Why Gen Z should care about politics | Commentary – San Antonio Express-News

Since middle school, I’ve watched C-SPAN and other news networks. Jaunty little reporter’s notebook and cheap pen in hand, I took notes from speeches of senators far away. Why would a kid from Castroville care about what they have to say? About politics? Why should any of us care?

I care because my generation stands to lose the most. Despite the misguided perception of Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, as a pack of apathetic, ever-vaping TikTok scrollers and shut-ins, we’re a group of people deeply concerned for a future at risk. Raised with  a ubiquity to technology once unimaginable, we’re fueled by a desire to move forward, not backward. 

The attacks on individual rights and learning concern me most. Today, our rights haven’t progressed much more than 50 years ago. Our choices at the polls play an outsize role in that.

In the cascade of legislation in Texas and across the country that aims to silence curriculum that is diverse and inclusive, a human component is easily lost. But Gen Z’s policy concerns reflect a desire for stability. Because we’re focused on assuring a livable future, we care about climate change, growing mental health needs and the loss of rights, such as reproductive health care.

Aiden Fish wrote this commentary for the Express-News’ Teen Team program, which connects high school students with reporters, photographers and other staffers for one-on-one training. To learn more, visit expressnews.com/ENTeenTeam.

My peers who identify as heterosexual or LGBTQ+ aren’t foolish enough to believe the outlandish GOP sound bites about how books featuring gay relationships or history will turn kids gay. We’re not stupid.

What we do notice is that lawmakers reject individuals, friends and people we love. We see how they reject the experiences of people who aren’t white and privileged. All we’re asking for is the room to exist as we are.

Fear is a way of life for Gen Z. To be young and exist in the era of mass shootings is to constantly feel the gravity of the situation. We should cry after every shooting, but we don’t.  But this isn’t right; it isn’t how it’s always been. Mass shootings shouldn’t be considered normal. It is a grief born of statistics —  that I am more likely to be killed by gun violence than by any other injury or illness. That I compare the number of people a headline declares dead to the same number of my friends, trying to imagine the magnitude of the tragedy.

I grew up on books. Reading created a sense that the world was an exploration worth making. When I was in the fifth grade I outread every other child in my grade, finishing more than 3 million words.

That sense of exploration, reaching toward worlds that don’t look like mine, is what GOP bans target. They put a bull’s-eye on new ideas and differing worldviews, starving understanding by taking away the opportunity for empathy. Banning books about LGBTQ+, racism and puberty don’t make the LGBTQ+ community, racism or puberty go away; they only make children who need support feel more alone.

My generation is fighting for a future that looks like the people working toward it: more diverse and open to societal change. By engaging with politics, even when the system feels imperfect, I’m fighting for a better world.

 Like most of my generation, I support a government that gets involved, whether reducing climate change, or, like 48 percent of Gen Z, supporting the right to same-sex marriage as a benefit to society. I won’t swing an election, but my vote matters. 

When I turn 18 in April, I will finally get a voice that no one can deny. Voting is incredibly important; every election matters. Democracy is on the ballot, and staying at home isn’t an option. I hope Gen Z joins me at the polls. 

Aiden Fish, a 2023 Express-News Teen Team member, is a senior at Medina Valley High School in Castroville.

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