Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Problem I Have With Politics (Let's Get Serious)

I don't talk about politics with people often. Or ever. It's not because I'm ashamed of what I believe or value. It's because I fear discussing opinions with people in a world of "tolerance" that's not really tolerant at all. For instance, a vocal majority of the world preaches equality -- everyone has an equal right, they say, to marry who they want, do what they want, and say what they want without judgement or reserve.

... until you have an opinion that contradicts theirs. Then you're a racist, homophobic, woman-hating pig.

Gee. Seems pretty tolerant, doesn't it? People calling each other names over social media (seriously guys, what is with that?) because someone differs with you in opinion or preference doesn't make you tolerant. If you vocalize equality and tolerance and love and respect, I expect you give it in return. Instead, people are berated, bullied, and slandered because of their beliefs and values.

It all comes to a head during election years. In these years, people put aside their love of television, their good will toward men, and their generally pleasant demeanor and bombard and attack. And not everyone is this way -- a lot of people, like myself, stay silent throughout the months leading up to an election. I'm not politically educated. I don't watch CNN or any news channel regularly. I don't listen to NPR. I'm not blue or red or Democrat or Republican.

I'm Jenn, in case you were wondering.

I'm a woman who has her own set of beliefs and who didn't vote in this election.

Hound me all you want to, because Lord knows, others have.

Your vote is SO important, they said. EVERY vote counts.

And I believe that votes are important. I truly believe that voices matter. Individuals make up a collective voice. So, you're probably wondering why I didn't vote. The bottom line is that I didn't fully and completely believe in and support either candidate.

So I didn't vote.

And a lot of you are probably narrowing your eyes as you read this. You mean, you actually AGREE with Romney? You mean you don't like Obama? or That means you must agree with SOME things Obama agrees with, right? You should have voted for him, then.

Let's be clear: I will pray for and respect anyone who is our President. And it is your job, as an American, to do the same. I may not agree with everything Obama does or stands for, but that doesn't mean he deserves disrespect or slandering. If Romney would have won, I would not have agreed with HIM on every issue, but I still would have respected him. Why? Because it's who I am. And I believe God commanded us to respect those who are placed in positions of authority. It's a command I will adhere to.

So that's why I didn't vote, plain and simple. It would have been lying to myself and my country to bubble in either Obama or Romney's name on a ballot. And that's not who I am. I will only vote if I wholeheartedly believe in a candidate's vision. And no candidate will ever be perfect -- you're kidding yourselves if you believe otherwise -- but I want my vote to be cast for someone I support, and not someone I feel I just "had" to vote for, out of obligation or civic duty or whatever.

Now comes the fun part. I'm going to discuss why social media and young voters are... well, in my personal opinion, a bit disillusioned. You're probably going to be offended, but that's okay: I would almost be disappointed if you weren't.

I wasn't on Twitter for the 2008 election, and it's probably for the best. I was away at college in West Palm Beach and was finally old enough to register to vote and to vote in an election -- guys, I felt SUPER accomplished. I decided to register as an Independent, and follow the crowd and vote the way I knew most of my small, Christian college was voting. I didn't vote because I knew about the issues. I voted simply because it was the next step in my "adult" process. Twitter and Tumblr (and Facebook, too) are wonderful outlets to connect with individuals.

The majority of the people I follow on Twitter are younger than me. A lot of people are still in college or entering college, and I'd say that a good chunk of the percentage don't have full-time careers (Kim and I lament this sometimes, when we realize that our friends can stay up late and then sleep in and not worry about working a full day the next morning). In an election year, a lot of issues are raised in debates.

Wait, scratch that.

According to Twitter and Tumblr, there are really only two issues in the election -- same-sex marriage and abortion. These are hot-button issues that have always been and will always be factors in any election year. And they drive me crazy because they're only used to rile people up, and not to settle anything.

So are you against gay marriage, then? Are you for abortion? What's your stance?

I will not get into these discussions, but will tell you that one of the two very much presses my buttons. And in light of things that have happened recently, does even more so. And that's all that I will say about that. ;) But the fact that I know you all so desperately want to know what my stance is sort of proves my point -- young voters are so focused on only these two issues that they become the ONLY thing that concerns them. Which is bad.

Stop right there -- I'm NOT saying that it's not important to care about these things or that you are wrong if you have an opinion on them either way. Do not misunderstand me, dear readers. If you have an opinion and are pro- or anti- then good for you. What I am warning, however, is that you not become like the crowd in "Intro to Political Science."

(WAIT. I managed to make a Community connection! Did you doubt that I would?)

In "Intro to Political Science," Annie Edison and Jeff Winger go head-to-head in a debate for student council president. When Annie recognizes that she's losing to Jeff's charm and charisma, she begins a slow chant: "No matter what you're told, we HAVE to clean the mold." Troy and Abed, as commentators, recognize that she had reduced her platform for student council to one issue alone, and then turned her one issue into a sound bite (and a catchy slogan) in order to rile up the crowd.

... sound familiar?

Both parties have turned these two issues into their platforms. Like I said earlier, it's not WRONG that either of them have an opinion. But look on Twitter. Or Tumblr. The majority of people who are ecstatic about Obama's win are mentioning that there are states that now are on the way to supporting same-sex marriage and that there is an openly gay Senator. And that women will not be oppressed by Romney.

Well, then. As much as I admire people for the freedom to have their own opinions, I haven't seen anything on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook about the economy. Again -- here is my issue with being on social media during this election: the majority of the young voters are YOUNG. I graduated last year from college and was one of the fortunate ones to actually find a job when I graduated. I knew that I wanted a job -- I mean, who DOESN'T? -- and that I didn't want to have to work full-time at Publix with a Bachelor's degree.

The majority of my friends haven't been as fortunate as I have. A lot of my friends have gone back to graduate school, not necessarily all because they have wanted to but because they can't FIND jobs. They're accruing more debt because that's all they can do. They're shelling out hundreds of dollars a month for an apartment and can't afford to buy a house. Some of my friends (and myself included) had to move back in with their parents because they can't afford anything else.

I feel bad for my friends with marketable majors -- my Engineering graduate friend who had to move home and work at a golf course because he can't find a job in his field -- and even those without "marketable" majors because jobs are so difficult to come by. A lot of my friends are still working at Publix or Wal-Mart or Target or part-time jobs. And these are people with college degrees. But that's all they can do and find.

See, I haven't heard anyone on Twitter or Tumblr discuss THIS. It's all about social change -- the "popular" thing to care about these days. And I heard a commentator discuss this last night, but for all of Obama's well-meaning words, "change" and "hope" are not things to build a future on.

Wow. Pretty harsh, Jenn. Way to think that young voters don't care about those issues. I mean, seriously. Who do you think we are?

It's a good question to ask -- who ARE you all? When I was in college in 2008, I voted because it was cool. I wanted a sticker and wanted to do what everyone else did. When you're 18, you vote, I reasoned. It's just something you DO. I didn't think about student loans, because gosh... that was SO far away. I didn't really think too much about getting a job in my field. Of course I would -- I'd be an editor for a literary journal or magazine. I worked for my college's journal, after all. I had experience. I would have a degree.

And then I got into the real world. My parents paid for two years of my college and I drained my savings paying out-of-pocket for a few more years. I had a scholarship, but it wasn't enough to cover tuition increases at the school I transferred to. I recently started paying back student loans. My parents, whom I love dearly, have two other children to support. I don't expect them to foot my bills -- not my car payment, or my cell phone, or my insurance and gas, nor my student loans. Student loans are a pain. Interest, I have found, is even MORE of a pain.

Most of my friends can't afford to live without roommates. Most of my friends can't afford graduate school. Most of my friends can't afford much, and they're graduated from accomplished schools with accomplished degrees. Kind of sad, ain't it? The unemployment rate between 2008 and now is very scary:

You may be like I was -- young and in college or working at a part-time job -- thinking: "That's so far away." I'll admit: I thought exactly the same things YOU did. And maybe you're lucky enough to have parents who pay for everything -- who are well-off and can afford to send you to college without you having to be consumed with worries about debt and financial strain. I'd surmise that this isn't the case for most of you. Most of you are probably on your own for college. Some of your families are strapped and are taking out loans on your behalf.

Remember what I didn't when I was in college: those loans have to get paid back. With interest. *shudders*

So what is the point of this, then? Am I berating you all for voting for someone because you support marriage equality? No. But I'm wondering, if neither candidate vocalized any of their preferences regarding same-sex marriage or abortion, if Obama would have won. Of course, you probably have other reasons for voting for him. But those aren't reasons I'm aware of, because I don't hear them.

Again -- don't mistake this post as an attack on Obama or a cheer for Romney. Like I said, I don't agree wholeheartedly with either of them.

All I want, really, is for my friends who are graduating to be able to find jobs and be successful. In a few years' time, most of you will be into the work force, and I pray you don't have to struggle as hard as most of my friends, my own parents, and loved ones do financially. Since Obama is re-elected and is promising another four years of things getting better, let's hope that this is true. Let's hope that the chart above isn't an indicator of the next few years -- years where I'll want to get married, raise a family, and buy a house. Years where I'll still be paying off debt from a private college, where I'll hopefully have a job where I'm not concerned about cut-backs because of the economy.

For my sake and especially for all of yours, I hope that we really are moving in a positive direction.


  1. Admire you for taking this stance. I don't agree that you didn't vote because a lot of women campaigned years ago for you to have the right to vote so it makes me sad when women don't use that right. It's like taking it for granted. You don't know how lucky you are. But again, full admiration for standing your ground & having the strength to voice it.

  2. @Anonymous: just because you have the right to do something, doesn't mean not participating in it is taking it for granted. I have the right to smoke (and as of Tuesday, the right to smoke pot) but I'm not "taking for granted" my right to do so by not smoking. Just saying.

    Jenn, I love you for this post and whole heartedly agree. Those hot topics are the only ones people talk about, thus being the only topics people hear about. They are two issues that people are passionate about. Very, very few people are indifferent to same-sex marriage and abortion.

    And it drives me crazy (really, don't get me started) on the reverse discrimination that this country is plagued with.