In today’s social climate, Millennials, and even Xennials, are “woke” to social and political issues, yet we fail to actually show up at the polls on Election Day in significant numbers. Although we claim to be aware and concerned, we are politically complacent, as evidenced by memes and videos that, while spoofs, pointedly claim that young people could actually care less about changing the status quo.
We could all probably name countless reasons that demotivate us from attempting to fix societal woes. It may be what we perceive as a steady decline of our democratic institutions or the undermining of our civic processes. It could be the lack of political courage to fight against injustice. Or it could be the constant childish bickering and name calling we view from our elected leaders, leading me to believe we have a bunch of children running the country who can’t seem to learn how to share their piece of the power pie with millions of Americans who count on their slice to survive.
I get it. Many of these problems and issues may not impact our daily lives. They might not displace us, starve us, or leave us jobless, but they most definitely will contribute to the rising inequality many of us are striving to combat. The reality is, decisions at every level of government will continue to be made and laws put into effect whether or not we choose to participate in the process. Yes people, these problems are disheartening to think about and solutions seem impossible—particularly in the midst of a divisive and gridlocked political environment. However, we must become involved because the complexity and context in which these issues unfold affect the lives of real people in our communities—our neighbors, and loved ones.
Pew Research indicates that there are 62 million Millennials, who are “projected to surpass Baby Boomers next year as the United States’ largest living adult generation, and are also approaching the Boomers in their share of the American electorate.” Only 51% of Millennials voted in the 2016 Presidential election, compared to 70% our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Millennials are maturing. We are finishing our education, beginning and leveraging our careers, settling in urban cores, starting families, and holding the importance of the issues and how they affect our future closer to our hearts. Much of this, in turn, has motivated Millennials to run for office and care about politics more than ever before, and we must realize the power in that.
I frequently ask myself what happened to our ability to be civil and listen to one another. Why are people so often offended when presented with a different perspective? What values do all Americans share? How might we come together to figure out a common narrative that lifts us all up? Why are we witnessing so much hate? Too regularly, we notice people getting caught up in their bubbles, rejecting exposure to another’s experiences and beliefs, their truths. Curiously, I wonder if leaning into people who have completely different beliefs can work on a large scale, cultivating a collective understanding that united we stand, divided we fall. While this effort may take generations to take effect, we can start by voting for leaders who embody the morality, vision, and character for a more just and equitable country.
Let’s be real, you get the point.
I could go on and on about why there’s such an urgent need to engage in politics and community, but I’ll wrap it up. We each have a personal responsibility to leave this world a better place, as people of faith and spirituality, as fellow Americans, as human beings. You can vote, volunteer, or just be a good person. Just please help move humanity forward. And seriously, VOTE on November 6.
If you find yourself being part of the choir I’m preaching to here, I invite you to pass this message along to friends and family who may not see the importance of fulfilling their civic responsibility.
With respect and hope for a better tomorrow,
If you would like a non-partisan voter guide to take to the polls with you, contact me or find one online here or at a Cincinnati Public Library branch.
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Justin Kirschner has a passion for using inquiry and connection as a means of co-creating just and vibrant communities. He is a native Cincinnatian, community relations professional, facilitator, and change activator. Through his work locally and internationally, Justin has experienced the power of dialogue giving life to new ways of thinking and acting together for a better world. Justin’s interests have led him to be involved with various social justice efforts, youth mentoring, leadership development, managing cross-cultural exchanges, and teaching experiential education. He has a BA in Political Science and Masters in Public and Nonprofit Administration (MPA) from Ohio University. He is the Associate Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Cincinnati, and in his spare time, he enjoys drumming, traveling, and checking out the area’s diverse community and craft beer scene with friends and family.