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Monday, November 19, 2018

Columns

This generation is writing the letters that spell out change


As college students, we are consistently convinced our vote doesn’t matter, our opinions are not valid and we cannot make a change in the world. It is easy to feel apathy from the conclusion our vote not counting, which taints the reputation of the youth in America. This generational feeling is not a coincidence. There is a purposeful disenfranchisement of the youth.

Saman Essa, a member of the Student Nation at UH, researched and included the Rohingya cause in the most recent campaign. | Courtesy of the Student Nation at UH

This is a ridiculous assumption when you reexamine history through the lens of the passionate young individuals who became the catalyst for change from the March on Washington to the March for Our Lives.

Student Nation of UH has planned a letter writing campaign on April 19th. The letters will be mailed to Texas representatives regarding pressing international and domestic issues such as healthcare, DACA and the genocide of the Rohingya.

They are in response to overwhelming silence on these issues by Texas Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz.

The February Letters for Change event received attention and attendance from a diverse array of the student body. | Courtesy of Student Nation of UH.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials, which are categorized as 20 to 35- year-olds, are set to outnumber Americas largest generation, Baby Boomers.

The Millennial generation was born when every industry and institution — politics, technology social movements — was constantly evolving. Obviously, the opinions born from a fluctuating period in history sharply contrast from conservative and normative beliefs before them.

We are deriding those who want to change the world for the better, whether it is through technological change in Silicon Valley or social change and awareness for the disenfrachized.

This negative marketing that opposes Millennials and Generation Z limits our influence in the political sphere. Our voice would ring loud and clear in the chambers of Congress where the majority of elderly white men make decisions about the future of our education, student debt, social change and policy that determines how many lives will be lost to preventable gun violence. Our representatives don’t care, and the rise of the youth is the only counter to this apathetic excuse for democracy.

The goal of this campaign is to make students more comfortable expressing political thought and get them involved in voting. Millennials and Generation X outvoted the Baby Boomers by 21.5 million in the 2016 election. We have the leverage based on sheer numbers to ask for more representation and respect than we get. This capability and influence is well masked in societal and political rhetoric, disguised as sharp jabs at the esteem of an entire generation.

We cannot let the cynics and skeptics — comfortable in their lofty positions of authority — deny us the right to hold them accountable through our civic duty. We have the power to socially crucify politicians like Senator Richard Burr or Representative French Hill who take the most NRA  money in their chambers or our very own former Texas Representative, Steve Stockman, who was convicted of 23 counts of corruption and money laundering.

We are not going to accept the demoralization of the ambitions of the youth any longer.

The average member of the House of Representatives represents approximately 700,000 people. Politicians typically rarely reflect the members of their constituency who vote and can provide fiscal support. This often disregards the younger and more diverse demographics. This makes them feel like they can ignore the opinions of this underrepresented facet of the community.

When politicians, such as Beto O’Rourke, do try to reach out to college voters, they come with simple and generic baseline answers to intricate questions. O’Rourke for example, followed the common political trend of making vague encouraging statements with solution of substance. This is because the answers are often unpopular, but deserve to be heard.

Students want to know why student debt chases us to the grave and how congressmen can watch school shootings and not draft legislation that could save lives. We have burning questions that demand more than pandering.

It is difficult because there is no obvious political party for us anymore. Democrats held the attention of the youth with their devotion to reducing global warming and openness to gun control, but their fluctuating stance on student loans is a severe deterrent. The polarizing nature of our current politics and identity politics undermines any attempts to identify with a party and not their loudest members.

This Letters For Change is the third event of its kind at the University of Houston, and the overwhelming support for it was surprising considering the stereotype of the politically uninvolved college student. The first event in December received 356 letters, and in February there were 419 letters. There is support from the student body for engagement and participation.

This is proof we are voters whose attention merits politicians’ attention.

These politicians are too comfortable in their current position. Let’s show them how we’ll vote in the November elections if the silence continues.

We are in a period of remarkable change, growth and progress but also one of apathy, ignorance and silence. It is our decision to determine what change we will make for the history books.

Opinion Editor Anusheh Siddique is a political science freshman and can be reached at [email protected] 

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