Flower power gone sour

During a good-natured conversation I recently had with a man well into his forties, the topic unsurprisingly turned to the elections, the terrorist attacks and the subsequent handling of them by our commander-in-chief. Given the times we are in, I expected this shift from commonplace topics to the events of Sept. 11 and the war in Iraq.

What I did not expect was the shift from intelligent discourse to sophomoric rhetoric spouted by an apathetic grown-up, who pays taxes, buys overpriced gasoline and whose country is at war; a man who grew up in an age filled with passionate activists who sought to effect change and staged protests to ensure their rights. How could this man be so unaffected by the prevailing political and governmental powers that govern aspects of his life and his country?

It soon became apparent that we were not debating at all, something that is necessary if we are to thoroughly understand what it is that we believe and give each other new perspectives that we may not have entertained before.

Rather than learning from a man with twice my years’ worth of experience, as I initially believed, this man was simply trying to push the buttons of a young American who related well-formed ideas and believed in something, unlike him.

When he realized that our discussion had reached an inevitable stalemate, he put an end to the conversation with, “It doesn’t matter. That’s why I’ve never voted.” I realized I had been wasting my time and my logic on a man so obstinately set in his indifference that he tried to dissuade the concerns of someone whose perspectives did not parallel his own, as if my argument was the one amiss and his lack of an opinion was perfectly acceptable.

It is one thing to impose one’s beliefs on another person; it is a greater offense to impose a lack of beliefs on someone who actually has them. In this time, young people are forced to believe in something more than ever before.

These days, Medicare and taxes are no longer on the top of the politicians’ debate list. The ubiquitous matter at hand is terrorism and its effect on our country. So even if you don’t know much about lockboxes or you aren’t interested in “reading the lips” of the candidates, this election is more pertinent to everyone than other recent elections.

The president we elect will decide what to do with our troops-the young men and women who we go to school with, who live next door to us, who are our relatives and friends. This election, more than in recent years, should move you to believe in something.

Otherwise, you might as well give your citizenship to one of the many people who board makeshift rafts and risk their lives each year seeking better opportunity on the shores of America. Give your say to one who seeks refuge from the oppressive government he cannot change. Give your vote to one of the people who “re-elected” Saddam Hussein because they had no other choice.

These people would not take that right for granted. They, as Americans, would not fail to use their voice to protect and ensure the rights and freedoms that they would enjoy as citizens of the United States of America.