Saturday, March 8, 2014

Child Labor Continues Today

We've raised the minimum age and thanks to outsourcing we no longer have to labor in textile mills. Those have become more mechanized anyways. Workers don't personally weave cloth, they supervise the machinery. But unequal pay and long work hours continue.
My friend Jade works in a retirement home, sometimes 13 hour shifts. I see girls stumble into first period bleary eyed because they worked until close and that came at 1:00 A.M. At fifteen, I got a job selling hot dogs and churros at my local baseball park. They hired under minimum age to avoid minimum wage. We earned three dollars an hour. That is one cheese burger an hour. Minimum is $7.25.
Yes, our lives don't look like this anymore.

Certainly working as a young person isn't as hard to today as it was in 1914. But aside from the things I've mentioned, not much else has changed. We are still a valuable, important sources of labor that keeps the economy going. That's why the voting age should be lowered to sixteen.
In 1969, the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18. Because eighteen year olds have opinions? Because their voices deserved to be heard? No, because eighteen year old boys were sent to fight and die in Vietnam. No, because of the 25,593 boys who died in a war they never voted for. That's not counting soldiers who were sent to Vietnam before they were 21 but passed a birthday while they were there.
Let's look at this logically. If an eighteen year old deserves to vote because his life was put at risk, shouldn't that mean only soldiers should have the right to vote? Why not say, "The right of citizens of the United States, who are in military service, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age." That would exclude disabled males and almost the entire female population. But the ammendment passed, and they were given the same rights as their friends in Vietnam. Rights they had never earned.
Teenagers work. From sixteen on we have to pay taxes, but we have no voice in how the government spends our money. And while it's true that not all of us work-especially since adults sunk down during the Recession and stole our fast food jobs-we all have things we'd like to say. Yes, not all people would take advantage of their new voting rights. At least not immediately. If at sixteen you begin to entertain the notion that your thoughts and opinions matter, you'll be more eager to show up at the polls when you're eighteen. Most eager than a high school senior who has never kept up with the news, never gone to community political meetings, never even paid attention in government class.
You might say that teenagers would only be influenced by their parents. But who isn't? Do you vote the same way as the people who raised you? Who taught you right from wrong and right from left? Do you vote the same way as your spouse, your friends, your coworkers, the billboards glaring down at you as you drive to work?
On Election Day back in 2012, I typed the word "who" into google. I don't remember what I was searching for, but I remember google's top suggestion: "Who should I vote for?" In a day and age when people let search engines dictate their political beliefs, parents are not the worst influences. Besides, if you agree with the stereotype that all teenagers are rebellious, wouldn't we naturally vote against our parents?
Voting isn't the important issue here. Sixteen to eighteen is a (relatively) small slice of the population. It's unlikely that we'd be able to sway an election, just as the first female voters in 1920 brought no great political change. That wasn't the point then and it isn't the point now. It's having the right to vote in the first place. Rights are infinitely more precious than whatever you decide to do with them.

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