To The Daily Sun,
From the age that we are old enough to do so, we are told to vote, for "freedom isn't free" and so on. Yet, behind this sociopolitical claptrap of the modern American partisan ambiance exists the unspoken supposition that what is expected by "go vote" is solely concerned with the U.S. presidential election — the most unfamiliar form of civil engagement that we "democratically" attend to as an constituency.
In other words, the obsessive flag swaying that resembles theological methods every four years via a national election is preserved as though it is the single action one should contemplate if they care about having their opinions accounted for. In its place of nurturing a sense of community within our youth, and young adults — the authors of this piece not excluded — we are tormented with an "I voted" decal and to return to normalcy after the presidential appointment.
To arouse the radical spirit of historian Howard Zinn, let us evoke that "voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens."
Those in positions of authority also advocate the notion that "our vote counts." But does it? Does it count if we vote and we have no idea why or for whom? To reiterate, does it count if we vote based solely off of the information we are fed by the mass media, popular news stations and podcasts discussing everything but the issues that need changing, the progression that needs a swift kick into motion and instead, on the personal lives and affairs of the individuals running?
For example, did you know that Hillary Clinton was diagnosed with pneumonia this past month while on the campaign trail and might have become dizzy during a rally because of the heat she was feeling under her suit? Did you know that Donald Trump let Jimmy Fallon rub the top of his head on the popular evening television show in front of a live studio audience to prove that the comb-over look he wears is in fact real and not a wig? If you didn't, we commend you. Who cares, really! And why has the race become so obviously petty?
To answer such a profound question, we could easily turn to "Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media" as a means of underlining the assembly and undercurrents of the way in which propaganda, or commercialized as well as state-sanctioned illusions, are used to pacify the American populace. Of greater historical concern, we could even tend to the anarchist thinker Emma Goldman, who observed that "the right to vote, or equal civil rights, may be good demands, but true emancipation begins neither at the polls nor in courts."
In any case, the exploration here ought not be understood such that a widespread sense of apathy toward civic engagement unavoidably follows. Rather, we so direly need to think intensely in regards to the forms of political action that we dedicate our limited time towards and evaluate its impact. Instead of incalculably rehashing a presidential election, which is staged by the same public relations firms that sell cars and laundry cleaners, we should survey the local landscape; tend to matters of town and regional politics, where small collections of concerned individuals can work to garner truer change from the bottom-up.
Life is complex and so is voting; maybe not the act, but the process that comes before. We work just as hard during campaigns as civilians, as the candidates do, if not harder. They work to convince us, and we work to understand why it is that we need convincing.
If we can't speak for the others of our generation, we can speak for ourselves. There is indeed a level of hopelessness and discouragement going into this election, knowing that the last commander in chief's "promises" haven't worked the way most millennial thought they would. That is to say, the country has not made the progress that we have all dreamed of.
By way of resuming to Zinn, we must finally note, "what matters most is not who is sitting in the White House, but 'who is sitting in' — and who is marching outside the White House, pushing for change."