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Avery on National Security

Avery, 17, MA

I can remember distinctly the day of the Boston Marathon bombing. I was on April vacation in 5th grade, sitting in a restaurant booth in Pembroke, Massachusetts. My mom turned towards the TV positioned above the bar, and I heard her say, “Oh my God, the Boston Marathon was bombed.” I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but my mom was scared. We stayed at home for the rest of the break, skipping our trip to the Boston aquarium. When I returned to school the next week, my teacher sat us down for a discussion. I thought she would explain to us what had happened, but instead she told us that she wasn’t allowed to discuss it. She said we could go to the guidance counselor if we felt scared. I remember raising my hand to ask, “Why aren’t we allowed to talk about it?” 

I think a defining difference between my generation and my teacher’s is that she once lived in a world where terrorism wasn’t a constant threat. My generation wants to talk about these things even though they scare us. We want to solve these problems so that perhaps the next generation will not feel the same fear, yet we have grown accustomed to hearing “You’re too young to understand.”

I was born within the first months of the post-9/11 world in May 2002. My understanding of national security was determined by the timing of my entrance into a world that was experiencing a newfound fear of extremism. The post-9/11 generation has known terrorism, long-standing war, and the looming threat of nuclear conflict since the day we were born. While we have grown into the roles of advocates and change-makers, we are becoming numb to news about school shootings, terrorist attacks, and other global crises. My mother’s initial reaction to the Boston bombings was that of chaos and disbelief, while I was simply reminded of the chronic fear that plagues my generation. 

People my age are beginning to understand that the system set before us is not one that will serve us if not first reformed. To us, national security is a feeling. It’s what comes of the fear that rests at the back of my mind, lying dormant until I hear word of another attack. Above all, national security is a conversation, one that we need to have with young people who have never seen a world without violence and war. My generation cannot change the future of the world if we as a nation are too scared to discuss the issues we face.