During the upcoming 2008 elections there will be a moment when each member of every age or social group in America will be able to sift through the barrage of rhetorical questions posed, and find the one that pertains to their way of life the most. For Brenda, whose son Jesse is on his third tour as a soldier in Iraq, that question might be, “When will my son come home?” For Mark, a 70 year-old former retiree forced to work two jobs after having his pension cut, it may be, “Will the economy ever turn around?” Members of the gay community may find the question relates to a struggle for basic human rights; Young women may relate most to the questions dealing with abortion rights. However, the unfortunate question that relates most to the youth of America will be asked of themselves: “Will I care?”
Does nothing weigh heavily enough on the conscience of today’s youth to have it become a large enough issue? Is it that they have no sense of political efficacy, nor any care to discover it? It is alarming that the youth of today can be so disillusioned and disenfranchised, simply shrugging their shoulders in defeat, when so much depends on their will to act. Many blanket statements are made about the Vietnam era and that generation’s questioning of authority, and it is possible that similar statements will be made about the current one in relation to their most common traits -- namely active disengagement and a passionate indifference. They are only blanket statements, and cannot wrap all in their wooly embrace, but there is a valid point in arguing that perhaps America’s youth has been lost along the wayside and it is sometimes hard to blame them.
They are dealing (or not dealing, whichever way you see it) with the Bush Administration, which infamously vacillates between demonstrating an arrogant supremacy over the many, while touting diaphanous promises to the few who are marked by a feeling of absolute obligation and unquestioning obedience. The youth of today are the conclusion of a chilly and emotionally hard age of divorce and distant, if not completely vacant, family values. There are remnants of the self-involved American ideal that we all are socialized, frightened, and brainwashed into believing is the only way to be content, still lingering in the backs of our minds, especially in kids. The issue isn’t quite as dichotomous as to stand with our hands in the air in remembrance of the Civil Rights and anti-war revolution of the past and blast the youth of today for not showing up. The issue perhaps is more about why they haven’t. If we can get sold a war based upon lies by the Commander-in-Chief, without any repercussion on his part; if factories and big business can decimate the environment without any retribution; if the media can be privatized and owned by eight major conglomerates without any questioning or limitations; if our pharmaceutical industry survives off of keeping our citizens sick while monopolizing the health industry, then how can we possibly expect the youth of this country to know what actions to take to stop this trend? We look to the youth of tomorrow as our future hope, yet give them no tools with which to understand up from down, and their reaction is blaringly obvious. It is pure resignation. They have their own silent protests from the convenience of their home office, words lost in the virtual world of never-ending blogs and myspace pages. More than half of all kids are spoon-fed some kind of antidepressant, or Ritalin, or psychotherapy to get them through the day, and through their life. The youth of today are drunk on the drug of modern life. This issue is deeper and more intrinsic than the simplicity in which it is mentioned here. The most practical solution it relates to politics and the future of our country and our democracy is to find a candidate that can cultivate a sense of voice within them. We have seen the results of such a candidate. Give them excitement and same-day registration and you receive a mind-boggling result like Jesse Ventura. Not to say that Ventura represented the best in youth and innovation, but he absolutely proved the strength of a youth element that is motivated to act. A candidate who speaks to a purpose and embraces a fresh new sense of political revival, rather than rivalry, may be precisely the remedy for lack of “the issue.” Young voters will come out in droves once they feel their voices will not be usurped by something along the way.
There have always been the few who are compelled to call out for truth and conviction, but our youth, sadly, haven't been bothered or enraged enough to make their voices heard. There are a number of issues out there worth fighting for, with significant numbers of people who fight for them. For the rest of America however, and especially her youth, it may take a leader who pulls their voice from the back of their minds and into the voting booths. For America’s youth, the biggest issue is hearing their own voice, and recognizing that sound in the darkness.