We’ve all heard it before… in fact, most of us have done it before. That, “I just really don’t like talking about politics” spiel you give your conservative grandparents at every Thanksgiving dinner. It gets you out of yelling matches, uncomfortable moments, and allows you to leave pretty much any contentious situation as calm, cool, and collected as you were when you entered it. Seems okay, right? No. Sorry to break it to you, but the ability to not care about politics, as appealing an excuse it may seem, is a privilege— one that we often take for granted.
When you say you don’t care about politics, what you’re implying is most issues don’t affect you enough for you to have to care. You don’t feel the repercussions of war, you don’t struggle to find your next meal, or you aren’t experiencing social prejudice. Or, all of the above. Consequently, arguing over these issues can seem pointless; however, there are people all over the country and spread throughout the world who experience these obstacles on a day-to-day basis. The worst part? They can’t do anything about it. They have no voice, they have no options, and, as a result, they have no solutions.
We live in a country where the politics are painfully messy and even explosive at times, but where we also have the freedom to argue our opinions and learn from each other. We are able to tell our government what we want changed, try to get others to see things from our point of view, and educate ourselves about virtually anything in the world from multiple perspectives. Political voice is a power so many others don’t have. The choice to keep silent to avoid a mere disagreement, as uncomfortable as it may be, is an abuse of this power. To neglect voter registration, stay home during the polls, remain ignorant to the issues around you, and keep silent when contentious topics come up, is to say that there is nothing important enough, or that will affect you enough, for you to take action. In fact, according to CNN, this past election there were only “126 million votes… [meaning] about 55% of voting age citizens cast ballots this year… the lowest in a presidential election since 1996,” proving just how many Americans don’t take advantage of their political capabilities. Hell, it was election day yesterday and we bet we’d struggle to find 10 students that actually voted.
It’s high time we start acknowledging that these sorts of behaviors aren’t getting us anywhere. They aren’t helping our country improve and they sure as hell aren’t helping other nations that don’t have the same type of economic success or freedom that we do. We get that political arguments aren’t fun to have and that it can be difficult to keep updated and informed at all times, but these are necessary things that we have to hold ourselves responsible for if we want anything to get better. And if you think nothing needs to get better, you need to look harder. Challenge yourself to have those discussions, to fill out that ballot next chance you get, to get angry, to get uncomfortable, and to get frustrated. Check your privilege and give a damn about politics.