If You’re Under Age Forty

 

A message today for anyone under age forty: People who have another ten to twenty years left on this planet, if they’re lucky, are making decisions that will affect your life and the lives of your children long after they’re dead and buried. Who are the people I mean? They’re people who, after living in one town all their lives and knowing the same thirty people, people who are clones of themselves, are now in a senior citizen community in Florida with the same thirty people.

Or, they’re people who spend their days driving around in their golf carts, and their evenings drinking imported wine and single malt scotch at their club.

They’re people who won’t admit that the only religious freedom they support is their own—they want prayer in schools, but only Christian prayer.

They are your mother, who needs your help to set up Netflix, and then is shocked by films that depict interracial couples or gay couples. They are your aunt, who keeps asking your mother when you’re going to married. They are your grandmother to whom your Black or Hispanic friend is scrupulously polite, because he knows she gets jumpy whenever she sees a dark face on someone who’s not mowing her lawn. They are your uncle who thinks nothing of using the N word, and makes a face of disgust if someone mentions that gay relative.

Now, not all us old people are this provincial, insular, fearful, intractable, bigoted, and uninformed. I know people who’ve lived through WWII who’d be very offended by this description of my age group and theirs, because they’re not at all like this. But, you see, we’re few and far between. There’s more of the above than there are of those of us who see young people as the salvation of humanity, the path to a more high-minded, educated, inclusive, creative and savvy future, in which decisions are based on logic and science, not on superstition, propaganda, and fear of the unknown. A future that considers the entire planet, not just one person’s neighborhood or church.

But we only have so many votes. And we too, will be leaving this earth sooner rather than later. I know you’re out there raising kids, or trying to get somewhere in your career, or making beautiful art, or trying to discover the cure for cancer, or even, just trying to get by, lost and overwhelmed by the mess of a world we left for you. (Note: I’m sorry. I really tried.)

But you have to make time to vote. You have to be determined to scrub out the dynasties, the cronyism, the reverse ageism, sexism, racism, and religious fanaticism that is now permeating the highest offices in politics. When these people die–and they will, thank god, because no amount of money, no war they start or education program they end will prevent that—once they’re dead, you have to be ready to get people in there who reflect your world, the world I see in the films you make, in the books you read, and in the artists you admire. You have to drown out the voices of the lunatic fringe, because right now, those voices are screeching the loudest. You have to show compassion for those who see the world in small, square bits and pieces, by giving them the opportunities that are being denied to them by their upbringing, their socioeconomic environment, their restrictive organized religions. You have to understand that some people know no better, know no other way to live than to be afraid of who and what they don’t know. Open your hearts and minds to those people too, because right now, the only ones who are talking to them, the only ones getting their support, are those who feed into the fears of these communities. Don’t scorn them, shun them, mock them—help them. Teach them. Show them they’re afraid of nothing and that politicians and religious leaders are lying to them.

DECIDING NOT TO VOTE, as a PROTEST, is not the answer. Like it or not, you still have to live in this world, and if you want to eat, to have a place to live, you still have to deal with society. Why allow it to spin out of your control? Look around you–look at the faces in Congress, look at the men speaking about God–are these people YOU? They’re not. Hell, they’re not even your grandparents or parents, but I bet your parents and grandparents might not know that, or believe that.

Don’t let these people win. And so far, they’re winning. But you can’t give up. You can’t fall into despair. Instead, get angry. Get moving. Utilize your youth, your vitality, your energy, your creativity. Vote, not only for congress, governor, etc., but for all those “initiatives” that get covered in confusing jargon that makes your head hurt, and are too long to follow. They do that on purpose. They want you to not know what you’re signing away by ignoring then. READ that damn pamphlet that comes with your voter registration, and decide on “question 3” or four, or whatever. Those initiatives affect your daily life, the lives of your kids, in ways you can’t imagine. Vote for your local town council. Vote for your school board. Vote for your local assembly.

Please. For your sake, not mine, please do it. VOTE.

 

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