If I hear one more member of the Millennial generation tell me how “not political” they are, or how disinterested they are in the current affairs of this country, I cannot be held responsible for my reaction. You don’t have to be a political junkie to sense that something is seriously afoot in American politics. Some might attribute it to the scary black man occupying The White House. Others may point to the zealotry of gun and God-obsessed wingnuts on the right. Choose your punching bag. It’s a tough time to engender positive feelings toward our nation’s institutions and leaders. I get that. However, my cohort has turned ambivalence or disengagement into a “Zen-like thing.” Before we are so quick to step away from the mantle of activism that fate has literally laid at our feet, perhaps we should take note of four undeniable facts about the current state of affairs in this, our American government:
FACT: We are the largest generation since the Baby Boomers with the longest projected life expectancy since the country’s founding. This means that we are going to be seeing a great deal of each other for a great deal of time. Should we not have an active and committed role in shaping the country in which we live? Furthermore, we’re likely not going to be able to retire until we’re around 73. This is attributed to three main things: increased student debt, stagnating wages and the increasing pipe dream that is Social Security. This means that we’ll be living longer, working longer and making less. Put that together and you’ve got a large amount of people who are being impacted by the affairs of the government at many different levels and turns throughout their lives. You might not know about politics, but you better believe that politics knows about you.
FACT: Forty-one percent of the federal budget is devoted to people over 65. Through myriad ways — namely Medicare benefits, Medicaid costs and Social Security expenditures — those with the least amount of time left in the country are dictating the country’s fiscal future. Not to be crass, but Grandma and Grandpa do not have to worry about 40 years down the road. We do. Campaigns and candidates respond to people who show up and vote. The numbers are damning. Turnout during the 2008 election of 18-30 year olds was 51 percent. In 2010 — just two years later — the turnout was 24 percent. On the flipside, those over 65 comprised nearly one fourth of the electorate in 2010 — topping their 2008 ballots cast by 16 percent. I’m sure we love our elders (I know I do), but my life experience and theirs exist on completely different planes. Why are we so content to give them the keys to our own future? Apparently, unless some historic circumstance is sitting at the top of the ballot during a presidential year (See: Obama, Barack H.), by and large, our folks are at home… probably castigating the newest changes to Facebook’s layout.
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