For almost all of my friends, this election was the first they could vote in. It was something special to see my friends cast their votes, urge others to do the same, and contribute to the making of America’s future. To finally be old enough to participate in the election, especially one as outlandish (polarizing) and important as this one, felt exciting and monumental.
Though most of those around me took part in this election, I was surprised to find that many others had not. When asked why not, they provided the following responses:
“I wasn’t sure if I was registered.”
“I had no time.”
“I forgot to mail in my absentee ballot.”
“I could care less who wins the election. Both of these candidates are equally horrible.”
“My vote is meaningless.”
Say you were busy. Say you had no time. Perhaps that could suffice as an excuse not to vote.
But some young people approach the election with the mindset that what they think and what they believe in hold no ultimate value. That regardless of who and what they vote for, they will be left disappointed. To use these things as reasons to sit out on this election is an act of irresponsibility.
Millennials make up a large chunk of the eligible voters in the United States, yet we have the lowest turnout rate of all the age groups. When the time comes for us to be heard, we remain quiet. We do not show up to the polls. (Only 38 percent of voters aged 18-29 voted in the 2012 presidential election, U.S. Census figures show.) We have a lot to say on the Internet but no interest in marking our ballots.
We love to fake it. We stay only as informed as we need to seem in the know. We say only as much as we need to seem connected. But civic engagement in its truest form is backed by genuine concern, not by the tweets or status updates.
Some of us millennials just do not care. And it makes sense—caring takes effort and research. Caring means looking problems like racism, xenophobia, and sexism in the eye and hurting. Caring requires throwing away the lens of our comfort, experience, and privilege and bringing to light the struggles we ourselves cannot fathom, looking on with love.
But posting a link to a video of the Top-10 Most Idiotic Things Uttered by Donald Trump is so much easier.
We are young. We are the future of our country, whether we would like to be or not. The generations who came before us may seem wiser, have more to say. But we are the future. To ignore the privilege and task we have of voting is to say we are not ready to carry our country, strengths and weaknesses, on our own shoulders. We can no longer ask our parents and grandparents to make political decisions on our behalf while we run around in pursuit of “the more important things,” namely, our grades and careers and friends. We have strong arms and big hands. We can carry the responsibility ourselves.
This election is over, and by the time the next one comes, we will be older, and hopefully more prepared, more informed, and consequently, more willing to say something. The key is to care more and more. Only when we care, when we are empowered by the combination of what we know and what we believe in, can we believe that what we think drives and directs us.
May we find ways to care starting today. May we take our civic duties and embrace them, fulfill them, and pass them onto the ones who come after us. It may not be the filling in of a bubble on a ballot that makes us adult, but the desire to go and do that that brings us a step closer to stepping out of childhood and into the real world, where both our silence and our noise have meaning and power. May we choose wisely how and what we want to contribute.