I hear you saying you feel hopeless and powerless. The present is a disaster and your future looks bleak. There are problems everywhere you turn. The institutions that are supposed to protect you have betrayed you. You feel like your country has let you down.
You have such a sense of dread you feel like you want to die.
I hear you.
Many people in my generation may dismiss your concerns, call you whiners, tell you to shut up and get a job. But they’re idiots. Their trite response that “every generation of young people feels this way” is NOT a fair assessment of your concerns. Yes, every generation feels let down by the generation that came before. But things are awful right now, and that’s a quantifiable fact. The Earth is warmer. Income inequality is greater. Wages are stagnant. Education is more expensive than ever before. Home prices are higher and as a result, homelessness is on the rise again. Our free press is under attack more than it ever has been before, and our President lies more than any other politician in American history. Those are facts.
I get that you feel like you want to die. But hold up a minute. Believe it or not I am actually heartened by your despair. Can I tell you why I see a silver lining in your cloudy outlook?
Because it means that you are paying attention. You are looking at your world and making comparisons between the way things are and the way they should be. Identifying the problem is the first and most important step to solving it. The next step, of course, is taking action. And the simplest and most important action you can take is to VOTE in November.
I know this sounds simple and naive, but it is the truth.
I know you’re going to say your vote doesn’t matter; politicians don’t care about you; big money has corrupted our system; and even if you do vote, nothing will change. I know you’re thinking that you’ll probably sit it out in November, because what’s the point.
Honey, I want you to listen to me. Really listen to me: Your vote does matter. It matters very much. And we need you to exercise it in November and every time you have the chance. Don’t roll your eyes. I mean it. I’m a lot older than you. I’ve seen a few things. I know a little about how things work.
Things CAN change. But only if we demand it. And I can guarantee this: if people don’t vote the Republicans out in November, nothing will change. The only possibility for change is to vote the bastards out. Even if we do, it’s true that things won’t change immediately. You won’t wake up on November 7th and find that the world has suddenly improved. The truth is, it’s going to take time. But if we change who controls Congress, we can slow down the damage and begin to right this ship. It’s going to take some time. But we can get things pointed back in a better direction.
Democratic majorities in Congress and in state legislatures will help put the brakes on the worst of the damage. They will:
- Stop the further erosion of voting rights
- Push to increase the minimum wage
- End the assault on the LGBTQ community, people of color, and women
- Enact common sense gun safety measures
- Block further attacks on the environment and the climate
- Slow down the attacks on unions
- Prevent further dismantling of our health care system
All of these things will help keep our problems from getting worse. They have to stop getting worse before they can begin to get better.
I’m not going to lie to you. It’s true: corporate money has corrupted our political system. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We allowed that to happen by being complacent. And we can fix it by getting involved. The way you counteract big money in politics is to take an active part in your democracy.
Big donors pour money into campaign advertising because they know it works. But it doesn’t have to work. You can refuse to be swayed by ads and remind your friends not to pay attention to the nonsense. Campaign ads are ridiculously misleading: they take information out of context and skew facts to scare voters. PACs and campaigns pour millions of dollars into research and focus groups to craft ads specifically designed to play on voters’ fears and get them to react emotionally. But you don’t have to. You can ignore them and instead rely on your own research and sources you trust. You can make informed decisions.
You can also thwart the big-money politicians by paying attention to what is really going on. Our corrupted system works the way it does in part because young people like you — and every generation of young people who came before you — don’t vote. Big donors pressure elected officials and they respond because they know voters won’t hold them accountable. Our representatives have allowed college tuition to soar and student loans to become oppressive; they have allowed climate change to continue unabated; and they have ignored repeated demands for sensible gun control legislation. They ignore your best interests in favor of their big donors because they know you won’t hold them accountable. Politicians count on that fact.
So you know how to counteract that? Hold them accountable! How do you do that? Vote. That’s your opportunity to change things.
The fact is, you are the ones who are eventually going to inherit this country and this planet. You are the ones with the most to lose, and you are the ones with the most to gain by making your voice heard.
And don’t forget, in 2016 the largest “Party” in America was the non-voting party. That’s a big part of the reason we are in the mess that we’re in. Because when regular people don’t vote, that gives an enormous amount of power to the extreme elements on both sides.
My friend, the pundits are predicting that even though there is a huge amount of dissatisfaction and outrage on the part of young people right now, it’s extremely likely that you simply will not vote in November. Please prove the pundits wrong. I know you want to die. But I think this is a better idea.