So let’s stop pretending it does.
Marches and movements are quickly becoming a weekend norm not only in the United States but throughout the world. Millions of global citizens, often marching for the same reason on the same day, demand change in policy and attitude from their leaders and their neighbors alike. The Marches for Science and Women (different events with the same desire: let the world know science and women are not only important but all around us) featured marchers from all backgrounds and faiths, from all places on gender and sexuality spectrums, and all walks of life. Parents brought their young children with cardboard signs and strollers along to not only witness history, but to be a part of it as well. Activism is spreading like wildfire through the world as more and more people find something they are passionate about and gain the confidence to fight for it. But in the blazing glory of justice and equality, differing opinions still attempt to squash similarly- minded flames. Often, the cause for this seems to be age.
The question of when people are old enough to fight for what they believe in is not a new one. For as long as there has been protest there has been protest about the protesters. The Little Rock Nine and Ruby Bridges confronted segregation in American schools head on during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. Before them, young textile workers from Pennsylvania marched to Theodore Roosevelt’s New York home to demand protection in the form of child labor laws. The Students for a Democratic Society organization of the 1960’s organized major protests against the war in Vietnam, amongst other social issues of the time. In short, teens and youth have always been a part of the fabric of American activism. Still, teens like myself often have to answer questions about why we choose to stay informed and why we protest government action and policy. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, so this is just analysis of what my personal experiences with the subject.
Older individuals often laugh at and/or doubt my dedication to staying informed about the politics of this country and the world. They usually question why I worry so much about policies that “won’t affect me or my friends” and quickly return to talking about the economy, their jobs, or non-political issues. If there is one statement that confuses me beyond belief it is “the policies of today won’t affect you or your friends in adulthood”. Not to be rude or simplistic, but uh, yeah, they will. Policies dealing with issues of foreign relations can affect the relations between countries for decades. Economic plans have long-term impacts on markets and job opportunities. Climate change policy will directly impact whether or not my friends and I can live on this planet without needing gas masks, and whether my friends and I will share this planet with the same species older generations lived alongside. Attitudes toward immigrants, or women, or those of a different faith can have lingering affects on how my generation views one another, further deepening the divide between nations around the world. Every policy decision made by every elected official in the past 10 years will most likely impact the world for at least the next ten years. What your political ideology is doesn’t factor into this; everything leaves some sort of legacy behind it. My generation, and the generations that follow, will inherit the world created by the decisions made by the older generations today.
So, yes, teens and youth do have reasons to get involved with activism today. In a country born on the principles of democracy and free expression, the fact that the next generation cares about their future enough to become a part of the democratic process should be celebrated by everyone who has come before them. After all, everyone was once a part of the “next” generation that cared “too much” about things that “didn’t affect them”.