We, the Posterity
By: Mateo Portelli, Contributor
I am biased. I believe that the news exists to objectively portray current events and happenings to the public at large. However, I must say that I believe there has been a loss of integrity both on par with writers, but also a loss of independence of readership. We must have faith in those who see the words of authors that the audience can come to their own conclusions when presented with opinions and facts. I had a bit of trouble writing this piece. I’ve rewritten this introduction perhaps five times now, mainly because I wanted to appropriately convey my intentions. Perhaps it’s best if I clearly state them: I want to present to you a problem I’ve seen for the past few years of my engagement with the political arena among youth, and hopefully change your opinion you might already have from an apathetic point of view to one of desire for action. This won’t be a happy essay, but perhaps together, we can pursue a happy ending. For this reason, I openly admit my bias and give for your approval an edited version of my 2017 Original Oratory We, the Posterity.
Perhaps it’s stereotypical to ask your audience to close their eyes and imagine a world of utopia. Perhaps one of progress, advancement, health, and all around good… vibes? Well, as the nature of the title of this article implies, I do have a vision for the future. But, usually, when people ask me what I see as a utopia, I don’t picture flying cars or teleportation machines. Instead, I picture a world in an atmosphere of civic engagement, and of liberty, and prosperity. A world in which We, the Posterity stand as one united Generation-Z, in pursuit of a greater future.
Apathy — it is a lovely word. Greek in origin, there are two parts that form it. A-, the prefix meaning “not,” or “without”; and, pathos, the root meaning “suffering,” or “passion”. So, by adjoining both roots, we find that apathy means “without passion” or “not suffering.” Apathy is a plague that has vexed the heart of humanity for thousands of years. It was perhaps first used by the Hellenistic Stoic philosophers as apatheia. Since being considered by Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi as one of the eight mental states, it’s been the subject of much discussion in the realms of philosophy, psychology, and sociology. However, I’ve rarely seen it applied on a mass level to political spheres. I am disheartened, however not by that. No, I suppose it is the apathy that many of my peers have for the future that disheartens me. And I don’t mean their future, mind you; we are quite adept at being selfish and caring for ourselves and our endeavors in education and careers. Rather, it is the disregarding of the future that worries me.
“We Are In This Together”
I’m reminded of a passage from American Founding Father and second President of the United States John Adams. In a letter to his wife Abigail Adams, he said this:
Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom!
And… it’s true. We as a generation shall never know, how much it cost our parents, and their parents, and the ancestors of both this nation and our own lineages, to forge the foundation of freedom and prosperity, for We, the Posterity. How can we? We as a generation have yet to stand witness to a revolution that had such an impact on the world like that of the American Revolution. But exactly from this experiment in liberty was birthed the nation, and Constitution, that we now have today. Enshrined within the Preamble of that Constitution, it expresses this in 32 words:
We the People of the United States, in Order to … secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The writers of the Constitution formed the framework of our nation with the intent to secure the Blessings and gifts that come with Liberty among a free people, not just for themselves and their families, but for the future of the union — but for We, the Posterity. And so, when I look around my high school, my City of Las Vegas, my State of Nevada, and my great nation, the United States of America, founded upon the principle of the preservation of Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness, and Justice for all people, and see my peers and those around me bear such apathy to the future of this city, of this state, of this nation — I am… replete with despair. Because it doesn’t matter your political alignment, your faith or lack thereof, your ethnicity, race, sex or gender, socio-economic class, opinions, or downright principles: it is a clear observation of rationality, and thereby an irrefutable fact, that we are in this together, on a little patch of dirt, on a small rock we call Earth, flying around our Sun, circling the Milky Way Galaxy. So, how do we go about this?
“Young Adults Just Don’t Care About Politics”
How do we make it so that the people of our nation, and more specifically the future of America, begin to actually care about the future of America? Given that we all eventually die, until immortality becomes a reality, we have a vested interest in bettering the world — in decreasing the suffering while occupying our space for 80 or so years. So then, how do we make it so that we fully repay our ancestors for their sacrifices? Well, it’s imperative that we begin to foster an atmosphere of civic engagement among our youth. These teenagers, my peers, are the future of this nation, and so we owe it to those who have come before us, and to those who will come after us, to build a better world. Now know that I’m not saying that we all have to agree on everything — quite the contrary. Fostering respectful discussion and agreeable debate: this is the passage to an understanding among our society.
And yet, try as we might encourage our youth to become engaged in, say, the electoral process, according to the Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, in the 2016 elections, only 50% of all eligible youth voters, aged 18-29, turned out to vote, and over the past five elections, on average, 48% of eligible youth voters turned out, the lowest being 41% in 2002, the highest in 2008 at 52%. The easiest answer to why this is that young adults just don’t care about politics; they don’t care and believe that should all be left to the older generations. But even our adults don’t care! In 2012, 53% of all eligible voters went to the polls. And, in the 2014 election cycle, out of all registered voters, 36% turned out to vote, the lowest turnout in 76 years since 1942. If our own adults don’t care, how can we possibly expect our youth to care?
“Politics … Has Been Perverted”
Politics has become a dirty word, a curse word, amongst regular conversations. Politics has become mean legislation, public policy, politicians, taxes, things no one really likes to talk about. But the word has been perverted; this is not what politics is. Look at the etymology of the word — from the Greek politika, meaning “the affairs of the city,” and from the Latin politicus, meaning “of the citizens of the state.” In Greece, it was not unacceptable to talk politics at the table — it was expected that you would discuss what was happening in the city. Politics was integral to the lives of the Ancient Greeks, as well as the Ancient Romans, as it was considered a civic duty to vote. Perhaps we must begin to amend its definition, to the Next Generation of Politics.
(Bah dum tss.)
But enough about self-aware puns. Let’s jump forward over a thousand years, all the way to the inception of the American Revolution. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, 49 pages long, argued the origin of government, and how the British Crown overstepped its authority over the colonies. Now, the American population in 1776 was a bit over 2.5 million people. Estimates vary, but between 75,000 and 500,000 pamphlets were printed. If this is the case, that means that there was one pamphlet for between every 33 to 5 Americans in the colonies at the time. These ideas of how central a people are to their government were widespread. In the time of the colonists, it was pivotal to understand the affairs of what was occurring. Compared to today, most Americans, let alone teenagers, can hardly grasp the policy issues of your average congressman. We don’t see our politicians drafting 10-page essays arguing on gun rights or freedom of speech. There’s been a disconnect and thereby a dissolution of faith in our government, and perhaps this is the reason our citizens and why our youth have completely stopped caring for the affairs of the state. Perhaps this is the reason no one cares.
“There Is Clearly Something Wrong”
On Youth.gov, under their Civic Engagement page, there are a mere 4 paragraphs devoted to what civic engagement is. The first paragraph defines civic engagement, the latter ones just talk about how kids volunteer. There is clearly something wrong with the methods we use. Activities such as Speech and Debate and Mock Trial to a good job at getting kids involved in public speaking, but they often fail to drive true legislation. Nevadan organizations such as Trial by Peers and the Nevada Youth Legislature, for example, work directly with my state’s courts and legislative bodies, but they too don’t seem to capture the attention that we know our youth can devote. They’re too boring! and so no one joins them. Ladies and gentlemen, there has to be a better solution. Perhaps the best solution to this problem would be organizations such as the Bill of Rights Institute, The Leadership Institute, and of course, Next Generation Politics. Organizations such as these strive to involve kids and give them a reason to care without boring them with the legalese of the legislation. They give youth a voice and directly point that at our elected representatives so that those in power can lead the change that is so required by our youth.
“I Am An American”
There are problems today in our society, especially for youth. Drug use, mental health crises, crime and gang involvement, and their own apathy for, well, everything. There are issues, but no one has been able to put forth a solution — No one cares. Apathy. But with the rise of platforms such as the Bill of Rights Institute and Next Generation Politics, there are avenues for change. America and her people have changed. No longer can our nation pick up a printed pamphlet and read 46 pages of critiques against a government. Our nation has become overrun with political apathy, and technology has exponentially advanced. But one thing has stood as stone against the test of time. That Preamble, those same words still stand true: “We the People … secure the Blessings of Liberty … to,” the children of the nation, to the future of this Union, to the heirs of the Earth, to We, the Posterity. But I still hold true the sentiments of President John Adams. In truth, his quote to his wife was a bit longer:
Posterity! You will never know, how much it cost the present Generation, to preserve your Freedom! I hope you will make a good Use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven, that I ever took half the Pains to preserve it.
We owe it to our ancestors, and to our future, to make “a good Use of” our predecessors’ costs. We must begin having a real conversation about the issues facing our generation, and what we should do about it. We can certainly name causes, and in truth, there are issues that affect our youth that may be no fault of their own. Nevertheless, it is imperative that we promote civic engagement among our Generation-Z. More and more I am coming to the conclusion that we need to turn to become like those revolutionaries more than 240 years ago when they declared, “We the People.” And in truth, it does not matter your origin to this nation of ours. I, born to a mother of Salvadoran descent, and a father of Greco-Italian origins, came to America when I was about 4-years-old, in 2005; but be that as it is, I feel a pride for this nation and a love for its founding unparalleled among all other identities. I am an American, and in this, I wish for nothing greater than liberty and prosperity for my family, my friends, my neighbors, and for We, the Posterity.