“The enemy isn’t conservatism. The enemy isn’t liberalism. The enemy is bulls**t.", said the late Lars-Erik Nelson, a political columnist.
Yeah, we know.
I've experienced a lot through living with my peers from across this country, but never before have I entered a world that my generation just doesn't trust:
So here I am, traveling the country speaking with young people and bringing their issues straight to the candidates who are running for President - currently, about six Republican candidates fiercely competing to beat the sitting President. All hoping to convince young people that we can trust them.
The first thing I learned in starting this journey: with just a small travel budget, meeting the candidates isn't actually that hard. Bus rides to swing states, cheap motels, stalking them on the internet - hustle hard and you will find them in Iowa or New Hampshire; at diners, factories, in the hotel room above you. Politics, in this state, is very real. It's what film is to LA, what theater is to New York, what the Red Sox are to Boston. And in Iowa, it's hard for people my age not to be politically engaged - if for no other reason than it's in your face.
Boy, I wish the whole country was like Iowa - a state in which young people can speak directly with the candidates, asking questions and being heard.
They're out there asking the questions of an entire generation: How can we no longer feel a deep sense of distrust in our government? To 'choose or loose' is really just the beginning for us. We already came out in record numbers to 'choose' and tilt the scales for President Obama. But this has felt like a bad breakup. Not with the President but with politics, with our government. We feel let down. We feel like DC is in eternal gridlock. And we're nervous about our future. When I ask a lot of my peers what the American dream is - they look back up at me - confused. Most awkwardly smile - 'the American Dream?'
With 45 million potential voters, us young people can have serious leverage. If you get our vote, you'll probably win. So listen to us - give us solutions to our mounting debt and articulate a credible plan to solve our jobs crisis. What happened to a world-class education? 'We're going to grow the economy' isn't enough for every answer. When you speak with senior citizens you talk specifics - social security, medicare, the list goes on. We want the same.
I have documented and met people my age who have all the reasons in the world to give up - homeless youth, young people with disabilities, ex-convicts and alcoholics - all under 25 years old. But so many have an incredible energy: fighting for a better tomorrow, and trying to help their neighbors along the way. So don't blame it on our generation. There is an energy that goes awry when we hear or even smell the word 'politics'. Somehow that energy gets lost.
But make no mistake: it's on us. It's on us to be engaged, vote, and actually point our future in the right direction. Maybe the politicians can meet us halfway.