Thursday, November 6, 2014

Adult Privilege

At sixteen in a half, I went to the DMV with my mom in tow to renew my learner's permit. The lady behind the counter printed off a new permit and handed it to her. "If you don't like her grades, her skinny jeans, or her boyfriend, you can take it back and we'll revoke it."
And they wonder why I'm glaring in my license photo.
I felt so crushed and powerless. It was bad enough that I got my permit late. Parents, don't lose your kid's social security card. It's kind of important. It was bad enough that I couldn't take driver's ed through my school during the summer for the same reasons I couldn't vote this year. My birthday, November 10th, landed four days after the cutoff date. My friend who was born eight days earlier took it. Meanwhile, I sat through this scammer program where a raspy voiced old lady had us watch VHS tapes on driving safety while she played solitaire in the back of the room.
Obviously, I learned nothing, so here I was getting a learner's permit six months after my age qualified me for a license. It was bad enough that I heard adults referring to driving as "my right" when arguing about traffic laws while I got this droning mantra-"It's not your right, it's a privilege." But up until then, I never knew something as vital and fulfilling as a learner's permit could be demolished by parental tyranny.
Eighteen months passed. This morning, I woke up late, threw on some clothes, dragged a brush through my hair, dug up some change for a PopTart, grabbed my keys from the TV shelf, and ran out to my car. On the way to school, I didn't think about what a miracle it is that I can go anywhere I want when I want. I didn't think about how a car is a symbol of teen empowerment. The only thing on my mind was, "Do I park closer to my first period or the hall with the vending machines?"
Then I turned on talk radio and let it feed me election results while I navigated traffic. That's when it hit me. All rights eventually dissolve into privilege. Voting, like driving, is one of those rights.
I refuse to turn into one of those adults who skips out on election day because they're oh so terribly busy. I don't want to be one of those adults who votes for whatever candidate they saw advertised on their neighbor's front lawn. And I'm definitely not going to be one of those adults who gripes about jury duty. You get the chance to influence a court case, m'kay? Embrace it.
My Women's History class watched Iron Jawed Angels just before Election Day. It's about the suffragists who picketed in the snow and went on hunger strikes so their daughter's daughters could have the privilege of voting. I usually love underdog stories. Revolutions, civil rights movements, suffrage campaigns-I don't care if the underdogs are a different race or nationality. I don't care if they lived centuries before my time. I don't care if they're oppressed in a way I could never be. All underdogs are my people. That's how it's been since July 4th, 2010, the day thirteen year old me thought for the first time what it meant to be independent.
But this time, their crusade couldn't thrill me. So what if an army of women aged twenty one and up got thrown in jail for picketing the White House? It doesn't do me any good, because I'm six days short. Children are the new women. Every argument used against these suffragists- "You don't have the mental capacity! It's just another vote for the man of the house!" and every argument they hollered back-"We're taxed without representation! It's our country too!" Echo arguments I've waged with adults today.
In a way, I'm glad I fell short of Election Day this year. You never appreciate a right unless you don't have it. I scrawled this in my diary last night, but I'm posting it here because the internet is public and permanent: When I get the right to vote, I will vote in every election until the year I die.
To the rest of America, I hope you got out of the house this Tuesday and did the same.

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