When New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (who has become as inspirational a figure as any in my lifetime) described the COVID-19 pandemic as his children’s “first experience with a crisis,” I admittedly had to look up their ages. For the approximately 4 million Americans who will turn 30 between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2020, this is not our initial foray into catastrophe; instead, it seems the last two decades, particularly, have been rife with constant upheaval.
Born just before the fall of the Soviet Union at the end of 1991, we 30-year-olds enjoyed a decade of international peace. Those years were defined by fiscal surplus, boy bands and the growing belief that the United States had become a hyperpower unparalleled in economic, political or cultural might.
By the time we turned 10, those rosy images quickly came crashing down. Our first brush with a constitutional crisis came in 2000 with Bush v. Gore, and it thrust us into political consciousness for the first time. Less than a year later, we watched Sept. 11, 2001, unfold from our middle school classrooms. From then on, our generation became defined by wars: the global “war on terror,” wars in the Middle East, culture wars and so on. Our fate was to blossom into young adulthood in the midst of perpetual conflict.
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