Please Don't Kill the Freshman

zoe tropeZoe Trope wrote a book about you. Well, sort of. See, it’s mostly about her and it’s a memoir of her life when she was a freshman and sophomore in high school. The remarkable thing is that she graduated from high school in 2003. That’s right -- 2003. What started out as journal entries and blogs turned into a chapbook, "Please Don't Kill the Freshman," which was published by HarperCollins last fall. One of the most prominent and celebrated youth voices of 2003, Trope talked to us over IM about voting and getting your voice heard.

WireTap: Do you think people's voices can be heard through their votes?

Zoe Trope:
Heh. Depends what sort of voting. Voting on broken machines in Florida?

WT: Do you vote?

I'm not old enough. I'm 17. I will be voting in the general election in November, hopefully, but I won't be old enough to vote in the primaries.

WT: Everyone feels the need to spread the word about what is important to them. It is natural. What issues are you interested in at the moment?

Women's reproductive health issues are interesting to me, as are issues of censorship, media bias, politics and global issues. My attention is pretty scattered. It always amazes me, though, how we can be so concerned about shipping ourselves off to Mars when we can't even fix things on this planet. It's like we have no sense of priorities.

zoe tropeWT: You write a lot about homosexuality in your book. In places that are liberal, we are very open about it, but all over the country, it is still taboo. Is it extra important to have gay youth speaking up? Do youth really have the power to make those kind of changes?

Homosexuality is a really pivotal issue in society right now. Politicians and other people in positions of authority have a habit of keeping a friendly distance from it, rather than actually trying to discuss it in a realistic and healthy manner. The same could be said of any issues regarding sexuality. I believe that our culture is still, unfortunately, incredibly puritanical. The only way to combat those sorts of attitudes is by being open and honest: asking questions and demanding answers.

WT: Do you think there is any hope of voting the politicians you talk about out of office?

There's hope, yes. But what sort of person would we be voting in? It's tricky, I suppose. But I'd rather vote for a step forward, however small it might be, than keep with the current administration.

WT: Do you think that the "youth vote" or the "gay vote" are going to be powerful enough to get politicians into office who will answer the hard questions when they are asked? People who will be a good step into an honest future?

Honestly, no. Young people and gays aren't a voting majority, and they probably never will be. And even if they somehow became majorities, getting them to agree on issues would be another matter.

zoe tropeWT: So you think we are stuck hoping that adult voters will make good decisions?

No. We're stuck hoping that someday politics will completely change and politicians won't be greedy, slimy bastards.

WT: Yeah, don't hold your breath!

I'm not entirely as cynical as I sound. I just don't think that there's any ideal solution, just small steps toward something better.

WT: So what can we do? How can we be active? Especially those of us who are not old enough to vote.

Well, I volunteer for the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL) and they make phone calls during campaign months to inform voters about pro-choice candidates. There are a lot of ways to be politically active without actually voting. Informing voters about candidates that you would support if you could vote is important. Simply being aware of the issues and candidates is also vital. Otherwise, you'll have no context to vote in when it's time. It's just a matter of deciding which issues are important to you and then finding a way to act on them. The possibilities are really quite endless. But the decision to dedicate yourself to a particular cause can be quite overwhelming.

WT: So who right now -- if anyone -- do you think has the right message?

I don't think any single person has it. Every candidate has some good qualities, and some bad ones.

WT: So, is there anything else that you would like to say to our readers?

Go, America, go.

Check out Zoe Trope's blogs at:

Darla Walters Gary is a staff writer for WireTap. She is 17 and impatiently awaiting high school graduation in June. She will be finally leaving the Bay Area to go to Sarah Lawrence College in August.

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