Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought young people are the future of this country, or something like that. I’m 22. I vote. I go to school. I have three part-time jobs. I volunteer. I have plans for my future. I’m graduating from college a semester early from a school that boasts that 50% of its students graduate in six years. I believe that makes me one of those young people who is being handed the country, so that in the next few years I can shape it and influence it. That means that right now, current political leaders are supposed to be opening doors for me, preparing the country for me by passing laws and policies to make it a better place. And then my generation will take over.
Well, thanks a fucking heap, America. A special thanks goes to my home state, Arizona, because I know how much its politicians hate me. I know it’s pretty unforgivable that I have brown skin, a Mexican last name, and the ability to speak Spanish more or less fluently. Thanks for passing laws that make it next to impossible for other brown-skinned students like me to succeed even if their finances or educational background doesn’t make it easy; that leave my parents and sister in danger of not having jobs anymore (or at least being required to teach a prescribed, edited curriculum with rewritten history); that ensure that we will have to start the civil rights movement over again if we want to get anywhere as a country; that bar the most progressive reform the country has had in years and once again makes it impossible for me to have affordable healthcare; that pretty much ensure that rational and reasonable protests, rallies, and lawsuits will happen to no avail because politicians don’t need to abide by human rights or the law anymore.
This is everyone’s fault, and what’s sad is, I don’t really believe in my generation’s ability or willingness to demand change. We’ve grown up with this attitude that we don’t have to work hard for things, and we definitely lack my parents’ generation’s knack for war protests and channeling Gandhi. Also, the recession’s forcing us back into our parents’ house, jobless and directionless while we change majors a million times has made us less apt to feel like this country is someday going to be ours. And it’s not going to be. Not when the new politicians are ensuring that the legal system keeps us from succeeding even when they’re all in nursing homes. These new laws, like SB1070 and whatever things Tom Horne, Jan Brewer, and John Huppenthal have up their sleeves, will be legally hard to change. And even when they’re arguable, they will be argued in courts judged by the same agenda’ed politicians. The entire system will be flawed for years to come. One thing I will say about these assholes is that they’re good at getting their way.
So where the fuck was my generation yesterday? Why did I see next to nobody wearing “I voted” stickers? Why were my friends asking me where the polls were, because they couldn’t even be bothered to go online or check their mail for their polling information? Why were people my age, who have been eligible to vote for the past five Novembers, voting for the first time yesterday? Why is everyone attending school out of state pretending that it’s in some way difficult to request an absentee ballot? Why did all of the Latino voters listen to that asinine ad saying that the only way to show the government how you feel is to abstain from voting?
I never had any interest in politics growing up, and then I realized that I couldn’t be a person who cared about social justice without caring about politics. I couldn’t be a functional member of my very politically-minded family without caring about politics. I couldn’t achieve my own personal goals without caring about the politics and social constructs that govern whether I can have access to the resources I need and want. It’s not like it’s particularly fun to care about politics. But we have to do it. It means having a little less fun and maybe spending a little less time worrying about our social lives and television shows, but isn’t it ultimately worth it? Apparently not.
I have very little faith in the United Sates’ ability to overcome this and be a place of functional heterogeneity in the future. I have very little faith in my generation’s willingness to give up our dreams and fight this. Hell, I don’t want to. I’m still young enough to be working on myself right now. I should be planning grad school, falling in love, and working with mentors, not protesting and rallying for basic rights I should already have. It’s mentorship time for my generation, not leadership time. Not failure time. But now we have a choice to make, and it’s to be selfish and let a lot of our peers fail and fall, or to maybe abandon some of our personal goals for collective ones. I’m not sure if any of us, even me, is prepared to make the right decision there.
Today is November 3, 2010. I am 22 years old and almost a college graduate. I am a world traveler who is always happy to come home again to a hometown that boasts cultural, socioeconomic, religious, ethnic, and racial diversity and a country with tons of interesting things to do and hope for and reach for. And today, I am completely ashamed to be a United States citizen.