Reporting back to The Fresno Bee:
The University of California, Berkeley is one of the most politically charged universities in the nation. Our history of intense campus politics, from the Free Speech Movement in the early 1960s to the Ethnic Studies strike of 1999, has earned the student body a sometimes dubious label of being liberal, political, and active. This may be reflective of the general Bay Area liberal atmosphere, something we Fresnans scoff at, but there's no doubt about it, Berkeley is quite an original bit of political real estate.
Stepping onto campus last year, I assumed everybody cared about politics and everybody was actively campaigning for some cause. Now, older and wiser, I know that a majority of students would rather work on their future careers than actually get involved in politics, even on a campus-wide level. Here, the "activist" liberal mentality died out long ago, taking with it the Hackey Sack-playing, Dave Matthews Band-liking co-ed clichés of the '90s.
And here I am, apparently a decade too late.
The news of President Bush's re-election came as a shock to our campus, and the day after dawned dark and gloomy - "like our future," muttered a friend to me as we tabled for an organization on Sproul Plaza. I shrugged. I had had enough.
My inability to cry, as some folks did, or shout, as the small group of Berkeley College Republicans did (repeatedly), made me realize that, frankly, I didn't care who won the election at all. As a member of the so-called 20 million-strong "youth vote," I have never felt as bought and sold as I did that Wednesday morning. No matter who won, neither candidate ever fully addressed issues I care so deeply about, such as reproductive freedom, education and access to health care.
At a time in my life when my friends are dropping out of school months away from a degree because they can't afford books, and graduating seniors are already planning to be unemployed for a while because the economy is so bad, I have to ask: Does anyone in power even care about this generation?
The threat of AIDS, especially in the African-American community, hangs over our heads, while tuition fees for public universities have gone up 10% in the past year. My younger family members are walking into overcrowded and underfunded public high schools, giving them an uneven and incomplete education, like the one I received. My best friend is in Iraq, fighting in a war that seems hopeless, while my other friend is afraid to hold his boyfriend's hand for fear of being gay-bashed.
Eighteen months after both election campaigns started, I sit here waiting to be inspired, rather than spun to and lied to. I mean, is this it? Voting for the first time is supposed to be an awe-inducing experience of the power of democracy in action, and yet, my choices were between two nearly identical candidates who had almost no relation to myself and my life here on the West Coast.
I didn't give a flying whatever what the two candidates did or didn't do 30 years ago during the Vietnam War, yet the majority of the campaign spin cycle was spent on this issue. The voice of my generation is not the Bush twins, despite what people may think, especially after hearing their giggly (and embarrassing) speeches about being young and irresponsible, when I and the people I know are young and extremely responsible. We wanted to know what the candidates could do for us now, today, right here. Now, knowing the results, I don't know what to think. I guess naivete and idealism quickly disappear in the face of political realism, and that's the hardest lesson to get out of this whole experience.
Dorie Perez attends the University of California, Berkeley.Posted by Dorie Perez at November 16, 2004 12:16 AM