In Ali Stewart-Ito’s 11th grade Honors English class, we just completed our “American Me” projects, which explored each of our own personal ties to culture. For my project, I did a photographic essay on how culture plays a role in individuals’ own American identities and how that influence may vary throughout different generations. I interviewed three people, but my favorite was Jason, a 28-year-old millennial. The following is an excerpt from the larger project: my write up of his interview and the photo I took.
“Since the invention of the internet, culture has fragmented so much to where there are now so many layers to it and so much elaboration,” Jason states over the underground indie band record playing softly in the background of the empty cafe. Jason was born in Lawrence, Kansas, but grew up in Iowa and moved to Seattle after graduating from a small, liberal arts college. He is 28, just opened a bike shop on Capitol Hill, and laughed when I asked him if he was “aligned with any particular culture.” Jason was born in 1988, classifying him as “Generation Y,” now more not-so-affectionately known as: a “millennial.”
In our modern day society, millennials are labeled as whiny hipsters who enjoy deconstructed meals. However, Jason denies this stereotype, for the most part. When asked about his alignment with culture, his eyes crinkle as he says: “We’re all kind of renaissance people now, because of how much we’re exposed to,” and he has a point. With the internet spreading information and bringing together people thousands of miles apart, we are extremely different from those who came before us. Jason’s generation is a bridge, connecting generations before with future generations through digital media and the role it plays in our lives as Americans.
As I ask him about his own experiences in America today, he admits that he was “pretty blessed to have been born here because we have a lot of things allotted to us that most countries don’t. But at the same time, in the first world scheme, we have a lot of things that we’re still fighting for.” Looking through this particular millennial’s perspective, things here are good, but not perfect.
Jason relates this point to his view on the current American political field. As he leans back on the far counter of the coffee shop, he says, “I think that one of the reasons why the economic and political climate is as challenging as it is right now is because there are so many different people being represented that want to have their voices heard, but very little representation on a federal level to represent all those parties.”
I agree with Jason. With this spread of information at lightning fast speeds, there may be a vast amount of opinions and views that should be represented on a federal level. However, our American government is unable, and maybe not completely willing, to catch up with them.
Jason has a pretty positive view on such a daunting topic, and when prompted about his own American identity, he states: “You want to assume that you are at the heart of a liberal ideology that is striving for change but at the same time, you have to recognize that in some way, there’s no way that you can supplant the use of 3rd world economies for the production of your cheap t-shirt. When we’re talking about what it means to be a person in America it’s also about trying to be ethical and making those decisions properly.”