How it feels to be 20 in this moment


Julio Cortez | Associated Press

Police stand Wednesday outside the Capitol after a day of protesters rioting.

Kurt Bitting, Opinion Editor

I wish I could say what happened at the U.S. Capitol building Wednesday was unbelievable; I can’t.

I’m not speechless, but the words I do have for this are vastly outnumbered by those I don’t have. Being 20 in this historic moment fills me with this odd mix of anger, disappointment and hope.

It’s frustrating to be 20.

When I was growing up it seemed the adults in my life all worked together to create this sense of impenetrable security for me. I just had this feeling that there were rules no one would or could break even if they tried. It felt like no matter what happened, adults would always know what to do, and the “right” thing would always be done.

It was a great illusion, but I don’t feel like that anymore.

The U.S. Capitol was breached, and it’s hard for me to comprehend just how wild that is. Our nation was denied a peaceful transition of power. This was, perhaps, the most impactful single day my generation may live through.

How embarrassing for our country! For the first time in recent memory, our president did not allow for a peaceful transition of power. It’s been 2 months, and only Thursday (over 24 hours after the Capitol was secured) did President Donald Trump concede the election he knew he lost. I’ve only been alive for two decades, and even I understand how dangerous those consequences could be. Doesn’t he?

It’s overwhelming to be 20. 

I feel like there’s no rest right now. We’ve been relentlessly bombarded by increasingly perverse news generated by this president for years now. And he knows it. He knows that when he does something outrageous, we’ll write about it. It’s our responsibility, but it also feeds his desire for attention. 

The worst part is I can’t even do anything to help. The solution can’t be to stop writing about the questionable things he says and does, but it can’t be to continue indulging him either. There are so many things I don’t know. The world is so complicated, and the more I learn about it, the more I have to admit I never really understood it to begin with. 

It’s so confusing to be 20.

I don’t have any answers. I have to go to other people for those. I don’t understand why all those people thought storming the Capitol was the right thing to do. I don’t know if I should be angry as an American, sad as a compassionate human being or numb to it all as an objective journalist. 

Domestic terrorists breached the capital, interrupting a Constitutional session where a fair election was being certified. This kind of thing doesn’t happen in the U.S. How does that happen? 

I’m glad I’m 20.

More than anything, being 20 gives me the gift of time. I have time to process what’s happening. I have time to decide how to act. There’s still time for us to make meaningful change within my lifetime. I have hope for our nation’s future.

Voter turnout for people aged 18 to 29 rose by about 10% from 2016 to 2020, according to statistics from the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.

I believe the people who are 20 now will continue to vote, stand up for change and prevent something like the riot we saw Wednesday from happening in our lifetime.

Today we pick up the pieces, and we wait to see what tomorrow brings.