I’ll be frank. Politics has always been something that bores me. I’m not a middle aged adult with a family and a mortgage, so most of the economic changes that have come within the past few political cycles have gone mostly unnoticed by me. I was just a kid when 9/11 happened, so I haven’t noticed any change in the military presence in my life (unless you include the long waits at airports to get through security, which I don’t. It’s always been the norm for me). Even social issues, like the legalization of gay marriage, have had pretty minor impacts in my life, for the simple reason that I’m (in almost every sense of the word) still a kid. Although I’ve technically been considered an adult ever since my 18th birthday two months ago, I haven’t ever really felt that I’ve earned this title. That is, until my voter registration card came in the mail a week ago. I picked it up, turned it over, and thought to myself, “Holy crap. I’m voting. I’m a voter. I am voting in the presidential election.” Once the initial shock of this passed, I realized that this was a massive responsibility. There are many mantras out there, and people who will constantly state, “You’re vote doesn’t matter. Why should I care who wins the election? They’re both terrible.” Anytime I hear anyone say this, I get confused. I understand the first part; in a country with millions upon millions of voters, it can seem like your vote will be lost. But the second part? The idea that you’re going to neglect to vote simply because your upset with your choices? That’s the part that gets me.
If you talk to anyone who has voted before, they’ll all tell you the same thing: this is not a normal election. Candidates from both sides are spewing hate, the media is consuming every new scandal like it’s a twelve piece nugget from McDonalds, and the public is divided, more divided than ever in recent history. We fight, and we bicker, and we argue about issues that are pertinent to our society today. Racism, sexism, and bigotry are splayed in front of our faces constantly, and we are affronted by problem after problem without end. This argument and debate is nothing new; it’s called politics. But this new type of politics, the one where it’s OK to spew racism, and to ignore the illegality of past actions, is something not seen before. But for new voters, people who just turned 18 (aka me, and millions of teenagers like me), it’s all we’ve ever known. This is how we view politics in this day and age. This is what we think is normal. How messed up is that?
In a world that is already difficult enough to live in, we’re presented with a ballot and asked to make a choice that will effect the future of our homes, of our towns, of our cities, of our states, of our country, and of our world. We’re asked, with one simple flick of a pen or push of a button, to determine who we think the best person to lead our country is. And our options aren’t that impressive.
A COMPREHENSIVE* LOOK AT THE CANDIDATES:
(*not comprehensive in the slightest)
How did we get to this point? I understand that elections are divisive, but really? Can we ever truly claim to be the best country in the world when, in one of the most crucial elections in recent history, we find ourselves incapable of making such an important choice?
My answer: yes, we can.
To anyone with any knowledge of the world around us, it is easy (alarmingly so) to determine that the United States is not the best country in the world anymore. I’m not unpatriotic; don’t make that judgement of me so soon. But the United States has fallen behind drastically in educational standards, in environmental protection, in support for mental health issues, and now in political stability. These aren’t speculations: these are facts. But as a young person in this country, I can say, without a moments hesitation, that I will be voting. In fact, ask anyone below the age of twenty if they’re voting. You may be expecting a speedy no, but what I’ve found most often is that the answer is yes. We want to vote! We want to make a difference in this election, and in our country! And yet, amidst one of the most emotionally charged elections of all time, we are surrounded by people who spew hate and refuse to vote, simply because this one is more complicated than ones in the past. Let me tell you something that has taken me, and millions of young voters like me, only a few short months to realize: elections are not supposed to be easy. They’re supposed to hard! They’re supposed to make you think about what you want for your country, and specifically, who you want running it.
Look, I get it. This election is tough. Really tough. Like, nearly impossible, tough. But that doesn’t make it any less OK for you not to vote. Voting is not only your constitutional right; it is your constitutional obligation. People die everyday in the pursuit of what we have in the United States, and yet, we squander the responsibilities and the opportunities that are presented to us on a day to day basis, simply because they’re “too hard to deal with”. Think about it this way: you wouldn’t just suddenly not exercise your right to the freedom of speech. The very idea of it probably seems ludicrous to you.
So then ask yourself this: why should you squander your right to vote?
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