The Establishment

Can I just…?

Take a moment to express my disillusionment with the establishment known as the United States government.

Mid-term elections were a week ago. I was pumped all month–trying to register, repeatedly reviewing the Wisconsin requirements for proof of residency (no, you don’t need a voter ID, you just need a utility bill or other such document, like a school ID, showing that you have lived in the area for the past 28 days). So sure I would get to the polls and be told, “you can’t vote with this.” And then be turned away in disgrace. But I’m a competent voter! 

I woke up the morning of detached. Oh, I guess I’ll go do that thing. I had googled the location of the Lawrence polls, knew it was close, knew I would need to give myself about 30 minutes and that I would probably be a little late to work. I thought about the last two times I had voted (both presidential). This was my first mid-term experience. I was so close to ditching the whole thing. What’s the point, I thought. What could it hurt, I thought.

The first time I voted I was 21. I was in college. I wasn’t registered to vote in the county of my University. Home was only 1.75 hours away. I made a shift in my schedule, drove home that Monday night, slept in my old bed in my big old room (when I still had my own space at my mother’s…ahhh the good ole days). I woke up ridiculously early (I had to be back for class at 10am) in the eyes of a college senior in order to have a small breakfast and then drove with my mom to the polling place. Decker Township Hall. A small maybe 2 room building about a mile from my mom’s. I had passed that building countless times as a kid. I drive by it now and pay it no notice. I walked in with my mom. I was nervous. Will they know who I’m going to vote for? Can they tell? My hometown is white, working class and fairly conservative, and I had decided way before to vote for Barack Obama. I had a similar feeling when I went in last Tuesday in the north of Wisconsin. ‘Can they tell?’ 

My mom has always been politically minded, active, in touch. She is getting slightly unreasonable in her middle age, but she is still someone I can at least volley political opinions with.

I digress. I read two things today, which prompted me to do this little rant.

1) Don’t blame youth for GOP sweep, via The Chronicle of Higher Education. I don’t know if you can access this. Their articles are oftentimes protected/locked. But here’s a sample:

“When one friend lamented this November’s low youth turnout in a Facebook status, a commenter replied: “Apathetic and spoiled. Bring back the draft. See if more young adults show up to vote if their butt is on the line.” Ah yes, those spoiled millennials, rushing from their unpaid internships to their night classes at college, hunting through “help wanted” ads and living in their parents’ basements!

It’s easy to blame the young for their disengagement from politics. It’s a lot harder to look at how our institutions are failing to foster the kinds of engaged citizenship we claim to want from college students and other young Americans.”

While it’s unlikely many of us sit down and explain to our children why they can’t vote, it would be naïve to think that by 18 they haven’t figured it out. We don’t trust them to make decisions rationally, or to inform themselves adequately beforehand, even as we openly make irrational and uninformed electoral decisions right in front of them. We ask them to trust us to run things for them until they’re older, while knowing that the most important issues at stake in any election cycle will have an impact on young people’s lives far longer than our own. Finally, we tell them that politics are complicated and corrupt, better left to the grown-ups—just as, not so long ago, they were thought better left to the man of the household than his delicate wife.

In the meantime, we keep reproducing that complexity and corruption, with the whole system perfectly insulated from the kinds of transformative influence that young people might want to have on it.” 

We don’t talk. We don’t have frank discussions about the government, their roles and how it all works together. It’s drilled into us in middle school–the Constitution, the Preamble, the branches. All those charts. Remember the electoral college? For what? …to fall to the wayside when it comes time to actually do something with all that knowledge. We allow ourselves to be lied to, persuaded, misguided by the ads and the misconceptions and the Facebook statuses. We don’t have a safe space to ask questions and be shown unbiased evidence. We aren’t encouraged to be information literate in any sense.

And then I feel like it’s little things like this that actually do the most good, but does anyone care enough to pay attention?:

Yes, I trust a comic to lay this out for people more so than someone in an actual place of power within our governmental system. 

Moral, religious, whatever beliefs aside. Can I just say that I think abortion is a medical procedure and not one the government should have its hands in, especially since it’s been happening for thousands and thousands of years in some form or another? Besides, Civil rights are good. 

Something’s gotta give. Don’t you think?


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