Readers Are Spellbound & Perplexed…
Dear GWBW — Please help me motivate my teenager to vote!! We feel so strongly about this but somehow it’s not discussed or encouraged enough in school and he just doesn’t see the point and has even made some pretty cynical comments (“it’s rigged,” and “It doesn’t change anything anyway”) about the process. We’ve already tried the arguments: “You are the future of this country,” and “it’s important for you to voice your opinion” and nothing works. Elections are right around the corner, please help. — Ballot Buster
Dear Ballot Buster,
Sorry we only just saw your email (anyone else having difficulty reaching us in email please PING US AGAIN) — but as we’re still in time (squeeeak! VOTE ON TUESDAY, November 2, people!), here goes.
I agree with you and MTV that it’s important for teens to vote. Let’s start with what you’re facing: the average teen isn’t informed about the issues, isn’t a taxpayer, and is only concerned about any issues that may or may not affect him (i.e., the draft, or possibly sexual orientation issues.). Try giving him a broader understanding about why voting is important (hundreds of thousands of people have fought and died for our right to vote which many of us now take for granted. At least know that it’s still NOT like this (free and open society, rights to express oneself — and the vote necessary to maintain those privileges) everywhere around the world today, son. A free, dynamic, growing and evolving society (especially one as young as America, much like you) takes the involvement of its citizens to voice their opinions (by voting) and stand for something (care about themselves and the community (local government) they live in and the larger society (federal government) they will eventually die in). Give more reasons as you find/feel them.
Try appealing to your son’s stage-typical self-concern: our country is still not in peace time, you may be called to serve; you may not be able to picture it, but it’s a fact that your future starts now and money (taxes and services), gas costs, healthcare to retirement issues all affect you and your friends now, etc. Kids should understand that the constitution, for instance, is not a static document guaranteeing its rights (including freedom of speech, of or from religion, from cruel or unusual punishment, and from unreasonable search and seizures). Freedom is responsibility, and voting is just the beginning.
Share your personal story about voting, whatever it may be. What does your son care about in the abstract? Maybe you can connect it to a current proposition or local/state candidate’s stance.
Vote because you’re an American, young sir, because you won’t always be one…a kid. Start early, vote frequently (joke in a single election, my challenge to you moving forward). If you haven’t already, register to vote for the next election now.
Vote on November 2,
Dear Ballot Buster,
First explore MTV Rock the Vote designed to influenced younger voters to make their voices heard. Complacency now can take us more than a few steps backward.
Start the conversation again. There is a black family in the White House. Does your son really believe that if the voting was rigged THAT’S who “The Man” would put in the Presidency? When we vote we begin to turn the wheels of change. And there are some major changes in the work.
In California we are looking at legalizing marijuana, which is another good example of how the system is NOT rigged. Choices of leaders who will help those in financial stress during these ongoing nationwide economic struggles and those who are bought and paid by corporations for whom enough money is never enough are at stake in this election. Does your son really believe these choices will not effect how much he has to pay for college, what classes he can take and how much or little financial aid will be available to him? If he’s not going to college, does he think these choices won’t effect how and if he finds a job anytime soon?
Mind you, my thoughts reflect my own liberal leanings, but whatever your beliefs and choices are get out and vote. The vote elects the people who can make the changes. The vote makes the changes. The system may be flawed, but it’s not rigged. It may turn slowly, but every vote is needed to make a move at all.
History is on your side with this one, pull from it to make your point. Use the logic of the rebellion of the vote, which should be effective with a teenager. Change can happen, but only if we all rock the vote!
Let your voice be heard,
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