Yesterday, hours before the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, I was reading an article on Tor.com discussing why many of today’s largest movie franchises have eerily similar villains: distinctive but mysterious individuals who wreak destruction on the world for their own pleasure. Some replied that it was repetitive and monotonous. But to me, this is the Millenial zeitgeist, our evil made real on the screen. We don’t fear world powers. We don’t particularly fear nuclear war. Even armed combat is far removed for most of the generation.
Millenials fear individuals who have chaos in their soul and firepower in their hands.
We are not stunned by such acts as mass murder. We are the children of Columbine, elementary students ourselves in 1999. We were old enough to watch the towers fall but young enough to be unaware of the ramifications.
The enemy to us is a lone wolf lurking in the shadows: faceless until he strikes. Though the individual face changes, we know he is there. We know the attack will come, but not the specifics. An office building. A school classroom. A movie theater. A shopping mall. We know that it will not be soldiers who are his targets, but civilians. At any moment, any of us could be the victim.
Worse, at any moment, any of us could be the killer.
Millenials are young, with often undirected potential coursing through our hearts. We have reached the age of danger: old enough to understand the infamy of lone gunman, young enough that we think we have little to lose.
Our own egos are often fragile, constructed on social networks, bolstered by cliques and relationship. If we have careers, we have only just begun them. Few of us have started families of our own. Our lives are not yet rooted in reality and as such are vulnerable. We will trade them for causes that speak to our souls. We are ripe for martyrdom.
For most of us, our passions will direct our lives in productive ways. But for some of the children of Columbine, the peers of Jared Lee Loughner, James Holmes, Jacob Tyler Roberts, and now Adam Lanza, that unchanneled fire will send them careening into destruction.
The rest of us watch them crash and burn, rubbernecking at the carnage. One more of the enemy has stepped from the shadows and carried out his selfish deed. Innocents fall at his hands, and we mourn them. We continue on. Our enemy has not been mollified; he could strike again next week with different hands, at a different target. This is no different than usual for Millenials, who have learned to live with the unknown terror. If we do pause to dread anything, the lone gunman will be there in our thoughts.
Worse, we will be there, too.