Thinking Out Loud: This election season, be the change

Morals and values seem to have fallen by the wayside.

Respect and kindness are things of the past. Common sense has become an offensive phrase that should never be mentioned.

Crime is out of control, our public schools are on the verge of collapse and our political system has become a joke.

Our world is in shambles, but how did we get here?

As a member of Generation X (those born between the mid-1960s to early 1980s), my generation often blames Baby Boomers (those born between about 1954-1964) for the societal problems we inherited.

Now, Millennials (those between the early 1980s to late 1990s) blame Generation X for the current problems of the world.

Baby Boomers and Generation X both blame Millennials for what they’ve done to life as we know it.

If they haven’t already, the newest generation, Generation Z (those born after Millennials) will soon start blaming everyone who came before them.

The young blame the old. The old blame the young. This is the way of the world, and it’s nothing new as it’s been happening for centuries.

Regardless of the generation, society is always willing to point fingers. We often blame our current issues on either the past or present leader after an election. In similar fashion, every sitting president has placed blamed his predecessor.

Everybody has to blame someone, but as we go through each four or eight year term, what really changes?

President Donald Trump based his campaign on the premise of making America great again.

I guess the answer of what made our nation great is open to interpretation.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a patriotic American. I respect our flag, I stand for our anthem and I, like many others took an oath to support and defend our great nation.

But our country has issues. It’s no secret there have always been problems in our society throughout history.

As long as there have been borders, there have been immigration issues. Wars have been around since the world began.

As long as there have been labels attached to what we are, there has always been racism, prejudice and hate.

The problems in our world are not the sum of one man. They are things we did to ourselves.

I’ll agree something needs to change with regard to where we’re at politically and for our nation as a whole, but I don’t blame Donald Trump.

I blame the American people, specifically those who don’t care enough to vote.

Voter turnout for national elections in the United States has never been spectacular.

In fact, the U.S. has a much lower voter turnout than most developed nations.

According to a recent Pew Research study, the U.S. came in 24th out of 33 world democracies. Belgium led the world with 87.2 percent, while the U.S. trailed with 55.7 percent voter turnout.

The only time in U.S. history where we’ve seen large voter turnout was in the mid to late 1800s when percentages were consistently in the high 70s and low 80s.

Statistically speaking, you would think voting percentages in our population would increase over time as women, minorities, Native Americans and the influx of immigrants who became naturalized citizens were given the right to vote, but over the past century, voting numbers have actually decreased.

I laugh after an election when I hear comments like “the people have spoken” because it’s a very misleading quote.

For national elections it might be more appropriate to say “roughly half of some of the people have spoken”.

Sadly, turnout numbers for local and midterm elections are often substantially lower, yet this is where the average citizen has the power to actually make a difference in the political landscape.

I don’t claim to know everything about politics, but I do know low voter turnout is a problem.

When we choose our congressional representatives and senators, we have the ability to make changes we so desperately desire at the federal level, yet midterm election percentages in 2014 were the lowest in 70 years with just 36.4 percent.

Looking at local elections (city government, school board, etc.), typically more than 80 percent of registered voters choose not to vote.

It’s truly a shame when we see average turnout numbers of 20 percent or less in local elections.

Sometimes numbers vary and may be slightly higher, but generally they’re lower than 20%.

There is absolutely no excuse for this.

Keep in mind this has nothing to do with age, race, ethnicity or party affiliation.

Voter turnout is a representation of those who are registered to vote but didn’t.

Unfortunately, there are also many citizens in our population who are eligible to vote but are not even registered.

I’m sure there are some valid reasons why they don’t want to vote, but complaining or just posting rants on social media doesn’t change anything.

If you don’t vote, you’re stuck with whatever choice others are making for you.

If you’re okay with that, disregard everything written here.

If you do want change, you need to step up to be the change.

Regardless of which side you’re on, actions speak louder than words.

Voting is essential.

If someone were to ask me what makes America great, my answer is simple.

We have the ability to shape our future by doing something, or nothing. That something is the power of voting.

Think about that.

-Shawnee-based writer Marty Augustine is the new Dispatch opinion columnist.

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