As part of the lengthy, ongoing debate about the voting age on Facebook in response to NYRA-Southeast Florida’s awesome voting age ad, one person (trying to sound much smarter than he is) posted something about women & youth. While this isn’t the best articulated version of this argument it is one that we get quite often as to why youth don’t deserve rights and why it isn’t right to compare the denial of rights to youth to other disenfranchised groups such as women. I’ve probably had a better crafted response to this argument in the past, but I just wrote it out again, so I’ll let you guys read it again. 🙂
First though, the original argument:
Since the days of long ago, centuries past, women were not considered the equivelent of men. There obligations were few, and there rights narrow. Women struggled to express there views for hundreds of years. During the middle ages, women were considered the property of the man, and possessed little amenities in life.
In the words Mr. Thomas Jefferson “All men are created equal…and entitled to certain and inalienable rights..” These rights are clearly stated in the Bill of Rights, including the right to suffrage. Although direct intrepetation of this states all men, in was at a later time said that women should and ought to be allowed this inalienable right. This only seems fair, as women are the equivelents as human beings, and as human beings, they are endowed by their very existance to possess certain and inalienable rights. The 18th amendment granted women the right to have a say in the society in which they live.
They underlining conflict that exists in comparing the struggle for womens suffrage in relation to a youth vote, lies in the fact that women were denied for the entirety of their lifetime, to a basic human right– youth however are not. Youth are developing young men and women, maturing and learning. The fact of the matter is that you are not being denied any right whatsoever, contrary to the feelings you may have regarding your place in society. Thus, I may conclude, that should one correctly analyze the history of women in society from the rise of Christianity to the 20th century and study the principles that our nation was founded upon, the youth right, is not the same struggle as women had, and they are not being denied any basic and inalienable right whatsoever.
Are youth not human beings? Don’t they also have inalienable rights? Just like men do. Just like women do. Just like adults do.
The only difference you cite is that youth don’t stay young. They will become adults one day. So their status is transitory. So then would you support other restrictions of rights based on transitory criteria? How about these:
– You can only vote if you earn over $100,000 in a year. It isn’t an outright ban on voters, since if you work hard you can earn more money too. No one’s right is being violated then, since they have the ability to change their income. Plus rich people have more of a stake in the system and, statistically are better educated and informed.
– Women who are pregnant, menopausal, or on their period shouldn’t be allowed to vote. Women aren’t as rational, clear thinking or competent during these times in their lives so thus would cast a less reasonable vote. These are all temporary changes, so it doesn’t affect their right to vote. What is the harm in waiting 9 months to vote? They’ll be able to vote later.
– Only individuals who have college degrees can vote. This is just a transitory restriction – like age – no one is denied because they always have the option of going to school and getting a degree. Plus we can be sure that voters are more educated than they are currently.
– Only people who have served in the military can vote. This is another transitory criteria, and shows that these people take on the responsibility for their nation and thus should be trusted with voting. The rest of the dead beats only have to enlist if they want to vote. No rights violated.
Just because people are able to, one day, exercise a right doesn’t make it unjust to take that right away from them NOW. It is true that, statistically richer voters and college educated voters are better informed and intelligent voters. But we can’t expect them to look out for the interests of their poorer, less educated neighbors. There is no “Right Vote”. Everyone votes based on their current situation, needs, and circumstances.
If I was rich next year I’d probably vote differently than I would if I were poor today. Both votes are valid though. Asking an 18 year old adult to represent the interests of himself at 16 is unjust because that person’s interests have changed.
The only people who can represent 16 year olds are 16 year olds. The issues they are most concerned about and the problems that affect their lives most directly are different from those of 18 year olds or anyone else. So denying a right to 16 year olds as a class is a violation of their rights, even if individuals are able to one day vote when they get older.
Being temporary does not magically transform injustice into justice.