Tag Archives: Youth

The election – Virginia chose civility and reason

election-signs-2017-va - 1Hardly a person fails to follow the polls to consider the trend of opinion approaching the day of election.

In Virginia that appeared to favor Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Edward Gillespie closing in on his Democratic opponent.

There was a pol that had Mr. Gillespie’s opponent, Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Ralph Northam, with a 13-point lead in September, then a 6-point lead weeks ago, and a 2-point lead the weekend before the election.

There was much concerned talk among Dems and joyfully anxious conversation among Republicans.

As they went from polling place to polling place on the day of the election, many wondered if Northam might be the only member of the Democratic slate left standing by election night.

This seeming trend toward a narrow victory for Northam augured badly for down ticket Dems who rely on the tail of the statewide ticket to pull them over the electoral finish line.

Polls and pundits, however, were astonished at the results several hours after 7PM when the precincts across the state closed and began reporting their results. Continue reading

Young Ben’s Soldier

Young Ben

Young Ben

Benjamin Thomas Powell, 11, is a 6th grader in Middle School at Blue Ridge.

Ben has a ready smile, a lot of enthusiasm, that’s in fact quite infectious, and he especially loves soccer; Ben even likes school, every subject, but especially science.

Recently, he went with his Mom, Suzanne and Father, Brent, to the Olive Garden Restaurant in Sterling.

It was busy that evening and so they sat at the bar; Ben was laughing, consuming lasagna with abandon, “having a good time,” Ben said, and talking up a storm with his Mom and Dad.

Unbeknownst to Ben, there was a young marine back from service in Iraq, dining with his family at the same restaurant.

We live in a time when persons talk about community and connectedness but are inclined in their day to day life to act only selfishly, on behalf of themselves, turned increasingly inward, mirroring what our technologies say about us, i-Phones, i-Pads, i-Tunes, i-Pods, all about about I, and so much less than when it used to be about “us” about “we” as a community of people.

But this young soldier, in his late 20s, had seen things this family at Olive Garden had not, and perhaps Ben, if he’s lucky, never will, and it affected this young marine.

He happened to tell Ben’s father, “I picked up your check.”

Brent asked, “Why would you do that?” Continue reading

Wait, there’s an election on November 8th?

It’s that time of year again.  Campaign season.

Well, to tell the truth, campaigning has been going strong for months.  But it’s first in August, when vacations are ending and school start dates magically (and, if you’re a student, often tragically) appear on the calendar, that people are suddenly awake to the fact that summer will, indeed, eventually end.  And those of us who give a damn about local politics can only hope that their next thought is something along the lines of gee, I guess I should vote this year…

Of course, it isn’t.

If half of the people we wave signs at and call day and night to Get Out The Vote actually do make their way to the polls, I would call it a miracle. See for yourself: Loudoun’s average turnout the last time we had a Board of Supervisors race in 2007 was 33%, and 2008’s voter leap to 78% isn’t likely.  But that’s the way we work as a society: we’re all just fumbling around with our faces to the ground, unaware of the pillars that build up around us until we bang blithely into them.  Then we might be motivated to make a change.  Then again, maybe not.

Still, I like to think voter apathy is not a sign of a national crisis of faith in the system that governs, but a sign of an overabundance of faith – that everything will work out fine because the people in charge obviously got there due to their high qualifications, first-hand knowledge of our national experience, ability to differentiate between right and wrong, and constant cogitation that saves from rash mistakes.  I also believe that birthday cake is an acceptable replacement for salad.

And then, of course, there is the other side.  Perfectly intelligent people who forget the other 24 letters of the alphabet on Election Day, who scan the ballot for a D and an R and dutifully make their mark. I do believe that it is important to place faith in your political party, but a deserved faith adapts to/is impervious to scrutiny, not immune from it. Vote for the best candidate, not the best party.  Be open-minded.  Do not slam your door in the face of the opposition (or it’s canvassing representatives – I still have a welt on my forehead from a walk card that was thrown back in my face).  This refusal to do something silly like learn about both candidates is what has led us to the sort of ongoing stand-off in Washington that has the rest of us anxiously chewing our fingernails, waiting for the other shoe to drop (Update, August 7, 2011: the shoe has dropped.)

In the end, I guess the only thing to be said is that politics are messy.  And still, somehow exciting.  With the number of races and traveling campaign managers that somehow found their way into Northern Virginia at the same time, one could say that the circus is in town and really not be far off the mark.  And in these campaign strategies, political affiliation is Aesopian language for either friend or enemy, depending on the letter behind a candidate’s name.  At the same time, the majority of our county population is relegated to the margins because it doesn’t vote, and the numbers that strategists target as ultimately responsible for deciding who leads us are only in the hundreds.  As an independent youth with a less-than-stellar voting history, I have been written completely off by both parties as someone who won’t make a difference with my vote (and they wonder why the American youth isn’t motivated.  Some prophecies fulfill themselves).  But our two-party system is capable of more than this, more than the two extremes of complete apathy and mechanical loyalty.   We just have to give people a reason to pay attention.

 

Oh, and if that doesn’t work, I call for a multiparty system.  Here are a few good examples of the chaos that will ensue.

 

The Unemployed Generation

I am now thirty-six years old. That means that I really cannot qualify as “young” anymore. Monickers such as “younger than…” might still apply, but on the other side of thirty-five, the single designation “young” is inappropriate. I mention this because I am very lucky to count among my friends a good number of people on the other side of that divide. People who are inarguably still young, by any reasonable measure. And among my friends of the generation(ish) following mine, a single issue stalks their lives and decision-making:

Employment.

Of all the cohorts that the Great Recession pummeled, none were hit harder than young people. Indeed, beyond just the anecdotal evidence of friends moving back in with their parents after graduating from some of the best schools (and grad schools!) in the country, the statistics on unemployment among twenty-somethings are frightening. Even as slightly older workers (like me) find jobs and their unemployment rate creeps below 8%, people aged 20 to 24 see a stubborn unemployment rate of 15%. And that rate has stayed high for years. Students have gone through four or eight years of college without seeing any improvement in the economy for themselves when they graduate. And the news is even worse for those who didn’t go to college.

In 2009 and early 2010, it was chic to write articles about this new lost generation. Eighteen months later, their prospects aren’t any better, but they’re no longer good copy. More than lost, they’ve become forgotten – not even worth reporting about.

It will be impossible for America to address its myriad challenges without first, and foremost, putting the generation who will deal with whatever solutions we implement on a solid economic footing. And that means creating and sustaining good jobs for people who have entered the workforce in the past ten years.

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