Standing in my friend’s mobile home, I was absolutely engrossed by the music video on his television. The year was 1991. I was in high school. The music video was the latest from Pearl Jam. It was called Jeremy. I watched as the boy Jeremy, the main character in the video, struggled through life. His classmates picked on him. His home life was a wreck. “Daddy didn’t give attention…Mommy didn’t care.” I felt sorry for Jeremy. I could identify with Jeremy, even though I didn’t fully share his experiences.
Indeed, my generation, now called “Gen X,” could identify with Jeremy. That is what made the music video so powerful. The haunting refrain of the song was, “Jeremy spoke in class today.” What did Jeremy say in class? Did he finally stick up for himself? Did he finally make a stand?
At the end of the video, what Jeremy spoke in class took my breath away. He pulled out a gun and shot himself in the head. Blood splattered on his classmates. The video ended. And when the screen went dark, an entire generation was summed up.
Generation X is characterized by hopelessness. When it is our turn to speak, we do not defend ourselves (The Greatest Generation of our grandparents) or express ourselves (The Baby Boomer Generation of our parents); we destroy ourselves. The toughness of life is absurd to us. We feel that it will never change. We feel like Jeremy, both picked on and unloved. When it is our turn to speak, we may say our last words.
Those of us from Gen X who have outlived Jeremy are now adults with careers and families and divorce papers. It feels as though my generation struggles to find an anchor, an identity that holds. Previous generations had their battle cries, the issues that bonded them together and gave them an identity. We do not have a battle cry; we just cry.
The world is still unfair and absurd to us. Jeremy has not gone away.
Maybe our identity can be found in our honesty and our logic. If there is no God and there is no purpose, then, honestly, what’s the use? Our parents divorced us, our schools took God away from us, and our materialism had us give our hearts to ghosts, which never came through for us. As our world was dealing with its problems, we just figured that we were the problem.
But now is not the time to give up. The world needs the courage of Gen X. Since it never gave us an identity—after all, we are known by the variable “X”—we have the opportunity to define “X.”
I believe that the calling of Gen X is to courage. We’ve made mistakes, we have some scars, and we’ve looked Jeremy in the face. God is now calling us to seek his face, embark on his solution to change the world, and to be the sort of “good” people that the world ridiculed before.
God is calling us to courage and to virtue and to speech. The world needs our words; it needs us to speak, to give a better answer than what Jeremy spoke.
© 2010 by Samuel Kee