“Ain’t found a way to kill me yet…..”
“Oh, God, please, won’t you help me make it through!”
These are some lyrics from the song “Rooster” by Alice In Chains….. music from my generation. I mentioned in an earlier post that this was always one of my favorite songs as a young teen, and I replayed it over and over full-blast in my headphones while I did homework. I didn’t understand the words, or care, at that time in my life, and I was part of the 90s grunge and mosh pit culture.
I was angry, but I couldn’t quite place why.
Of course, the song is about Vietnam, and its atrocities, as well as the tragic lack of appreciation shown to the soldiers who returned home to an ungrateful country…. the soldiers didn’t want to be there, or didn’t know quite why they were there. They were just following orders.
And it was horrific. War is horrific. All of it.
I still don’t really know what happened to my close military family members who went to the Middle East during the Gulf War and afterwards…. I had heard enough stories from men who had fought in WWII, when I worked in a nursing home in England… what the nursing home patients saw had finally driven them mad. I remember one man, during a rare lucid moment, telling me of his best friend’s head suddenly being blown off, right next to him.
Now, we have much more insight into PTSD and injustice and its effects. But that doesn’t mean we’ve reformed our ways. Not as a nation. Not as a Church. Not as families.
But I’m not really here to talk about war outside our nations….. I’m here to talk about my generation, “Generation X,” they call us, and why if you listen to (or read) Rooster’s lyrics with many of our upbringings and our pasts and our presents in mind, you will hear something different.
You will hear the cry of my generation.
I found this comment online that was anonymous, but it strikes a chord with me:
“Rooster is about a lot more than just Vietnam.
At the peak of my depression, I would listen to the Unplugged version every night while trying to fall asleep. To me, Rooster is about isolation, giving up all hope, and wanting to give up; but at the same time knowing that you can’t. Sometimes, even when everything is destroying you and you’ve gotten nowhere, you have no choice but to keep going. It’s not necessarily a message of hope, but a realization that sometimes you have no choice but to survive.”
Why did so many of us feel this way as young people in the 90s? Why do so many of us STILL feel this way, this year, this month, today? Even those of us in different and younger generations than mine?
I’m going darker in this post, much darker than I normally do…
I’m one in my generation who did “the bad stuff” and as well as the good, and then came around to Truth, only to realize that many of us, in my generation, were ill-equipped worldly-wise if we still wanted to be counter-cultural and live our Faith. It’s like no matter how much we did, or do, to live either the best path possible, or the even the bare minimum, society has not caught up with us.
My generation is “between”… that’s the best word I can think of for us. Between successes and recessions, between major shifts in the Church, between definitions of what “makes a family,” between technological advances, between major wars…. between what describes love. Most of my generation grew up with either divorced parents or ones who were at odds or had undiagnosed issues and had no idea what to do with it. The Church, society, the world…. it all started becoming increasingly unstable and more and more lies were being sold as truth. Life became much more complicated.
And, like the Rooster, many of my generation were snuffed out before we were even born.
I was told that creating our own business wasn’t a good idea by some “responsible people,” even when there were no other jobs available. I was told that degree after degree was what you needed, but again, those good jobs seemed to exist for mostly other generations or those few who got lucky….
And then there’s the “life issue”…… I was always pro-life, so I acted on it, with mostly those who were the generation before me. And I prayed outside of clinics for decades, and volunteered with “boots on the ground” for those who courageously decided to keep their baby. But while I was having baby after baby of my own, who was there for me? I mean REALLY there? You know, my LIVE babies? After we lost everything financially? That’s the kicker question…..
Where were they when I lost everything? Was I mostly alone, because supposedly “they had to figure it out alone, so I should, too….”?? I’m talking about those times I needed radical compassion even if I didn’t deserve it, to be heard, where I needed courage and loyalty and for something to add up. I needed them, the ones preaching to me, to believe in truth and sometimes rather “unsafe” Christianity, the kind Jesus lived, where you might actually die if you follow Him all the way.
I needed those same “religious people” to really be there for me when I might have been depressed because I was carrying a dead three month old unborn baby and a tumor and had “machine gun man” (Rooster lyrics) on my property lying and stealing without a warrant all in the same week while I was hemorrhaging. I needed the one who bragged about their thesis on Theology of the Body to not be scandalized by the fact that I have ten children this side of heaven. I needed certain loved ones to wake up from their “coma” when things didn’t go exactly as THEY wanted for their adult children over the years. It’s like everything came to this “silence halt” for many in my generation. But time didn’t stop then. And the Church, we, are very much alive…..
I just needed you, the ones with the Faith and the hope and the love, to do more than pray in air conditioned chapels, because I waited for you… I invited you into my life and the lives of my children. I needed you to realize that I love you as you are, not for how many devotions you have or what you even do. As for me, do you love me as I am? Or will I never be enough?
I needed loved ones to not reject me and my story of conversion, scandalized as if I might embarrass them with my personal history. I needed them to realize that I wanted to be there for them, no matter what they needed, even if their Religion of Self Sufficiency was so crystallized. And then I needed them to realize that time passes quickly and days and weeks become years…. and that there’s a battle out there, and that God called us to it.
But, whenever I try to explain myself or make things right, why do I feel this odd tone, that we’re that one “ungrateful generation?” A neighbor told me once “you are the generation of entitlement….” Am I? If you stopped to think of it, isn’t even the term “Gen X” an insult upon my whole generation? Are we just an annoying mistake, followed by Gen Y and those “pesky millennials?” Doesn’t “X” imply you’d wish to cancel us out?
This type of rejection is what scandalized my generation. All of the inconsistencies and hypocrisy look like a pack of lies, because we are smart and we hunger for truth and goodness and for answers.
And yeah, if we don’t get that, it seems to cause either grunge, or radical conversion. If we decided on the radical path of the apostles, the majority of us got in trouble for OBEYING. Just like in the Gospels. I’m talking as a Catholic here.
CAN’T YOU SEE?
Why do you stay in your safe little houses while the real battle is being fought by your kids and grandkids? Why do so many of you WANT retirement homes instead of us? Why do you think we might be confused and tempted with bitterness? And why do you think you have 50 more years to work things out? Your next breath, and mine, are not under our control.
Has pride taken over to the point where the simple people like myself are hungering for organic truth, just as all those poor fishermen and tradesmen did in the Gospels? They couldn’t reach the Pharisees… and Pharisees were embarrassed by people like Mary Magdalene, just as some who should know better are embarrassed by my conversion story being published. But the whole thing was only ever about my own sins and faults and failings…. and no, that didn’t all happen on a deserted island or a within a vacuum.
We are all part of each other’s story. The real question is: which part?
God is above all, and so many have chosen their god to be safety and security (which are both illusions), gold, coldness, and blaming younger generations for being “too lazy” or “total losers.” But this is not true of everyone in the younger generations…. they inherited what they were given. And now, for many of you, your own family hungers. For food, yes. Electricity and other bills to somehow barely be paid after 17 hours daily of work, yes. But more than that? We hunger for love. We needed, and NEED, relationships. Real ones. Some of you were (and are) there. Many of you weren’t…
And my generation followed suit…. not getting much better….
And now look. Kids (and even adults) have to stare at screens to find “relationships….”. Gender: what is that? Identity: huh? Who are we? What hope do our children have? Can we blame them, from lofty judgment seats?
I’m here to say I forgive you. I forgive you for abandoning us for your isolated, controlled lives and your choice to miss out on joy and love, abundance. I forgive you for choosing lesser gods and throwing us to the world, and expecting us to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps and somehow “keep the faith” through all that, after so many years. I forgive you for your self-centeredness and this idea that what you had available to you (which was a blessing) is NOT so readily available to my generation and the younger ones. I forgive you for “checking out” and not realizing that the battles we face are much darker these days. While you sit there with negative opinions and statements from your arm chairs, we actually have to send our kids out into this mess. I forgive you for not seeing us as “good enough,” for not being proud of us (which shocks me to realize that we still need that as adult children), and I forgive those of you with such a steady diet of criticism and rash judgment that it causes mental and physical illness.
I forgive you for ignoring me, for thinking you can “snuff out me, my generation, or any generation out.” You can’t. Truth…. LOVE endures.
Please forgive me for finding the Truth to such an extreme that I couldn’t resist it. I first found it in Florida at L’arche in Jacksonville, then in Denver, and then in the Midwest; and those places were the beginning of noticing that there, in those humble locations were loving, humble souls, timeless iconic art, and holiness. There were no generations or gaps or harsh human judgments; only raw truth, raw love, humility, and down to earth community who actually cared with their very lives. And they, we, are growing…
All generations, stop trying to “snuff” each other’s lives out… and LISTEN. We all have a message. And we all matter. Those who have gone silent on me: you’re snuffing yourSELF out. Because I want to hear about your heart, what hurts, what happened, and why you can’t seem to make peace yet with me, who loves you.
To quote the Rooster lyrics again: (and I’m not encouraging you to listen to the song if grunge metal isn’t your thing…. 😁)
“They spit on me in my homeland….
yeah, they come to snuff the Rooster…..
no, no, no… He ain’t gunna die.
oh, God, please, won’t you help me make it through!”
And He will.
Note: I do not like to put people into boxes like “baby boomers” or millennials or even “Gen X.” People are people, and there are no real boxes as we are each unique and we can choose to follow the tide or go against it and do good. I want to thank all of the amazing people in the generation before me and in all generations who have shown nothing but amazing and heroic love for me and my immediate family. …. all my love 🙂
Photo credit: Alice In Chains music video (VEVO) “Rooster”