Nevada City, CA — Joseph Hanks, or Janks, as he is known to his friends and family, is not your average 18-year-old first time millennial voter. Not by a long shot.
Janks was born, premature, on a cold December evening in Yuba City, California in 1997. His birth mother was 13 years old and a victim of incestuous sexual assault. It was very clear to the birth staff at the hospital that this baby would have a tough go at life.
Janks was born with Congenital Amputation to both legs just below the hips. Congenital amputation is caused by blood clots in the fetus or fibrous uterine tissue bands, both which cut off circulation to the limbs and cause them to be amputated in utero. He was declared a ward of the state and spent his first year of life in foster care with one of the RN’s (she asked to remain anonymous) that delivered him. He was adopted in February, 1999 by Dr. Jacob and Ramona Hanks of Nevada City, California, and he hasn’t looked back.
As we approached the front door of the Hanks home, it sounded as though there might be a pep rally going on inside. Ramona answered the door and invited us in where we saw Janks, microphone in hand, practicing his stump speeches. “Let’s do this!” he exclaimed with a colossal smile.
“What a bundle of energy you are, Janks. You are very passionate about this election. Can you tell us why?” I asked.
His wide smile turned very serious and he said, “The obvious answer would be that I just turned 18 and I am now able to have a voice in government.”
There was a long pause I broke the silence by asking, “But, apparently, the obvious answer is not the answer at all?”
Janks snickered, took a deep breath and laid it all out for us. “The fact that this will be my first election I am eligible to vote in is huge, of course, but it goes so much deeper than that. This is a serious election at a serious time in our country’s history. We have overwhelming national debt to foreign entities, foreign affairs are a nightmare of epic proportion, out of control immigration, refugee crises are abounding, global nuclear capabilities under the guidance of mad men, and complete division in our country along racial, political, gender, sexual, and economic divides, just to name a few. We can’t continue on like this and expect to retain our sovereignty. This is a turning point, or tipping point, if you will. We need to make clear choices to preserve our nation or watch it swallowed up by greed, hate, and corporate and political posturing.”
There was another long pause. None of us had expected we would show up to meet Janks and get schooled by a young man who had not yet earned his high school diploma.
“For those reasons, and myriad others, I am voting for Donald Trump!” shouted Janks.
“You believe that Mr. Trump is the answer? Why not Hillary? Why not Bernie? Aren’t most of the millennials in Bernie’s camp?” I asked.
“First of all, I am not “most” millennials as you can plainly see,” Janks said with a wry smile. “I do believe Trump is the answer. He is experienced at every level of our global economy and the entire world knows him. Who is Bernie? While he is experienced at some levels of government, he seems a bit of a cock-eyed optimist about putting expensive social platforms into effect with no way to pay for any of them. And Hillary, she just doesn’t seem like a nice person. I’m not sure she cares much about those of us who are struggling out here. What, is she a moron or something? That is why I am taking my message, and Donald Trump’s message, to the streets. People need to know. People need to be informed.”
“What about the way he treats women? The disabled? Using Chinese products? Stiffing his workers? These are just a few examples of Trump’s very scandalous record. Doesn’t this concern you? How can anyone possibly trust him?” I asked, expecting to trip him up.
Janks looked me up and down with a look of haughty derision, “Of course these things concern me. Everything you have mentioned has been discussed ad nauseum. Has he made mistakes? Yes, but he has learned a lot from those mistakes. We parole killers every day in this country, don’t we? We give them a second chance. Look, there are always secrets in politics. Shady backroom deals and the like. If you want to be a mover and a shaker in D.C., you just have to accept that and play ball. Money and power make for strange bedfellows,” he shot me a wink.
“Word on the street is you are the best sign twirler in the county. Is that true?” asked Gish Gallop, Michael Tesh.
“I think there was some kind of vote,” Janks said laughing. “I’ve spent many hours making my signs and twirling them on street corners. I want to be the best. The more people I can engage, the more people I can plant a seed to get them involved.”
“Do you hope to effect a change in the election, the country, the world?” I asked.
“All of the above. My family always told me to reach for the stars, so why not? Our only real handicaps are the ones we place upon ourselves,” beamed Janks.
“You’ve obviously invested a great deal of time and effort into this campaign. Can you give us an idea of your daily schedule? Also, it looks to me like you are preparing yourself to someday be a candidate for political office. True?” asked Gish Gallop, Lou LaPlante.
“In a nutshell, I’m up at 5am, washed up, fed, and dressed by 6, and then I let my creative juices flow into my speech writing and sign making. I am home schooled from 8am til about 1pm. Then I hit the streets and make my magic. As far as my own political designs, yeah, I see myself someday rockin’ a leadership role in Washington.” Janks replied wide eyed.
Unfortunately, this writer is limited to a certain amount of words. Fortunately, Janks is not. If you desire to be informed during this election cycle, feel free to stop and have a chat with Janks when you see him twirling his signs in Nevada City or Grass Valley. He just might be your president some day.