I’ve been struggling lately with the realization that this isn’t my generation anymore. I’m a decade and a half older than kids who will be voting for the first time this year. My first vote in a presidential election was for Bill Clinton in 1996, which I cast just a few months after turning 18. My voting record has been fairly predictable since then: Nader in 2000 (regrettably), Kerry in ‘04, Obama in ‘08, and it will be Obama again this November. I regret the Nader vote, though as consolation I use it as proof that I’m not as partisan as my voting record suggests. I would like there to be more options, I would. But I have come to believe that it is simply unconscionable to vote in any way that might allow a Republican to win. (This attitude is probably a characteristic of my generation: the youth generation that had their idealism smashed by the trauma of Bush edging out a ‘victory’ over Gore in 2000.)
I can’t pinpoint exactly when the generation shifted; it happened somewhere in the ether between ‘08 and ‘10. But I can feel the change. It’s the feeling that the world isn’t shaping me so much as it has shaped me. There’s a certain spirit to being a member of the youth generation that has passed away. It was an ambitious spirit, a feeling that the world better get ready for when I get a hold of it. But now the world’s got the upper hand. I’m the one that needs to get ready for it. Or rather, I’d better be ready, because the training’s over, son. Now what have you got to show for it?
The world really does look a lot different now than it did when I was casting my first vote, though. It’s difficult to believe that many of the youngest voters this year may only have been 7 years old when 9/11 happened. That’s about the same age I was when the Challenger exploded.
I can still remember both days like they were yesterday, even though so many years and so many experiences separate them. What has become more difficult to recall, however, is the infinitude of the blue skies above, before the explosions.