Sunday, October 31, 2004

Fall colors: red or blue?

How I love this time of year: every American gets a chance to flex their democratic muscles and vote for those causes and candidates they believe in, or for the ones all their friends believe in, or at least not vote for the ones they really dislike, or just make a pretty pattern with the bubbles on the ballot the way you do when you already know you're going to fail a multiple-choice test because you have absolutely no idea what all these measures are or why Lori Jones would make a better judge than Gus Gomez but you've seen those signs that say "Vote or Die" and you're going to vote, dammit. You're an American and you're going to exercise your right to inflict your ignorance of the issues you're voting on on the rest of your fellow citizens. You were kind of suckered into it anyway; you thought you were just voting for a presidential candidate and have been agonizing over that decision for, like, almost ten minutes. Nobody said anything about having to have an opinion on other stuff, too.

I think Get out the Vote efforts are a step in the right direction, but they still fail to fix the problem of youth complacency. Sure, now they'll vote, but they still don't know what for. As a de facto member of the "whatever" party, I wonder why it is I don't care. I've come up with a few reasons (aside from my general bent towards contrariness):

1. I have no idea what's going on.

2. When I try to change that, there's way too much information to wade through.

3. In addition to just trying to absorb all this information, I have to a. determine its trustworthiness, and b. suppress my desire not to run from anything depressing / disillusioning / frustrating / angering, as I rarely experience any other emotions when reading about politics.

4. I get the impression that, even if I was well-versed in all these issues and had an opinion I could back up on most of them, what I think still doesn't matter, and nor does my vote.

The end result: I get my news from friends whose intellect and opinions I respect, as they have already filtered the information for me. I vote because I know I should. And when I filled out my ballot, I asked my parents for guidance on how to vote (aka "so how did you vote I'll do that too") for the various offices, measures, etc. Not too bad, I suppose, but it pales in comparison to the dream of real involvement that we envision for ourselves.

On the upside: I'm so glad Halloween is close enough to Election Day to distract us from all this. It was a lot more fun thinking about costumes than about issues that seriously affect our future.

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