Examining back when the movement was alive, the youth fought for the right to vote at the age of 18, queer rights, women’s rights, and for peace and the environment; and many of those viewpoints began to exist in legislative policies.
Ever since the 1980s, the government has made a noticeable hard-turn to the right. Under Reagan and the first President Bush, the progressive policies put into place since FDR began to dissipate. Instead, the United States embraced deregulation and promoted the free-market which has now come back to haunt us.
Activism of the youth has risen tremendously over the last few years, and I believe part of that increase came from the concept of “change” that every candidate offered during the 2008 election and the then there is the growing cost of tuition.
Occupy has been led by the youth who at the same time have been learning from the older activists who were the counter-culture in the 60s and 70s.
What bewilders me is that for some reason our lawmakers feel like that when someone turns 18, they have the political consciousness to vote, but not run for office as if the two things don’t relate to each other at all.
As someone who is 19-years old and has involved himself in campaigns against poverty and violence as well as in movements like Occupy, I have experienced and learned so much from the interactions of people that I would have never gotten from simply watching the news, going to some fancy law school, or watching a political debate.
Although civil rights leaders like King and Malcom X were great leaders, it was young people who rallied around them and did most of the organizing. Many young people were told by their elders to just simple accept the racism and don’t risk any danger, but instead those young people formed groups like Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and Students for a Democratic Society (SDS).
Not allowing my generation into Congress makes us unrepresented. Congress has shown no interests in fixing the student-debt crisis or the high unemployment of young people. The only time politicians have shown any interests in the issues of the youth is during the election when they want the youth to vote and volunteer on their campaigns.
The youth today are more progressive and do favor things like gay rights, women’s rights, income and wage equality, low-cost or free education and healthcare, laws and protections preventing racism and sexism especially in education and with the way that the police treat people.
Until we allow these progressive thinkers into Congress, the progressive ideologies that the left holds will continue to disappear as the right continues to overturn things like the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Roe V. Wade.
Young people are usually the innovators of society; they haven’t been subjected to the doctrine of boundaries and the mindset that “things are the way that they are and there’s no need to change it” yet. Look at people like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates who in the 70s help push our technology far beyond what anyone could have dreamed of. A more recent example would be websites like Facebook or Twitter created by young people who had an idea.
Now, let’s ask ourselves what would happen if we were to put progressive and innovative youth into our government; maybe they would be able to come up with ideas that no one would have thought would have worked.
Until we allow young people into Congress, a whole generation of thinkers and citizens are not having their voice heard.