Beating, Abduction, Murder: Just Another Day at College

Forty-three students have gone missing in Iguala, Mexico, though some believe that 28 have been found … in a mass grave.

The main suspects in the disappearance are not international narco criminals, nor some Zapatista guerrilla militia striking from the depths of the jungle. No, the primary suspects are actually the town’s local police force.

Let’s repeat that. A local police force, accused of working alongside local gangs, is believed to have ambushed, abducted and very likely murdered at least 28 — potentially up to 43 — college students. All because they were actively involved in social justice campaigns. The final offense the students committed before their disappearance was fundraising to demonstrate against cuts to their school’s funding.

On the other side of the world, Hong Kong has faced turmoil in the form of college-aged protesters taking to the streets to voice their opposition to the impotent democracy mainland China is offering the island region.

Explaining the history and complexity of mainland China and Hong Kong relations is beyond the scope of this editorial, but to put it in most basic terms, Hong Kong has a limited capacity to elect its own leaders, but can only choose to elect representatives handpicked by the central Chinese government, not by the people. The students protesting want a true democracy and the right to pick officials they feel represent them, not the interests of the Chinese government and the wealthiest members of Chinese society.

Though the protests are beginning to dwindle, during the most turbulent days of the demonstrations, police used heavy-handed tactics to deal with the throng, and allegations of pro-government gangs assaulting the assemblage were well documented in media coverage. Beatings, tear gassing and hesitation to even hold discussions with protesters from the police illustrated an obvious lack of understanding from the Chinese government as to the desires of their citizenry.

What can the modern American college student take from the actions of students in more tumultuous parts of the globe?

For one, it’s a blessing that the Youngstown Police Department isn’t hiding in wait to ambush and kill scores of students for being active in politics. Try to keep that in mind during the next DUI checkpoint.

Second, and more important, the Mexican and Chinese students should serve as a reminder that the world we inherit tomorrow, can — and should — be shaped by the actions they take today.

While America certainly suffers its fair share of corruption and, in more recent times, excessive use of force by police while dealing with protesters, there is still a much better system in place here than in China or Mexico for general citizens to effect change and a higher expectation that demonstrators are protected while petitioning the government.

Despite this, it seems that when it comes time to vote, students in America are one of the most underrepresented groups at the polls. While 87 percent of students registered to vote will, over a quarter of students nationwide aren’t registered because they either don’t know how or don’t know where to register.

Even in the 2008 presidential election, to which the youth vote is often touted as one of President Obama’s primary reasons for success, only 19 percent of college-aged voters showed up to the polls.

The November elections are only a few weeks away. Sure, it may be cold out and waiting in line sucks. On the bright side, there likely won’t be tear gas, beatings, abductions, ambushes or murder awaiting those who turn out to vote.

Major decisions are happening all over, and it is within the power of college-aged Americans to greatly influence those decisions.

The Community Bill of Rights is on the ballot for Nov. 4. Whether you think it will destroy the fragile economy of Youngstown or save our future generations from living in a dystopian wasteland, you have a say in how the decision comes down.

Whether you see legalizing marijuana as the most obvious decision in the world to help raise state revenue and keep first time offenders out of jail, or you see it as the pathway to moral corruption, you can organize and force your voice to be heard.

There are myriad topics that Americans are passionate about. It’s why blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck have such an enormous following; they play to people’s passions, either reinforcing beliefs or enraging those opposed.

That passion, with work and determination, can become a voice for change.

We owe it to young people around the world trying to fight their way out of oppression to embrace our ability to turn our desires into actionable goals. Don’t let your passion fizzle out when you turn off your TV or shut off your phone.

The Hong Kong protesters and Mexican student victims certainly wouldn’t.