. There is still hunger, still pain, still sickness, still inequality… Everything I thought I fought against still remains, so what did I change?
In middle school, I would often pick up my brother from the elementary school. I would walk the same hallways I did when I thought the teachers giants. And as I did would realize with each step how small the school was, how normal the teachers were. I would see others, taking the paths I had taken, and could only see them as children-and this was when I was still but a child as well! And as I would leave, my brother in tow, I could only think of how little it had changed. It had not changed since I attended. It did not change while I attended. And as we walked the short distance home, I felt the first bit of fear that I now know all too well, It would not change for anyone.
Or rather, I could not change it. I was too terrified to change it and after a time I had grown so fond of it, I could not care to change it.
I did not fight-how could I fight? When others marched, I watched. When others wrote, I read. When others spoke, I only ever listened. I did not fight in any wars, I played make believe with those around me. We slayed imaginary dragons, saving imaginary princes and princesses, but when all was said an done, we would all go running home when called.
And now I have been playing pretend for so long, I have forgotten what it really means to feel. Or maybe, I have finally begun to see the reality around me, and because it is so far removed from what I dreamed, I am left with despair. This is not the world I dreamed of when I was younger, it was not the world I pretended to fight for. This is the world I both earned and was given.
This world hasn’t changed because I didn’t seek to change it. Or rather, what I sought to change was some flight of fancy I conjured up because deep in my heart I knew I could never change the world; I was too scared. And now I have put away childish things only to discover that I know nothing else.
So I am sorry.
We didn’t fail you. I failed you.
I didn’t fight.