Most of us can remember a time when we were sitting in our history classes thinking, “This can never happen to us.” The Great Depression, the influenza epidemic of 1918, an all out world war – none of which could ever happen to us. However, all of these did, and although there are currently no immediate threats of a world war, two other important and potentially tragic events seem to be looming over us again: the current economic downturn that started in 2007 and the anticipated swine flu pandemic expected this fall, both which may be tragic for the United States.
Today’s young adults feel that they are invincible when it comes to death or misfortune pertaining to these events that are for the most part thought of as historic, but are again developing into a reality. If our generation doesn’t become conscious and start to care about what is happening, soon the consequences may become overwhelming.
Young adults ages 18 – 25 are the most at risk for contracting the swine flu this fall. Both Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization and Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services secretary, have recently stressed the growing concern of the swine flu and the importance of vaccination against the H1N1 virus.
With recent health reports from the federal government stating that an estimated 30 to 50 percent of the United States population will be affected by the virus and at least 300,000 people expected to need intensive medical care, it is no wonder the nation is on high alert. There has already been a confirmed case at Columbia and there is still no relevant concern within the young adult population.
Though the swine flu has yet to dramatically affect us, the economic downturn is starting to take its toll. Since the recession was declared, 5 million jobs have been lost, according the Employment Situation Summary issued by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Young adults now have to compete for jobs with older adults who have lost their jobs.
I have a friend who has been searching for a job since November and has submitted more than 100 job applications with no luck. I have other friends that because they can’t find a job, they can only eat one meal a day, which is often a candy bar or another friend’s leftovers. These people could be sitting next to you in class or maybe in the library, a place they go to keep their minds off being hungry. We need to understand that this issue is not something that only happens in Third World countries or to second-class citizens, but right here in our backyards to the very people we say hello to everyday.
Although we see these events unfolding right before our eyes, they still don’t hit home hard enough to leave a lasting impression. It seems that unless they have a direct impact on our lives, we couldn’t care less.
I admit that I have this problem, too. When the 9/11 attacks happened, I wasn’t affected by it because I didn’t know anyone who died. I had no real connection to what happened that day. I did fear that another attack could happen in my hometown of Detroit because of the Big Three automakers, but otherwise, my life went back to normal. In fact, I remember thinking, “I hope I get another day off from school.” It’s amazing that getting another day off from school was more important to me than a threat on American life, but at that time, school was impacting my life, not the attacks.
We are so absorbed in our everyday lives, who is dating who and what celebrities are doing what, as well as with this whole new “hipster lifestyle” that generation Me has adopted. Due to these distractions, we don’t really look at the big picture and pick out the important details, the things that truly affect our lives.
I think these recent events should be a wake up call to young adults and make us realize that we are not immune to tragedies, especially those that afflicted our parents and grandparents. It’s time to get serious about the world around us and stop with this nonchalant attitude.