Four years ago, I was old enough to vote in my first presidential election. I was living with my parents. I had to brave the terrors of going back to my old high school to cast my ballot. I wore my “I VOTED” sticker all day and into the night, waiting for the results that would validate my efforts and prove that I had made a difference. And then I was crushed.
Nine months later I was in New Orleans, watching Igby Goes Down with my friend and her brother. My friend and I were on a road trip. We’d just been to Bourbon Street and I’d tried a drink called a Hurricane that’s basically an alcoholic Slurpee. At some point, we started talking about the past election, and her brother admitted he hadn’t voted.
“Do you know what the electoral college is?”
“I know what the electoral college is,” I said.
“Votes don’t count,” he said.
The room reeked of pot smoke, and bottlecaps blanketed the floor. When I went to the bathroom, I had to close my eyes, so I avoided the bathroom. Three weeks later, Hurricane Katrina would flood the house, destroy his big screen TV, and ruin most of his belongings, including his passport. Instead of accepting Columbia University’s offer to enroll any Tulane student displaced by the hurricane, he checked into rehab.
My generation is afflicted with apathy. We don’t care. Caring is inconvenient. I know it’s not really fair to make such a blanket statement, but I do know that when I meet someone my age who does care, strongly, about anything other than a band or a relationship, I’m surprised.
The feeling of Never Doing Enough is a powerful spirit-crusher. I felt it four years ago. I feel it when I read the news or when I send ten dollars to the Red Cross in the wake of another disaster. Today I cast my vote in an overheated elementary school auditorium in south Brooklyn. The only ways I know how to quiet that pessimistic voice, the one that casts doubts over my “enoughness” and tries to get me to give in to hopelessness, are one lever pull, one choice, one word at a time.