So you wanna make a difference, huh? You're young, you're strong, you're entering your intellectual prime, and you're just itching to stand up to the arrogant gray-hairs of your parents' generation—who, admittedly, royally screwed things up—and set our nation right again. You want to end injustice, end poverty, end pollution, end the wars, and push the powers that be toward smarter, fairer, and more sustainable policies. In other words, like generations of politically conscious students before you, you want to change the world.
Well, here's a novel idea: You could fucking vote!
Yeah, sure, marches and rallies and sit-ins are great and all that, and those fellow students of yours who welcomed arrest last year protesting the unfair labor practices of food services giant Sodexo, they sure earned my admiration. But if you really want to make a difference—if you really want to strike fear into the sclerotic hearts of the political establishment and force reforms that make a difference in the here and now—you and all your classmates will register the fuck to vote and then fill out and mail in your goddamn ballots!
Honestly... how hard is it? It's like an open-book quiz you've had months to prepare for, and it's multiple fucking choice! All it takes to vote in Washington State is five minutes, a pen, and a first-class stamp. And the stamp is optional. King County Elections doesn't advertise it, but the Postal Service is instructed to deliver ballots postage due. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.
And yet most of you don't vote. According to data compiled by the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement at Tufts University (yes, they stupidly felt the need to spell out the acronym CIRCLE), only 21.3 percent of eligible voters age 18 to 24 bothered to vote in the 2010 midterm election... you know, the election that filled Congress with racist, fascist, science-denying teabagging lunatics. Lift your eyes up from your paper or iPad, and look around the Starbucks or library or lecture hall in which you're reading this: On average, four out of five of your fellow schoolmates didn't bother to vote.
Now look at yourself. Did you vote? No? Asshole.
And don't tell me that voting doesn't matter, or that your one vote out of millions can't possibly make a difference, because it does and it can. Those 20 percent annual tuition hikes you and your parents are forced to swallow (and yes, another one is coming next year), that's what comes from a legislature that doesn't fear you, a legislature that's more concerned with the whiny don't-raise-my-taxes concerns of home-owning oldsters like me than the generation of I'm-too-cool-to-vote kiddies like you who us homeowners are counting on to change our bedpans and give us minimum-wage sponge baths a few years down the road. Oh sure, politicians love to talk about how you're our future, but they're up for reelection today. And 51.4 percent of eligible voters age 30 and over cast ballots nationally in 2010—still too low, but almost twice the pathetic rate of you 18-to-24-year-olds. So who the fuck do you think the politicians are going to pander to?
So yeah, march and protest and rally all you want. Join your student government, volunteer for your favorite candidates, or join the political hipsters at Washington Bus. All that's great. Do it. But above all, if you really want to help fix our nation's broken political system—if you really want to change the world—vote, goddamnit! Or shut the fuck up.