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Dear Gen Y: Happiness Is A Warm Voting Ballot

Submitted by Jordan-Alicia Machado on May 8, 2010 – 3:37 pmComments

As the battle for same-sex marriage continues to surge through the nation, philosophers and ordinary citizens alike are often forced to reexamine (and defend) their views.  To date, one of the most common reasons for opposition to gay union is the desire to preserve the “traditional” family unit.  Yet, an examination of the statistical assemblies of American households would suggest this modernist idea of family is actually a figment of the past.

Since the mid-1970s, sociologists have acknowledged the emergence of new family structures that very much diverge from the norms of old.  Today’s youth come from a wider array of households than any preceding generation: single-parent, split-custody, adoption, surrogate-mother, and LGBT units are just a few of the varying forms of families producing new generations of Americans.  For many conservatives, these changes are most unwelcome, and liberal, art and media parties are to blame.

And yet, even outside the realm of art, the movement towards post-modernity was entirely necessary.  In 1991, PBS produced “Making Sense of the Sixties.”  The film hoped to expose the tempestuousness of the 1970s as a direct result of the repressive and unnatural confines of the nuclear families of the 1950s.  An entire generation, stifled.  The result: an entire generation, bent on establishing new norms and creating a new societal balance.

We, the spawn of this radical (hippie) generation, are therefore faced with a new set of challenges.  The circumtances under which we are raised are radially different from those of our parents:  our mothers work, our fathers stay home; we watch television during dinner instead of conversing with loved ones; we communicate via the internet instead of face to face.  Yet, while we’re more free to establish ourselves outside of our families, we’re also left without much guidance on what’s “real” or “right”, definitively.  The concept of home, which was previously allocated as a place of refuge and stability, is now a common site of conflict among individuals of differing generations — each with their own credos and norms.  Unfortunately, our generation is too frequently defined by apathy while our elders adhere very strictly to their beliefs.

This generational gap is perhaps the key obstacle when it comes to inciting significant social change.  When it comes to voting, for instance, elder generations appear in large numbers at polls.  Their votes (and our overall absence of them) are what have kept modernist politicals (G Dubya and Gov. Arnie, e.g.) in their ranks.  These politicians, with their unwavering, fundamentalist values, are quite clearly incongruous with the post-modern societal needs of the people they serve.

And yet, our generation continues to be marked by silence.  Unlike the youth of the 1960s, we fail to make our voices heard.  When our parents felt outrage in the days of ‘Nam, they rallied.  But despite the technological innovations that leave the world at our fingertips, we fail to incite the changes we so ardently support.  Perhaps the post-modernist movement that liberated us has also made us somewhat complacent.  Maybe all the freedom we experience on a daily basis has, in fact, hindered us by leaving us absent of direction.  Whatever the case may be, it is time for Gen Y to dramatically redefine itself.  As baby boomers grow tired, we must take control of a world that is every day a bit more ours own.

In an interview with USA Today, Pew Research Center’s Scott Keeter explains: “One can imagine the complexion of issues changing pretty significantly when this generation is in positions of power and authority.” Thus, it is our ethical responsibility to reposition the social spectrum we’ll one day inherit.

As the gay marriage issue continues its plight, we must speak up now.  Our happenstance, while unique, isn’t any less important than that of our parents.  Gender equality, civil rights, and Vietnam have simply been sidelined by global warming, the war on terror, and gay marriage.

In a day and age where young people are seeking to “find themselves” outside of their familial confines, perhaps we could all take a few pointers from Mom and Dad.  We must begin to act on our beliefs.  Cast a ballot.  Show up.  Scream.  Yell.  Boycott.  Picket.  Do something. We’ll thank ourselves later, I promise.

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