I have a friend, that does not vote. I actually have several. Young, in their early to mid 20s, these young people have become completely disillusioned with their government. And while I understand that, I also know what happens when we cease to take part in our own country. I am an avid historian, and have always made a point to not only keep up with current events, but the events of the past, the distant past, and even that which forged our civilized society at its core. Most if not all of those my age (40s) had little interest in “ancient” history, nor in their own histories. It did not improve in the generations to come, sadly. And it is, in my opinion, that which has led us to where we are.
The bulk of our young public are easily manipulated, misinformed, lacking even the basic historical data to throw the bullshit flag into the ring when it needs to be, beyond what they “feel” is true and right. And we have seen the result. Some of it is good; they can be rallied and manipulated with a savvy politician with music and speeches, into a fervor that can and has incited change. We have our first black president, and that's largely due to the voting force of the 18-30s. And this is what saddens me the most. That so many of our young cannot see, or will not see, that it is -them- that has moved this country and just about EVERY single one in history, to radical and sweeping changes to the social, socio-economic, and even moralistic centers and norms. The young, and their rage, their energy, their drive, their open-eyed passion for making things different and even, at times, radically better than they were for their parents and their parents before them, is what has created the future and -always- will.
There is also bad that can come from a public that is grossly misinformed, easily manipulated, and dare I say, horribly ignorant of even the basic concepts of science, history, and logic. A young and impassioned public creates a mob mentality that can be pointed to mass murders, destruction of truth and justice, loss of basic freedoms, and even blanket changes to negate or enslave an entire population out of fear, greed, or just simple ignorance. But then again, ignorance is rarely simple. It is usually pervasive, complicated, and at time, sweepingly frightening in its vastness.
Yet we have people, mass amounts of people, who do not vote, who do not understand even the basic ideals and structure of their own political system. It is not simply a United States of America issue either. It has struck, and pervades -every- civilized (democratic) country throughout the world. Why do people not care? HOW can they not care. The answer is not truly complicated.
They believe, they truly believe, that their opinion, their vote, their ideals, do not matter. They look at whats happening in this age of information and flooding of tweets and posts, and they are wholly overwhelmed by it all. How can something to vastly WRONG be fixed by someone who has yet to work a job more than 20 hours a week? They are overlooked and patronized by those older and “wiser”, ignored by the media and the politicians, even by advertisers. They are seen as frivolous and vain, without substance or core, and lacking in the basic ideals necessary to do anything but choose a nice perfume to soap their body up with, or pick that perfect shirt to go with those omg pants.
Is it true? To some degree. But we have relegated the younger generations to that place, by our own indifference and cynicism. Instead of working to fix things, we spend our time and energy slinging insults on comment pages, and calling anyone who disagrees with us “stupid” and “worthless” to anyone “sensible.” This is not how adults should behave or speak out, yet they see nothing but this in their instant online world. And it has colored everything for them, as they look out at the world.
When I was 13, there was nothing but the most basic concept of computers, some silly thing called Atari that everyone felt would die out as a fad in a few years, and color televisions were “new-fangled” technology. Cars were steel and and gas was less than a buck a gallon. There was rock-n-roll, heavy metal (something new and frightening to many), country music, christian and classical. The radio had a few music stations for music, and a lot of information shows. I grew up in farmland areas, so there was always a long line of commentary on farming reports. There were commercials between the shows that lasted a few minutes before you returned to your show. I did not own a color television until I was in my late teens. Big hair, big breasts, and blondes were what we saw in our magazines and on television. Star wars was the biggest phenomenon of the time. The only “instant” news was at 5:00 and 6:00pm every night after soaps and game shows. The radio was often faster with the “breaking” news. This was the world I was born into, and grew to adulthood in.
I remember the very first “live” music video -ever- on MTV (back when they did such things). I was at a friend's house who had “cable” … the newest fad for Television. We watched them all for quite some time while we played checkers. I was 14. Now, looking back on it all, and where things are now, its overwhelming for -me- and I lived it! For perspective, I remember being amazed when my Gram explained that when she was 13, there were no indoor toilets or even electricity in their home. She studied by candlelight. Everyone walked everywhere, rode in a wagon, or rode a horse. A car was almost unheard of and only for the very wealthy. She was born in 1907. She was 13 in 1920. At my 13th birthday she told me to look around, and -think- about how much her life had changed in that time, and then perhaps I would understand why she was so “reclusive” and odd. Now, tables are turned and I must look at -my- life, and wonder where I will be in 20 years in that regard. How much of this existence will overwhelm me?
Young people today are -flooded- with information. Most of not all of it is bias at best and out right fabrications at worst. Yet many of them, when asked, will tell you that the newscasters would not lie even when presented with point blank facts that they have. At the same time, they will tell you that they have no faith in the system, the government, or even in their own parents. They have a very jaded and cynical view of the world in many respects, while at the same time being extremely gullible when they should be questioning. Why is that?
I think we are able to look at the media for that. In the beginning of it, the media was often criticized for informing the public -too much- of what it “did not need to know” at the present time. The Nixon “Watergate” scandal springs to mind, not to mention the Vietnam (and Korean) war itself. However, great care and pride was taken by reporters to check and double check facts, so they could back themselves up when told “you made that up” by critics or the government itself. And in journalism training you were told to be “impartial” and tell both sides, even if you disagreed with one or the other. It was often distasteful for some of the better known, such as Walter Cronkite who said, openly, that his job was often terribly challenging because of his personal opinions but that he was proud he succeeded. We have no more journalists like this anymore, or so I feel.
Now all this meandering down the path of history has a point. And that is?
Effecting change, is not one person's job. Fifty years ago that was common knowledge. IF you wanted to change something, you knew it would cost you dearly, and those around you. You did it because you believed in it, strongly, and were willing to fight for it -as a group- rather than alone. It wasn't about you, after all. It was about what needed to change. And, it was understood that it would take time. That you might not see results in your lifetime, but the fight was still necessary and must be carried out and upon the world if change was ever to come.
In today's instant world, young people lack the patience to effect change outside of the scope of their planner for the month, let alone outside of their -lifetime- ahead of them. They want instant gratification for a fight that will most likely be finished by THEIR children when THEY are adults and have children of their own. So, rather than fighting the good fight, digging in for the long term and planning ahead for the long and arduous battle, they throw their hands in the air and say, “Screw it. I cant fix this, and I never will.”
And the simple answer to them? No, YOU will never fix this. YOU cannot fix this that you see wrong. YOU will never effect a change in the government standing now. YOU will never effect a change to the way things are done, or in those that stand in power NOW. YOUR vote does not count, you are right. Its one vote in a bucket that will take millions to fill. And decades of hard work and planning and fighting in the trenches. It will be blood sweat and tears of millions of people, not just YOU. YOUR vote has no meaning. It is, alone, simply a tiny voice under a bush as a hurricane rages around you. You are absolutely correct.
OUR vote matters. OUR voices will rise about the wail of storm and rage and effect change in a country that is ripe for it. It will not happen today. It will not happen in 20 years. But it WILL happen if we fight, and believe, and do not give up. Some very old and wise person said once: Change is not born in the eyes of the one that sees the problem. Change is born in the eyes, ears, mouth, and hands of the ones you birth, and raise, and they in turn do the same, until one day the tide shifts and it all falls into place. And the only way to effect change is to remember this, fight the good fight, and plan for the day when it will all come to pass.
“Raise your children up in the way they should go, and they will shine, and build the world you dreamed of.” ~Leta Kahler
IF you do not vote, IF you do not try, IF you do not fight, then that tide will never flow. YOU cannot do it. I cannot do it. WE can, in time, if we work together for a common goal.
My Gram also said: “The pyramids were not built by a handful of slaves or a few intelligent men over a week, a month or even a year. The pyramids were built over a decades and some over a century, as those builders lived, died, and their children lived, and died, all for the same goal. And they still stand today, because of that labor and planning.”
She compared the building of the pyramids to equal rights for all, in our country. She told me, more than once, that it would not be in my lifetime. However, she reminded me, that if you believe, and your raise your children to believe, in such a thing, it will happen sooner than later.
She also told me that voting was the one act that could change the world. She reminded me that women suffered and died for the right to vote, as did blacks. She told me, under no uncertain terms, that the only people who could say honestly that voting was not something to cherish, were white men. Because all the others paid for the right with their life blood and passion. Why? Because it was the only way to change the world, to change the circumstances of all those within a country. It was why it was restricted in many, and why once everyone had the right TO vote, our world would change for the better. I told her, many people don't vote. She said;
“Only a fool gives up the one thing that can change everything. You are right, little one, in that your vote doesn't matter. But when you add your vote, to the millions of others? It can change the entire existence of a society. It is a powerful thing. Never ever forget that.”
Am I naïve? No. Am I idealistic? Yes. Do I believe I can change the world? No. I believe I can -effect- change with my voice, my words, my actions, and my goals through voting, through gathering those around me to vote, and by effecting a nation to see the truth over time and generations. Yes, I honestly do believe that. I come from a time when young people swept the world and gave blacks the rights they deserved, simply by voting and rallying and fighting and chanting for change. We can do that again, for anything we set our minds to, if we just put a little passion back into the stagnant youth of today.
Stand with me. Believe with me. Look to the future, and see what I see. Look to the now, and see what I see. Look to the past and see what I see. Take my hand, and let's see what we can do with a few million friends.