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More Ageism in America

I will not wait until I am 18 to have a voice in this world. If we are the future, then why can't we have an impact on the future? Today it drew the line on government enforced ageism in America.
Today, I decided to walk down to Pioneer Square to talk with some other activists about Portland's current condition. All of a sudden, someone stopped me to ask my age. I told him I was fifteen. He then replied, "Well that makes my job incredibly hard, because you have to be 18 to sign this petition." I then asked him what the petition was for. He replied, "It's to help the government sponsor destitution struck children living without a school to go to." I walked away, knowing I couldn't do anything to be able to sign that petition.

The reason I'm writing this article is because this needs to stop now. A petition is an act of power to change something, enforced by the people. I can understand, partially, some of government enforced laws that are ageist, but this defiantly draws the line. How could the youth be denied the right to sign a petition? We can't vote, we have many laws and discrimination against us during protests, and now we cannot even sign a petition. I feel like my voice has been silenced by the government, just because of my age. Am I officially stupid just because I am 15? I don't understand. And why can I not be able to sign something as little as a petition. I thought not being aloud to vote was discrimination, but this by far is the most horrible law against the youth. We now are silenced completely. Why is there laws silencing our voice, when we are just as important as anyone older than us? That I don't understand.

Because of my age, I cannot do anything about this. That is why I'm calling for Indy Medias help to spread this message. Please, can we get these laws erased and stop ageism?

Please, the youth is counting on you.

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Any Limit, Ben? 11.Feb.2005 04:26


The logical conclusion to your argument, Ben, is that anyone who is capable of saying "yes" or "no" should have the right to take part in a community's political life. Is this a good idea? Would you want your fate determined by a bunch of difficult three-year-olds? I know, I wouldn't. Relax. The passage of time will solve your problem.

Sambo doesn't even keep his own name 11.Feb.2005 05:36


They don't want your opinions, just your servitude. Pay off thier debts, pay for thier retirment. Do you go to a highschool that forces you to work 40 hours of community services to graduate? They don't even wait until you pay taxes to start working many kids.

side effects 11.Feb.2005 08:45

politicus sal@electrobotanica.org

You would be inadvertantly empowering a lot of adults in this country by allowing them to marshall the vote of their children. Personally, I don't have a problem with emancipated minors who live independently having the ability to vote. However, that's a pretty rare occurance which would not warrant the extra care required to prevent fraud.

Things you can do 11.Feb.2005 08:59


Well, being over 18, I can vote and sign petitions, and I do, but I don't see it having much of an effect, for what it's worth. Considering the implications of voting machines and election fraud, we can't depend on the electoral process. As for petitions, it might make me feel better to sign them, but it seems that many elected officials don't care what their constituents think.

One thing you're already doing is participating in alternative media. This is perhaps one of the most powerful things you can do. When I was in high school, I volunteered at the local alternative paper, writing articles and doing layout and design.

If I were in high school today, I'd be working to get military recruiters out of my school, and be vocal with friends who might be influenced by the message of the recruiters. These recruiters tell all kinds of lies and use wvwery trick in the book to get young people to sign up. Also we need to do more protests at the recruiting stations. We did one last year, and it's time to do more.

There are lots of organizations where you can volunteer. I see that Growing Gardens is looking for volunteers to help low-income families grow their own vegetables. You could hook up with Food Not Bombs, City Repair, one of the food co-ops, or many other groups around town which are listed on Indymedia, and in the Portland Alliance and Street Roots newspapers.

I understand your frustration. Good for you, for not being apathetic. That's more than can be said for most "adults".

Signing a petition and voting is an option 11.Feb.2005 10:15


Those who care enough about the world to change it, actually do change it. People the age of 18, by law, cannot. We are extremely limited. If our voices can't be heard, then how are our issues going to be dealt with? Some petitions or ballot measures are for the youths favor. Because we do not have the option to raise that issue, or even support change, nothing can be done in our favor. It may just seem like I'm full of hot air, but at least give the youth the right to sign petitions. If a "3 year old" doesn't want to sign it, than they won't. The people that actually know enough about the issue to care about it will sign the petition.

NOT ALL THE YOUTH IS STUPID! You can't categorize people under the age of 18 being all stupid, that is ageism. This reminds me of racist times, when they thought all black people were stupid. Who is the majority of the people in protests? It's the youth. We study the issues americans choose to ignore. We are not stupid, we should be able to have a voice.

yes 11.Feb.2005 11:04

protester mom

This is something I have thought about a lot. The whole purpose of government is to quash the efforts of those who wish to harm, and the easiest to harm are the most vulnerable, the children. It could almost be said that the whole purpose of government, by creating supportive structures, is in service of children.
It can also be said that since women are the ones who can be counted on time and time again to care for the children, that if we are ever to be more than just caretakers for capitalism's fodder, that we can at least speak for our children. Every time I have signed a petition, I have felt that I am representing my child, and our pets as well. What official channel is there for the voiceless who suffer?
What I think is that there are some issues that are so "obvious," and that kids should be able to vote on them. But maybe the real problem is that we are petitioning for obvious things in the first place--if we have an issue on the table that a kid can easily decide on--then "obviously" the grown ups have failed!!
I think honestly, that some adults are not mature or knowledgable enough to vote, due in part to the media not reporting on issues. The age thing could get complicated, so my bottom line resolution is that we ALL need to do everything we can at every moment, even if it's just as subtle as presenting a good "image" while at the same time speaking the truth, because we kind of need to make a group effort to push this rock off of us. I think we can have more force with less effort from more people, and I believe that the minority who voted for Bush and those who sit on the fence, are really on our side but they have been brainwashed.
Maybe there is a person who knows about human development, and knows the "hallmarks" of maturity, and can verify that it is only those hallmarks which qualify a person to vote, and not their biological age. This seems to make the most sense of any policy, and then perhaps Bush would be denied the right to vote, and subsequently the right to run for office. It seems logical to me, and I'm sure it wouldn't be hard to find many people who know enough about human development to verify that. It's common sense stuff.
Ben, you have once again done something fantastic. I have been reading your commentaries, etc. for some time now, and I have personally been inspired. You seem pure of heart and true, amongst a crowd of the pure of heart and true. Did you ever read the story of Alexander the Mouse by Leoni Leonis (I spelled that one wrong!)--it's about a mouse who "gathers words" for the long winter ahead while his peers are gathering food. The mice run out of food and are angry at Alexander. Then Alexander talks to them and through talk, takes away their hunger and cold. I think that this is very powerful, and surpasses the material world. This is why I think your thoughts and inspiration--and all the work of all the other protesters--is more valuable than gold. Keep at it!!

Interesting Dilemna... 11.Feb.2005 14:01

Scotty B. humanrights05@hotmail.com

The question of when someone should have the right to vote and sign petitions is an interesting one for me, mainly because of the angle that I'm coming from.

I'm 17 now. I first became involved in politics when I was 14 - that was when I started going to meetings and volunteering for political campaigns. When I was 15, I went to my first anti-war march, and starting following national and international politics to the tee. When I was 16, I volunteered to represent my state on the national Green Party Coordinating Committee - a position I'm still holding right now (I was and still am the youngest member). And in June of 2004, I was also a delegate at the Green Party national convention.

So...obviously, I don't think there's any reason why I shouldn't be allowed to vote, run for office, or sign petitions, even though I am still under the age of 18. The problem that I keep running into though, is that most people my age aren't anywhere near as involved as I am, and don't know anywhere near as much about politics. I mean, 36 percent of high schoolers think that the media shouldn't be allowed to print articles without government approval!

But on the other hand, the percentage of adults that are uninformed about politics probably isn't much higher. Ignorance is present in both age groups.

So the question has been, when should someone be allowed to vote? One person on here was worried that parents would be able to influence votes, but...I know that isn't true for me. My parents were Republicans when we moved here - and *I've* influenced *them* enough since then that I doubt they'll ever vote for one again. Parents might be able to influence a lot of their child, but, can't everyone be influenced by everything? I guess the point is, I don't think that arguments *against* allowing someone my age to vote really hold up that well...when you consider the fact that there's thousands and thousands of politically active high school students out there.

Basically, I think someone should be able to vote once they enter high school. If there's really a concern about voter ignorance, some sort of political literacy test could be required for those under 18, but such a practice would seem to me to be just as authoritarian as not letting my age group vote at all. By the time someone enters high school...I definately feel that there's enough independence of mind and thought that we should be able to vote.

There is a Movement Moving 11.Feb.2005 17:15


First, you can do something about the ageist laws regardless of your age, race, gender, etc. When women couldn't vote they did things to get that right. Youth can do things to get the laws changed too. Just need a cohesive movement built. That movement, the last civil rights movement, is moving.

There are some good resources to help organize against these laws. Check out www.youthrights.org (National Youth Rights Associtation) and www.asfar.org (Americans For a Society Free From Age Restrictions). You should find other like minded individuals in the community and start taking action....any action...something....just to get something in Portland.

I think that anyone that can make a decision 'yes' or 'no' should have an equal say so. That does include 3 year olds.


Salaud 11.Feb.2005 18:34


You're confused, but your heart is in the right place.

ageism 11.Feb.2005 21:45

karl roenfanz ( rosey ) k_rosey48@hotmail.com

adulthood should not have varying ages, the right to vote, drinking, military service, etc should be at the same age. why can the kids die for "their" country, but not drink alcohol? 16 for this, 17 for that 21 for the other thing? why?

1306 john evansville, ind. 47714

Confused? 12.Feb.2005 00:54



please explain the counter argument. But, also, please de-personalize your comments. For the sake of getting something good out of this discusion, please critique the argument and not individuals.


Salaud 12.Feb.2005 07:39


Sorry, it's up to you to explain how 3 year olds "should have an equal say so." An equal say so in what, their color choice of a lolly pop? Please excuse the seemingly sarcastic tone, but your proposition appears to have 0 credibility. So...let's here your reasoning on why 3 year olds should be viewed as responsible citizens to whom you would extend the right to vote.

Good for you Ben 12.Feb.2005 17:06

Roy royeb@proaxis.com

I'm sorry you haven't received the support one would like to think would have come to you on this issue. In Europe, right now, Children's Parliaments are being estabished in amny places. They deliberate on issues and make decisions which in many locales are taken very seriously, as indeed they should be. I encourage you - and us - to prusue such a course. The initial step would be to organize the Parliament, a few can do so. Elections are easy to organize. Then demand that the results of their deliberations be taken seriously. I really don't think - after the recent election - that the argument of 3 year olds holds any water. Adults are as in thrall with advertising media as any child could ever be to parents. 3 year olds are quite capable of articulating needs and desires and of suggesting solutions which do not infringe upon others, as aptly as any Kansas adult. That's certainly true of any Oregon teen.

can you say "non sequitur" 12.Feb.2005 17:33

boys and girls?

Equating disenfranchised teenagers with lollypop-sucking three-year-olds is insulting. Teenagers aren't children, as society is happy to acknowledge if they get caught doing something wrong. If you're old enough that YOU'LL go to jail if you commit a crime (instead of your parents), you're old enough to vote. Get a clue.

I agree with the most of the commenters 12.Feb.2005 21:17


I don't think parents will be that influenced to FORCE their child to vote. Most of them don't vote themselves. I do, however, agree that three year olds should not be allowed to vote for certain things. That could easily turn into voter fraud done by extremely politically involved parents. How ever, That issue couldn't happen if someone was a teenager. People highschool and up, I believe, should be allowed to vote. I completely agree with people younger than highschool should also be aloud to vote too, but there is to many things the republicans could do to steal another election. When it comes to signing petitions, I believe everyone should have the right to do it. I do not enforce any ageist laws, and will not stand for ageism. If things can be done in Europe, things can be done here as well. All I need is supporters and we can actually raise this issue.

Age Of Involvement 13.Feb.2005 02:22


The age requirement to get involved by signing petitions is not as important as actually getting involved in other ways. Supporting your own family, friends, and community in whatever ways that you can, no matter the age, is very important and commendable.

Although you may only be 15 years old, and you may also be well above the maturity level of most in your age group who simply wish to "veg out" in front of a playstation...you are also still a minor, a youth, at approximately 1/5th of your lifespan, and possibly dependent on parents to provide for you. The best way you can affix your name to a petition at this point is to get your parents to sign for you. At least you can do your part in this manner.

Being a 15 year old will seem like nothing more than a memory in no time. Don't worry, you will get your chance soon enough. You have far more than you give yourself credit for. You still have a chance to make the right decisions when the future comes. An old man or the unfortunate adult cannot say the same because they won't be around in the future.

Kids 13.Feb.2005 02:27


Kids are more impressionable and can be molded to suit the needs of adults.

Go ahead and vote on something, hell...as long as I benefit, I don't really care. I wouldn't mind running for office or something and promising the children voters free XBox's and software for being such loyal supporters. I wouldn't even mind instituting a public policy which dictates that all children over the age of 10 can do whatever the hell they want to. I think I can use Britney Spears and Eminem to push my agenda and acquire even more youthful support!

Man, I could rule the world! I think you are on to something, kid.

A bribe is a bribe is a bribe 13.Feb.2005 15:50


"Kids are more impressionable and can be molded to suit the needs of adults."

That's probably why we have such responsible voters and such competent leadership, huh? I mean - a free Xbox is nothing like the promise of cheaper consumer goods or lower taxes or the right to continue driving your big, shiny hummer...

How many adult voters read election pamphlets?
Or the news?
Or even contemplate breaching party loyalty, no matter what kind of chimp is running on the ticket?

Maybe if the voting age was dropped, Americans would freak out enough to actually participate in elections and start paying some more attention to voting in general.

They told women to wait too 13.Feb.2005 15:56

polysci diva

Hey Ben- I read some other people's responses to your article and a few of them really disturbed me. The passage of time will solve your problem? But what about the fact that when you turn 18 there will still be countless youth out there without a voice? And I get so sick of people stereotyping kids as mindless zombies plugged into playstations.I know plenty of voting "adults" that match that description to a tee. Plenty of 18+ voters buy Britney Spears albums, watch MTV, and get all of their political news from John Stewart and Saturday Night Live, and are more than willing to have their political information served up by celebs (how many people paid to see Farenheit 9/11 ?). I'm a college senior majoring in political science. First of all I'm a big huge nerd and I hang out with other huge nerds, so we don't watch MTV and all that crap. We discuss radical political change, read theory for fun, and go out of our way to stay informed. Some of us occasionally turn on our playstations, too ;), but only to play incredibly serious intellectual games,ha ha. Most voting americans are not so well informed. In fact, in my media and politics class we've been discussing how network news actually contains less political news than it did 20 years ago, apparently politics aren't good for ratings. And then there are those adults who can't even get themselves to the polls...Yeah that's really responsible. If we can't even convince those people to vote, why the hell should we be worried about 3 year olds? Oh and that whole, "your parents will tell you how to vote bullshit," don't buy that garbage.Political socialization begins at home and has an incredible and long lasting effect. People who don't vote along similar lines as their parents are a rarity in the mass population. Most of our strongly held political beliefs, are actually a reflection of political influences we encountered in childhood. Yeah, so basicly, adults are still being influenced by their parents when they vote.
They told women to wait. They said we weren't capable of the rational decision making needed to cast a vote. They told us that if we wanted to influence the political process the best thing that we could do for our country would be to instill patriotic values into our sons so that they could grow up to be productive citizens and voters-the myth of Republican Motherhood. While we waited women died in factory fires because there were no laws requiring fire escapes. While we waited towns, like the one I grew up in, allowed men to beat their wives on the courthouse steps every sunday (of course this law was no longer on the books by the time I was born, but it did exist). Women had no custody rights to their children, no right to decide whether or not to have children (and I'm not talking about abortions, I'm talking about the right just to buy a condom), and no legal rights to any money even if they had earned it themselves (that still goes for youths in many states.)Thank goodness for the women who finally refused to wait.
If you're really outraged, stop waiting and start organizing. While you're waiting voting adults are making decisions that will cut art and music programs from your schools, slash funding for grants you may need to pay for college, dictate who you're allowed to marry, trash the planet, and leave you to foot the bill. Forget social security, who do you think is going to have to pay off this deficit George W. has acquired? It won't be our parents.
Having your voice silenced or ignored is not only frustrating, it can be dangerous and has often lead enraged groups to commit acts of violence when every other option seems unattainable. Other youth are just as pissed off as you are. Create an affinity group, I'll bet you soon meet up with others.Stage political actions.Solidarity is such a beautiful way to build hope and hope, of course, is the seed for change. Just another fact: During the civil rights movement, when some southern states closed down schools rather than desegregate, hundreds of youth, some as young as elementary school age, took over political action entirely so that their parents could continue to work. Photographs of these children flooding the jails played a major role in drawing national attention to their cause. Alerting those who do have the vote to the plight of disenfranchised youth could have a powerful and positive effect.You are not confused, or too young to understand. If you were you would not be outraged, you'd be at home playing Halo 2. Youth enfranchisement is a growing movement,don't allow people to discourage you from standing up for your right to have rights! Peace-psd
*a note of thanks to a certain ecclectic bastard who first enlightened me to this important issue.

Young people are the last n*ggers 13.Feb.2005 17:05


"Nothing is more central to the maintenance of social order than the regulatory mechanisms employed to control and socialize our children."--Ronald Boostom, coordinator for juvenile "justice" in California, USA, 1980.

I didn't see anyone give this website, so i'll do it:

They are a group that has existed for a number of years that brings up the issues you bring up and has been trying to organize to challenge them. You are not alone! Plus, there was a group that existed for TEN YEARS in the 1970s and put out a national magazine calle "FPS" that you might want to look at sometime (you'll have to explore the rare books collections of university libraries, most likely, as few of the self-professed 'protectors of youth' will have anything by young people who stood quite autonomous from their adults).

Also, you might want to look up an article in "TIME" Magazine from Christmas, 1972 which took on the issue of young people standing up for themselves. While it's quite ageist, it points out insights that could be excellent, re: 'knowledge is power'. Part of it quotes a Supreme Court justice in basically saying that the Bill of Rights is not for groanups alone. Also, the title of this is actually taken from a quote by an 'adult' who was pontificating about the treatment of young people.

Notably, the topic was originally raised in the well-financed media because people like you dared to organize a SUSTAINED challenge to adult chauvanism. Of course, as soon as you turn 18, you will have all manner of comments made about *why* you'd *want* to help kids (i.e. calling you a pedophile), so that is one of the obstacles to sustaining any youth challenge.

Finally, in case you haven't heard of this, there's a book by a Eugene ex-teacher that might be empowering reading (if just to get together with like-minded independents). _The Teenage Liberation Handbook: How To Quit School and Get A Real Life and Education_ by Grace Llewellyn. She's got a site on the net, but i don't remember it offhand. (yeah, i could go find it, but you'll have more fun doing it yourself!)

Oh, and here's an url you and yours could find definitely valuable in helping you to protect your speech, in skool and outside: www.splc.org (they've been around since 1975!)

unbridled peace to ya!

Be Quiet And Do Your Homework 17.Feb.2005 00:03


Just behave or your grounded!

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