Enter San Man: The times they are a-changin’

I don’t trust most politicians, especially during election time.

I’m not really a fan of debates, speeches, baby-kissing, smear campaigns. Instead, I take the time to count all the tiny lines that form across Mitt Romney’s forehead as the muscles in his cheeks press his skin upward when he smiles. I focus my attention on the deep baritone sound you hear each time Barack Obama clears his throat to speak, of how Newt Gingrich reminds me of a beardless Santa Claus who belongs at a backroom New Orleans poker table.

I tend to see politicians the way Batman sees his rogues gallery: a bunch of cats, penguins, clowns, and people who can be, at times, two-faced.

I’m a cynical voter.

I didn’t buy Obama or John McCain in 2008 and didn’t vote for either of them. I didn’t vote at all. I was 18, fresh out of a high school political science class that preached the importance of voting. I didn’t — and still don’t, really — think voting for the sake of voting was a smart decision.  I was focused more on the state of my collegiate career in the classroom and newsroom than the state of the union.

Now I’m on the cusp of my second presidential election as a potential voter, and I’m starting to figure out what’s important to me. In less than six months, many of my peers and I will be starting lives beyond the walls of our colleges and universities, and I need to really listen to the people trying to win my vote, ones who promise to keep my interests at heart. I won’t list such interests in this space; odds are they are, at the very least, vaguely similar to those of my peers.

I need to picture what America would look like in the eighth year under Obama, an America that’ll exist when I am 25 years old. I need to think about the possible fourth year of the Romney administration, contemplate an America under President Gingrich.

I’m starting to realize voting for a President means more than determining where America is as a nation in 2012 — what America means to me at 21 — and more like what it could look like once I’m in a chapter of my life that seems hazy, at best, to me right now.

I’ll need to consider an America for two sisters who will be in college, for many cousins going through the education system, and for my parents and other aging family members who soon will depend on government programs unlike ever before.

I’m not just voting for my future; I’m voting for the futures of everyone I love and care about.

Call me naïve — I’ve never thought about the United States that way before. I didn’t really think about the nation that way until around 9 p.m. on Jan. 24, when I watched Obama give his third State of the Union address and kick-start his campaign for re-election.

The speech was a bit optimistic — he had to be; after all, the guy is running for public office, even if it is the one he currently holds — and at times I found myself wondering if some of his goals are even plausible given the vicious rivalry that has overtaken the two-party system.

Only one thing about Obama was confirmed following his address: the dude can give one hell of a speech, but based on his 2008 campaign, we already knew that.

Obama didn’t earn my vote with his speech. It’s obviously still way too early in the campaign to determine who I’ll vote for in November, and I’m not convinced that much would change with all the backbiting that has gone on between the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democrat-controlled White House in trying to pass legislation.

But at the very least, the man has a vision for what this nation could become. He’s got steps for how it could get there. And in the final State of the Union address of his first term in office, he laid his cards for America’s future on the table, and I respect that.

For a change, I took him seriously. I need to start doing the same for his Republican counterparts. I need to start taking my future, my family’s future, and America’s future seriously.

Rogues galleries be damned.