As a young voter walking into the booths on Election Day, I couldnt help but think, Go me! Who can resist the allure of patting themselves on the back with all this Election 08 talk about how our generation is voting like young people never have? Its a little easy to get swept up in the political flattery, being handed flyers with yes on this and no on that like our opinion really matters.
Wow. Were awesome. Right?
All this discussion about the power of the youth vote begs the question, Why now? Weve all been aware of the democratic process since learning the basics of the American government in grade school. Maybe its because its the end of nearly a decade ruled by the Bush administration. I know I sigh in exasperation after hearing the phrases weapons of mass destruction, war on terror, and nuke-u-lar too many times.
Regardless of all the criticisms of the Bush era, it seems strange that were talking about political activism now.
If were so politically active, how did we let Bush spend billions that arent on the military budget in Iraq, push for the PATRIOT Act and succeed in winning a second term? It seems pretty convenient to toss around the phrase politically active at a time when one of the most controversial presidencies is forced by constitutional law to end.
An unsettling pattern today is the increasing amount of faith put into the democratizing effect of the Internet.
Millions are blogging left and right, exercising their First Amendment rights. People go on MySpace and Facebook, make hundreds of friends, circulate their opinions and feel as though theyve made a contribution.
In some cases, the hyper-connectivity of today is harboring political forces for certain issues. And though the circulation of opinions via the Internet knows no bounds, there lies one easily forgettable option that renders such circulation trivial: the spam filter. The click of a button means politicians such as Bush can block e-mails filled with criticism. Did the angry rants of thousands of quasi-political bloggers or the posted pictures of MySpace users wearing T-shirts with George W. Bushs face, subtitled, Not My President cause any of the higher-ups to change their ways?
Voting is one thing. Going on the Internet to complain is quite another. What happened to the passion for politics young people had a few decades ago? What happened to the willingness to risk arrest to stage protests? What happened to the times when thousands took buses to Washington D.C. to confront the federal government?
Its been relocated to Facebook groups titled If [fill in the blank] is elected president, Im leaving the United States and the lawns of Halloween enthusiasts who hang political effigies.
Are we still awesome?
Lets admit it: Were pretty addicted to complaining and criticizing, our favorite words being should and sucks.
I remember having a mock 2000 election in the fourth grade where my classmates and I lined up to cast our votes. The results were pretty close, with Bush winning by a small fraction. We couldnt blame electronic voter fraud, but little did I know how that election would shape the culture of the new millennium. Its almost hard to remember a time before Bush.