A voice for the generation that will inherit this uncertain world: Maple Buescher

From this month, cleveland.com and The Plain Dealer will feature the work of a rotation of community columnists, each of whom will tell the stories of our region through their unique lens. This is Maple Buescher’s introductory column.

To be young is inherently to be in a position of flux: psychologists identify the “age of instability” as one of the five characteristics of emerging adulthood. To be young in 2022, however, is to experience this time of personal instability at a time when it feels like the whole world is teetering on a precipice.

As we enter 2022, the world is curious about its future, in every possible way. From climate to culture, Americans are engaging in debates about what the future will look like. What must we do to avoid climate collapse in 50 years? What role should race and gender play in tomorrow’s society? As we hope to loosen the grip of the pandemic that has defined the past two years, how will we move forward?

In these discussions, young people are mentioned with surprising frequency. From climate change to gun control to anti-racism, the rhetoric often centers on children and young people, who will be affected by these policies and who, more importantly, will live in the world they produce. But we are spoken to more often on what spoken at; young people are surprisingly underrepresented in government. As the world looks to its future, the discussion is dominated by people who won’t be there to experience it.

I’m here to be a voice for people who will.

My name is Maple Buescher and I am currently 18 years old. I am a freshman at Bates College in Maine and a proud 2021 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School. This fall, I voted in my first election for my local school board representatives. I’m considering majoring in English, with the ultimate goal of getting into journalism. Most notably, of course, I’m a young adult finding my way through the world as the world finds its way.

I’m not alone. My generation is curious and we have a lot in common. Our perspectives on current events, social issues and the future are intensely affected by the world in which we grow up – a world of limitless communities, floods of information, divisive politics, instant gratification and intense connectivity.

One of the most defining characteristics of my generation is that much of what qualifies as “unprecedented” and “abnormal” is, for us, simply the only world we have ever known. I started paying close attention to national politics when I was 13; that year was 2016, when the United States faced a viciously polarizing election. I know from the history books that politics in America has not always been as contentious as it was under Donald Trump, but I have no memory of such a time. Likewise, my classmates and I have been doing active shooting exercises since kindergarten. To fathom a world where school shootings don’t exist is, for us, an exercise in the imagination.

The list goes on: I was born after the American invasion of Afghanistan, and until last summer none of my peers had known a world where the United States was not at war. Black Lives Matter was started as an organization when I was 10 and has been an integral part of the world for as long as I can remember. I applied to universities while the world came to a halt to protect our most vulnerable people from a global pandemic, doing virtual tours from my bedroom. I have no memory of a pre-internet world: students at my sister’s school staged a strike, protesting the school’s handling of sexual assault cases, all on Instagram, I signed petitions thanks to TikTok activists, and I stay in touch with friends who live on several continents on a daily basis, thanks to Snapchat.

Maple Buescher, cleveland.com columnist

The impact of my generation’s worldviews is significant. Almost half of us say we are concerned about a mass shooting in our community – more than twice as many as baby boomers. Similarly, two-thirds of people under 30 support the BLM movement, compared to less than half of those over 50. And a third of Gen Z say the impact of the pandemic has been “extremely negative” psychologically, compared to just 6% of the Silent Generation. . It’s undeniable: we see the world in a unique light, because we’re coming of age at a time when none of this seems to make sense.

If any of this sounds unusual, weird, or downright unthinkable, well, that’s why I’m here.

Perhaps you haven’t heard directly from students graduating in 2021 about what going to school online means. But amid debates about online education, these voices are crucial. Perhaps you haven’t heard of high school and college students attending school amid debates about anti-racism education. But the voices of the students who experience such an education are important because the programs become law. Perhaps you haven’t heard from avid TikTok or Instagram users about what social media prevalence means. But in a time when activism and community grow and flourish online, the voices of these users are as important as those of statisticians measuring quantitative effects. Or maybe you just haven’t heard directly from young people about why we’re less likely to want children, why we’re likely to marry later (if we marry at all), and why we’re more likely to support policies such as student loan forgiveness. But as Gen Z will soon be a significant part of the electoral bloc, these sentiments are significant.

I am here to be a voice among the diverse crowds that make up each of these communities.

I’m here to be a voice for more than that, of course; and I am, after all, only one voice. Although generational similarities exist, Generation Z is not a monolith, and it is not a definition. If you ask me who I am, I will tell you that I am a student, a literature lover, a violinist, a reader, a writer, a sailor, a sister, a daughter and a friend, before telling you that I am a member of Generation Z. I have no intention of writing about issues that only affect teenagers and young adults, nor do I claim to speak for all of us. Like everyone else, I am my own multi-faceted person.

And despite the gloom and doom that defined much of our adolescence (and much of this column), I and members of my generation are still young, and for the most part still optimistic about our future. We are not all nihilists fearing the end of time. We look to the future with bright eyes, folded hands, and limitless possibilities in mind. We are a generation of activists, thinkers and dreamers. Like most Americans, we look to the future. And while we don’t know any more than the rest of the country where we’ll end up, we all intend to get there. I intend to be here to chronicle it as we uncover all of this.

You can reach the Maple Buescher columnist at [email protected]