Youth Uprising

Roy Meredith is a member of the York County Greens and Founder of the SMCC Greens 

One of my friends, Jennifer, has three jobs.  Often, the only time I get to talk to her is midnight, before she heads off to work.  Even then, speaking with her reveals a young woman who is about to collapse.  Her share of the dialog often consists of nothing more than “hmm” or barely audible affirmatives.  On top of all this, she suffers from a multitude of serious medical issues, and nobody is there to help her except her boyfriend.

But Jennifer is hardly unique.  Many of my classmates work at least two jobs in addition to attending college full-time, jobs which thanks to lax regulation are not unionized and offer little security.  And once we graduate, most of us are tens of thousands of dollars in debt and face dismal prospects for careers that suit our education.  Already, we’re projected to have a shorter life expectancy than our parents, a first in this country’s history.  By any measure, the standard of living for young Americans has dropped significantly.

What we’re dealing with, however, is not a complicated problem.  The laws which shape our lives are made by people who, more often than not, are at least in their forties.  They are voted into office by people who, more often than not, are also at least in their forties.  Is it any surprise that their policies usually only benefit those who are older than 40?  The median age for a member of the 112th Congress today is the highest it has ever been in the history of the institution.

Some of examples of this callous indifference are deeply disturbing.  In July this year House Majority Leader Eric Cantor demanded that college students start paying interest on their loans - while still in school.  In August, the Maine attorney general and the chair of the Maine Republican Party accused college students of widespread voter fraud.  And anybody who followed the massive crackdown on voting rights in red states this year knows exactly what this means.  Such an accusation is meant to set the stage for tougher restrictions on college students in the voting booth.

How does that old saying go? Use it or lose it? That’s the funny thing about rights.  The only reason why lawmakers like Cantor or Charlie Webster are able to get away with their disgusting proposals is our own apathy.  In 2010, for example, there was a 60% decline in voter turnout for ages 18 and 19. 
Whenever I talk to Jennifer or some of my other friends about politics they try to change the subject.  Sometimes they even tell me I shouldn’t care.  And that’s exactly the problem.  Too many young Americans are unable to connect the commotion in Washington to their poor fortunes.  That kind of ignorance is incalculably dangerous.  Almost everything that impacts our lives is determined by politics, including military drafts, regulations on student loans, federal student aid, affirmative action, and job security.  It isn’t sane - let alone wise - to leave those decisions to people are generations apart from our needs and concerns.  It’s time to get active again.

But that goes beyond voting or protesting.  The people of Generation Y need to start running for elected offices on a massive scale.  Federal offices are mostly out of the question – in order to be a senator one has to be at least 30 years old – but local and state positions of leadership are certainly up for grabs.  In Maine, the minimum age for a state house representative is only 21. There’s nothing to hold us back from taking control over our own lives.  

The moment for optimism is now.  Students and other youthful activists were the bulk of Arab Spring earlier this year.  Within 18 days, a single age demographic managed to bring down a corrupt dictatorship in Egypt that had ruled with an iron fist since 1982. The task we face in America isn’t even half as difficult.  This country still is, after all, a democracy.  Let’s get moving.

Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.