In a very Gen Z power move, text messages between US diplomats and Ukrainians were released on Thursday night.
The Trump presidency has embraced the worst of the internet. Presidential twitter tantrums have become an emblem of this troubled era. The other night, the impeachment inquiry launched against the President received an update befitting of this digital age, with the release of text messages between US and Ukrainian diplomats. Receipts have been kept.
The text messages reveal the level to which members of the Trump team and members of the Ukrainian administration were aware of the implications of the now infamous call. The texts appear to confirm that officials involved knew they were on ethical thin ice.
This mutual red-handedness is most clear in the text messages exchanged between European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland and acting U.S. ambassador in Ukraine, Bill Taylor. When the latter asked Sondland ‘are we now saying that security assistance and WH meetings are conditioned on investigations?’ Sondland responded: ‘Call me.’
Call me. While it isn’t an explicit admission of guilt, it suggests error in the same way a ‘we need to talk’ text from significant other suggests an impending break-up. The attempt to conceal draws attention to the fact that something needs to be concealed.
The text messages also make clear that there was a quid pro quo between the two administrations, something the White House has until now denied. Kurt Volker, former Special Envoy to the Ukraine texted this to Andrey Yermak, a Zelensky adviser.
“Heard from White House, assuming President Z convinces trump he will investigate / ‘get to the bottom of what happened’ in 2016, we will nail down date for visit to Washington.”
What they were doing was wrong
These text messages both confirm the US administration’s wrongdoing, and further, confirm that members of the administration were aware that what they were doing was wrong. The messages also confirm the senders’ immaturity. It is hard to take public officials seriously when they insist on behaving as if they were petty twenty-somethings. Take it from the zoomer who knows.
It would be easy to ridicule the childishness of every aspect of this affair. It would be easy to draw parallels between it and the world of celebrity clap-backs and sub-tweets of which our political life has become a twisted reflection.
What happened to Taylor Swift in 2016 at Kim Kardashian’s hand has happened to the US president, and it was the pop star who dealt with public scandal with more grace, tact and intelligence. Entertainers have more decorum than our leader of the free world. These comparisons could be drawn, but I’m not going to be the one to do it.
There is a misconception about Generation Z, that we are a vapid, narcissistic generation. That our immersion in a virtual world has diminished our care for the real one. We’re snowflakes, or something. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. Generation Z is uniquely aware of our place in the real world.
We are far from apathetic, far from the delusion of the older generations; we are, unfashionably, concerned with ethics. We want a world that makes sense. I believe in a world that makes sense.
Generation Z is more politically involved, in all ways, than the generation before us, Millennials. Instead of expecting trophies for everything, we expect no reward for anything. But still, we’re working harder and longer than those older than us. We’re working, even though we know we’re probably licked, because we believe in a world that makes sense.
There will be, as this impeachment inquiry ramps up and the full details of the administration’s zaniness come fully into focus, a tendency towards despair, towards cynicism, an impulse to throw up hands and cry out: ‘this is absurd.’ That’s fine. But look, us zoomers? We were born into the crazy; we were raised by it and shaped by it. And if we haven’t yet caved to nihilism, neither should you. If you look at the world and it seems crazy, either you’re crazy or you’re right. Betting on the latter is a gamble, but the stakes are, for me at least, worth it.
Most adults I know have succumbed to a form of faith as consolation. These faiths are often not religious and range from the grumpy, ‘people are stupid,’ to the Panglossian, ‘everything is fine.’ As our nation becomes a caricature, these maxims are more and more tempting. But in the same way that a caricature is a consolation for a real portrait, these maxims are simplified versions of real belief.
What I really believe in, I don’t yet know entirely, but I know it includes a vision of this nation in which our leaders have more of a clue than Cher Horowitz. I know it includes acting on your suspicions, saying something if you’re smelling something. I believe what U.S. ambassador Bill Taylor believes: “As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign.” And I believe in keeping your receipts.