Check-in at the voting booth, not on Facebook
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Brexit, Presidential Elections, and now Standing Rock. Everyone has their opinion, but many, young people specifically, fail to make their voices heard in the proper channels, rather resorting to after-the-fact complaining.

Only 36 percent of those 18-25 actually voted in the Brexit referendum, compared with 83 percent of those 65 and older. Young Brits, despite not voting, have continuously complained that the old have ‘ripped their future from them.’ Simply put, if you intended to shape your own future, you should’ve taken the minimal time and effort required to vote. The old didn’t betray you, you betrayed yourselves.

This attitude to politics is painfully demonstrable in the protests and social media activism in relation to the Dakota Access Pipeline. College students and many liberals across the country have decided that ‘checking in’ on Facebook is the way to make their voices heard on an issue the locals themselves never actually cared about. People from all over the world have traveled to North Dakota to protest the pipeline itself. But, two years ago, when supporters of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe could have attended hearings to air their grievances, they simply didn’t care.

Robert Fool Bear Sr., 54, district chairman of Cannon Ball, a town a few miles from Standing Rock, has had it with the protesters, especially since the locals did nothing when they had the chance. He told CNN that instead of seeing actual members of the tribe protesting, he is irked by seeing “people (being) here from all over the world," adding that "if they could come from other planets, I think they would."

The American political system is not a spectator sport. It promotes, and to operate functionally, requires participation through specific channels, such as voting, town halls, and other institutions of the sort. The Dakota Access Pipeline is a blatant example of a breakdown in legitimate participation, instead replacing it with loud social media complains and after-the-fact protests.

The Standing Rock Sioux, despite countless invitations, actively chose to not participate in the 13-month process required for the approval of Dakota Access Pipeline. The North Dakota Public Service Commission held 30 hours of public hearings before the pipeline was approved – and the tribe, despite invitations, did not attend. The state of North Dakota even had personal calls urging the tribe to participate. The state itself went a step further, hosting a meeting less than 45 minutes from Cannon ball, the site of the protests. “We had a lot of concerns we were dealing with,” North Dakota Commissioner Julie Fedorchak, explained, but “among them was not concerns expressed by the Standing Rock tribe.”

One of the most important parts of American governance are the rights of states and local communities. The Standing Rock Sioux, however, by failing to participate in the public process, essentially vacated this right. Some Standing Rock Sioux say that pipeline threatens the environment and will destroy burial sites. Without expressing a personal view on the pipeline itself, I find it simply incredible that after ignoring 13 months of legitimate political discourse, the tribe has now decided to take a position. I am less than sympathetic. You have a vote and you have a voice. When something doesn’t go your way because you didn’t exercise either, it is nobody’s fault but your own.

When celebrities and populist politicians, like Mark Ruffalo, Susan Sarandon, and Bernie SandersBernie SandersOvernight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Abortion access for 65M women at stake Hospitals in underserved communities face huge cuts in reckless 'Build Back Better' plan Sanders urges Biden to delay Medicare premium hike linked to Alzheimer's drug MORE, blindly side with the protestors, they promote this idea that political apathy followed by loud complaining is somehow acceptable. This mindset has poisoned young voters across the U.S.

Young Americans overwhelmingly dislike Donald TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE, with only 25 percent planning on voting for him. Millennials are, however, as the Washington Post put it, “less likely to vote or try to influence others vote than were the ’80s generation.” If Donald Trump wins, this won’t stop the flood of Facebook and Twitter complaints over his bigotry, homophobia, and overall stupidity. If you don’t vote or don’t participate in the process which could prevent his election, you have no legitimate right to complain if he wins. Voting and participating are the processes in which you make your voice heard, but if you forfeit this right and let the more active voices to win, you have nobody to blame but yourselves.

Enough of the ‘checking in’ at Standing Rock on Facebook. The Standing Rock community had a chance to make their collective voice heard – one they relinquished. Enough of elite college students complaining about the pipeline as evidence of “environmental racism” or as an unfair imposition on an unwilling community. The community had a legitimate, governmental chance to refute the pipeline – but they simply didn’t care enough to do so. That would be like complaining about Donald Trump but then forgetting to vote and complain when he institutes his Muslim ban.

If you don’t vote and make your voice heard, you have no legitimate grounds on which to complain. It is nobody’s fault but your own that the other side’s voices were more active and reliable. If you want to see a specific policy shift, go vote instead of sitting home and complaining on social media. American politics are uniquely participatory, and when, by failing to participate, a policy you don’t like becomes accepted, you have nobody to blame but yourselves. The Standing Rock Sioux have nobody to blame but themselves. The young Brits have nobody to blame but themselves. If Donald Trump wins because of young indifference, those who abstain will have nobody to blame but themselves. Stop complaining – go vote. 

Dunst is a Junior at Hamilton College in Clinton, N.Y., where he is studying World Politics. He can be followed on Twitter at @CDDUNST.


The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.