By Garrick Hoffman
In the last issue, we presented an interview with SMCC student Sam Underwood, who spent this fall season working for the Maine Democratic Party in support of Mike Michaud. This is the second of three installments.
If you don’t see yourself working with politics in the future, how else do you think you’ll find yourself engaged? Is it just like you said [in the last installment] – fulfilling those duties of a citizen?
That’s really the bare minimum. For me, it would be important to make financial contributions to worthy causes, to be charitable with my time and money, to really not just meet those obligations but to carry them out to the fullest extent possible. And I understand that if young people don’t stay in the game, we can never have another JFK or Barack Obama or Bill Clinton. The reason that guys like that got to be in high office is because they stuck around. Since I’m not gonna be running for office ever, I’ll be able to offer my support to people who will do the best they can for the state or the country or however you see it.
Do you think that there’s this kind of heightened sense of apathy with our [millennial] generation now? About political issues, social issues, current affairs, the world that we live in, etc? If so, do you find this apathy is more pervasive in our generation than ever before? Or do you have a more optimistic lens of the world, and that our generation has the tools to make a change and to inform ourselves better than previous generations?
That’s tough because there are a couple different ways to look at it. I’ll tell you I wasn’t born yesterday; I know our generation is apathetic. I wouldn’t dispute that I wish our generation could be a little more proactive and could spend a little less time complaining.
That being said, we have a lot to complain about. I can’t comment on how it was in previous generations because I wasn’t around to see it, and neither were any of my peers. But it’s my assessment that probably the most destructive meme – and I’m using that particular word “meme” very specifically – that is so pervasive is this perception – and its not just our generation that thinks this way, it’s older generations too – that “all politicians are corrupt, the system is broken, and there’s nothing anybody can do about it, so why bother trying?” If you buy into that lie, if you allow yourself to give up, to give into despair, sacrifice your hope, trade it in for apathy, then you’re playing into the hands of people who already have power. You’re not making them less powerful. You’re not part of the solution; you’re part of the problem. So when I talk to people who don’t want to vote, for example, or who think voting is pointless, it really aggravates me because they don’t understand how much power they really have.
When you say, “I’m not gonna vote because there’s no point,” you’re not just exercising your right to free speech (although you are doing that), you’re also putting that out there for people who hold you in high esteem to take on as their own ideology. I spoke with a woman recently who told me that she had never voted. She was in her 40s or 50s I would say. She had an adult son who was close to me in age.
This woman, who had an adult son, who had never voted in her life (and her son has never voted either) said, “I really want these changes in our state. I really want XYZ, but I don’t really see the point of voting.” And what I told her was, if you say that you’re gonna go vote for XYZ reasons, and you’re going to vote for so-and-so because you like what he’s all about or what she’s all about, even if you dont make it to the polls, if you start talking about it, people who hold you in high esteem, people who think you’re worth their time and look up to you are gonna hear you say that, and that’s going to affect whether or not you go to the polls. It might not make or break their decision. Somebody has to be touched with an idea a certain number of times before it takes root. But the idea that you only represent yourself in your vote is false.
So yeah, I think that a lot of people our age have fallen victim to the idea that apathy is safe. It’s not.