I’ll admit it. I was not one of the 36 students, an abysmally low number, who voted in last year’s New York state elections at Binghamton University polling sites. While others may have obtained absentee ballots and voted in their own districts, the number of students active in politics on campus remains low and I’m just as guilty as almost everyone else.
Politicians cater their attention and agenda to the demographics who vote. If fewer young people vote, politicians will dedicate their resources elsewhere. In 2012, 46 million people between the ages of 18-29 could vote, comprising 21% of eligible voters. Despite these numbers, only 45% of these people went to the polls in 2012.
At minimum, these turnout numbers should reflect those of the national average (58.2%), but sadly, they do not. If we want to demonstrate our outrage over the exorbitant costs of pursuing either vocational training or a college education and the scarce number of well-paying jobs available afterward, let’s mobilize.
If corporate influence in politics disturbs you, do something! If the conflicts raging from Libya to Gaza to Ukraine frighten you, educate yourself. If you detest colonialism, demand that oppressors be held accountable. If the NSA’s spying and the militarization of the police make you pause, discuss it with someone. If the lack of equality for the LGBT community enrages you, advocate for change. If spending more time attempting to impeach our president really makes you sleep better at night, I suppose dedicating your resources to that is worthwhile, too.
If you don’t have an opinion about any of these issues, check your pulse.
Feeling guilty or reasoning that our voices have no impact will not change the status quo. Joining a group on campus, supporting candidates we deem best fit for office, learning to recognize the biases of everything we read and protesting violations of our rights will make a difference.
Last year, I did a lot of writing and criticizing; however, I didn’t do much else. Whining about politics on social media is not enough. I can’t claim to have many solutions to pressing world issues, but here’s something I believe: If the average college student cared about politics half as much as he or she cared about drinking and smoking on a Friday night, we would live in a better country.
Every article that I wrote last year drew dissent; much of which was constructive and valid; as well as support, all of which I appreciate. Frankly, what bothers me isn’t criticism or differing points of view; it’s apathy. Find something, anything that you’d like to see changed and learn about it. Write for a Binghamton publication, obtain an absentee ballot, read the news, take a Political Science class or attend a GIM. Issues that threaten our democracy have fallen on deaf ears for far too long, and it is our responsibility to express our desire for improvement.