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  • Writer's pictureRaymond Niblock

A Call to Rise: Gen Z's Critical Role in Shaping a Just Future (and what "The Last Independence Day" has to do with it)

For those of you who read The Last Independence Day: Secession, it is hard to get past the first chapter without appreciating the theme behind the story. Unchecked political extremism, after all, presents an existential threat to our federal republic, the democratic principles that uphold it, and the preservation of social harmony. Moreover, for those who paid any attention to the reviews the novel received on Amazon, you can, no doubt, detect the novel doesn’t appeal to self-styled contemporary “conservatives, ” who accuse the novel of being “political nonsense” or “biased.” As an aside, I make no apology for upsetting them. I’m thrilled, actually, that the novel provoked such strong responses. But I digress.



The protagonist, Jon Freeman, draws a line in the sand in the novel. He chose to stand against white Christian nationalism and the right-wing extremism it fueled in the fictional scenario ushered in by the arch-villain, Buckshot Brandy, the Governor of Arkansas.

Buckshot Brandy. What a vision.

But before Jon was pushed to the brink to lay aside his apathy, I think he was like many of us who have become jaded by the extreme rhetoric flying back and forth from either end of the political spectrum. Who, after all, should one believe? Joe Rogan’s infotainment? News Max, "fair and balanced" Fox News, CNN, or MSNBC? Is what we read in the New York Times, the New York Post, Mother Jones, or the Washington Post, factual? Who or what do we believe? Biden and his cohorts? The Orange Man and his enablers? Majorie Taylor Green? The Squad?


It is easy to lose faith in what we see, hear, or read, called “news.” Disbelief is made easier when our politicians disappoint us—disappointment drives us away from seeing the bigger picture. This brings me to my point about Gen Z, a vital voting demographic that, by some estimation, is underestimated and under-engaged.


Make no mistake. Gen Z will change the world one day.

I read an opinion piece by a contributor to USA Today about why Gen Z voters are “souring” on Joe Biden. Okay. Here’s the link: https://l.smartnews.com/p-tRU1g/22C9L



The article troubled me. I accept there is a growing reluctance among Gen Z voters to support Joe Biden and the Democrats, because Biden and the Democrats are not reflecting their collective values wholly. And yes, there are plenty of legitimate policy objections to Joe and the Democrats, and I share some of those objections. But of late, the youthful disinterest has increased its pitch, fueled by Biden’s confusing foreign policy towards Israel and Hamas, making it convenient to cast aside what is at stake in the upcoming election.


For example, the recent demonstrations on college campuses have made it easier for young voters to say things like, “Biden doesn’t offer me anything” or, as one young woman said, “There’s no appeal.” When I hear statements like those, I want to be fair and empathize with them, but I’m not buying it. So, as the pitch of the distaste for Biden grows, the reasoning behind the distaste seems less and less rational.


The stakes are too high to allow ourselves the luxury of holding fast to a rigid ideology. While casting a vote that falls short of one's full ideals may seem like a bridge too far, the cost pales in comparison to the consequences of allowing a right-wing extremist administration to take power under the leadership of the Orange Man. The cost of not voting is too great to ignore, and it defies imagination that younger voters can be blind to what may happen once the Orange Man takes power. That they would take such a gamble with their "ideals" is even more consequential now than it was when the Bernie Bros refused to support Hillary Clinton the first time the Orange Man took office. If anyone wants to know why the Dobbs opinion came about, they need only look to that election and its consequences to understand why.


And if it isn't ridged ideology that we must guard against, consider apathy. The all-too-common apathy of youth dressed up as dismissiveness because "he doesn't speak to me" or "he doesn't reflect my values" is astonishing. Words cannot do justice to how absurd it is. The game is nearly up, and the risk of right-wing-inspired influence under an Orange Man administration will be with us for decades if not staunched at the ballot box in November. Perhaps the sky will not fall immediately if he is elected, but give it time. As we say in aviation, we will soon experience lowering ceilings if he takes power. When he does, precious civil liberties and values will be rolled back by acts of Congress with catchy names, laws passed in state general assemblies without fanfare, and mind-numbing Supreme Court opinions exalting “state’s rights” as an article of faith.


The narrative in The Last Independence Day: Secession spoke to this in the first chapter:


Social media buzzed that the folks who stood to lose the most didn’t vote. Racial minorities, LGBTQ, women, and young people. Especially young people. It amused Jon that the woke ones who held up signs and raised hell were too high or hung over from the night before to cast a vote on election day. Or worse, if they made it to the polls, they wasted their vote on a third-party candidate.


Excerpt From The Last Independence Day: Secession


Understanding the Bigger Picture


To me, there is no choice, and young voters must see beyond the lack of a candidate's appeal and point to the larger implications. While not embodying all ideals, Joe Biden's candidacy represents a barrier against a regressive and rightward shift in American politics. To many, his presidency is "boring." That's good. We want boring. I'll gladly take a lackluster administration over what might be.


The reluctance of anyone to vote, much less a youth voter, empowers forces antithetical to the values of diversity, equality, and freedom, which the youth of the day seem to clamor for more than ever. So what’s it going to be? I can hardly contain my frustration with the impetuousness of thinking, “If I can’t have my way, then I’m going to leave the playground and go home!”



From Fiction to Reality: Lessons from The Last Independence Day: Secession


My novel, The Last Independence Day: Secession, explores the consequences of political division and apathy. The narrative illustrates the fragmentation and chaos that ensues when personal grievances overshadow collective welfare. This allegory is poignant today, where the stakes extend beyond domestic policies to the essence of democratic integrity, and make no mistake: grievance politics is extremely powerful. It defies imagination, then, that large pockets of youth cannot see the threat that unchecked right-wing extremism presents to our national character and the country itself.


The Stakes of Inaction


Choosing not to vote—or voting for a third-party candidate out of protest—enables the very elements of right-wing extremism that many oppose. This extremism is not a distant threat but a present and clear danger, aiming to reshape our nation into a form unrecognizable to its foundational ideals.


A Strategic and More Thoughtful Choice - The Marshmellow Test



Now is the time for young voters to recognize that voting strategically is crucial. Casting a begrudging vote for Biden is less about the immediate satisfaction of aligning with an ideal candidate and more about preventing an administration that could perpetuate inequality, injustice, and lack of accountability.


I am reminded of the “Marshmellow Test,” and kids are about to fail it! The Marshmellow experiment, known as the "Marshmallow Test, “ was a series of studies on delayed gratification conducted by psychologist Walter Mischel in the late 1960s and early 1970s at Stanford University. In these studies, a child was offered a choice between one small reward provided immediately or two small rewards if they waited for a short period, approximately 15 minutes when the tester left the room and then returned. The reward was often a marshmallow, but sometimes cookies or pretzels were used.


A Call to Action for Gen Z


The younger generation today is facing a decision. They can either choose not to vote or vote against Joe Biden and the Democratic party because they don't feel an immediate attraction to their policies, or they can hold their nose and vote for Biden, with the expectation of a more balanced political landscape and government, as well as the potential for a more balanced Supreme Court in the future.


Voting is a civic duty and a necessary defense against authoritarianism and exclusionary policies, values that Gen Z holds dear. As depicted in The Last Independence Day: Secession, the outcomes of political apathy are rarely benign. Young people are not merely choosing a president; they will have a direct hand in determining this country's ideological and moral direction for decades.


Conclusion


This election is a pivotal moment for Gen Z. It's a chance to demonstrate foresight by choosing long-term outcomes over short-term sacrifices. Let this not be a missed opportunity but a demonstration of Gen Z's commitment to shaping a just and equitable future. The time to act is now. The future depends on it.


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