Commentary: As a green card holder, my mother never voted. My father claimed that as a member of the military, he didn't particularly feel like he should vote. Thinking back, there was never much discussion about voting in my family. We lived like nomads, never tied to a place for more than three or four years. Why get involved knowing who the mayor was, or our city councilors? Those topics never really came up.
Why, then, am I so invested in politics, particularly local politics, when I could be just as untethered to a firm mooring due to my upbringing? And, I was asked the other day, how can parents do a better job engaging their children in voting and public policy issues? In effect, can we engage millions who can vote but traditionally don't because they are "young"?
"I think for a lot of people, it has to come from personal experience and realizing this is important to you," a friend said as I crowdsourced info on social media. "I hate saying the cliche of 'younger people need to vote', because I hated hearing that when I was young, but now I get it. If you don't get involved, there are so many decisions that happen, where you might not get a say or a voice in."
I replied saying that, strangely, if people vote one way or the other when they are younger, it might influence them for the better in another stage of life. "But that's abstract," another friend said. "You must make it real."
When I was weeks pregnant with my first child, the good-paying job I had was grant-funded and, unfortunately, was not renewed. It all became very, very real. How did we as a country crow so much about family values when suddenly everything became incredibly terrifying for my new family? My state and my neighbors who paid taxes caught me and my family by allowing me to have state-funded medical care, which we needed when my daughter ended up in the neonatal intensive care unit.
Without my state, and the legislative fights that inched that support into reality over time, my family may never have caught up. Now I vote for those who believe that helping our weakest is the most decent choice and support those who believe that maternity and paternity leave are true indicators of valuing families.
With issues like this, there is a strange poking of slumbering giants. Just in population size, Gen Zers and millennials could outvote other generations. For some students, it's as silly as government trying to take away TikTok. For some students — say, those of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School — the thoughts and prayers weren't enough. As someone who grew up in the shadow of the Columbine High School shooting, those activists will have my support because I've only seen legislative shrugs on this. Even tears from a president couldn't slack my horror as I watched, with my newborn daughter in my arms, reports of elementary students being slaughtered. Change needs to happen. It will. It must, because America values its young — doesn't it?
And if legislation starts turning against these tired yet awakened masses — say, in rolling back the tide on gay rights or continued blatant hypocrisy of pushing values that aren't actually measured in action — then more and more people may want to change the system completely and find their allies in another generation: allies who think that shooter drills in schools shouldn't be normalized, and that we might want to let a woman heal after childbirth without worrying whether she can pay to keep the lights on.
I take my kids out to public meetings, like city councilor town halls and city development input meetings. Even as they stifle their giggles under conference room chairs, they get a vague sense that for change to happen, input is needed from people who live in the community and experience the issues. Maybe through simple discussion, maybe through voting in every single, seemingly dull election, they can make change happen. But a vote needs to be made real in its impact in their lives way before they can even take the responsibility of casting their own. For those in the younger generations, perhaps it already has.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She can be contacted at email@example.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.