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Not everyone can be invested in political and social issues all of the time — I get it. It takes artists and doctors and engineers and athletes and teachers to make the world spin. We need all types and kinds of brains and hearts interacting and operating to their strengths to give society the entire richness of the human experience.
But you can’t be indifferent to politics.
Everything that connects people to each other and to their environment is political. To function as a collective whole, we have to regulate nearly every aspect of society: what kids learn in school, when you are old enough to drive, how you express yourself and how you practice your religion, to name just a few. Coexisting can be tricky, especially considering all the differences that shape us as individuals. Politics navigate all of these nuances with legislation, a process we as citizens in the United States are fortunate enough to have a role in.
The 2016 national election had the lowest voter turnout in over 20 years, with just more than half of the eligible voting population showing up to the polls. Democracies are measured by the standards to which elected officials are held accountable, how much citizens are able to exercise their individual liberties and the rate at which people freely and voluntarily participate in the political process. An apathetic citizenry compromises the effectiveness of our entire governmental structure and hurts civil society.
So why should you care about what happens beyond your day-to-day hustle and bustle? Why should you be personally invested in the lives of different people in far away places? Why should you care enough to vote or sign an online petition?
You should care about politics because you, as a person, are connected to the rest of us. As a real-life person, your life is intrinsically dependent on the lives of other human beings. This is true on the CU campus, this is true in the United States and, with the wide reach of technology and modern globalization, this is true on a universal scale. What happens to other people will in some way or another make a difference in your individual life. As Martin Luther King Jr. said in his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
It is not enough to only concern yourself with the small scope of what impacts you directly. If you are fortunate enough to evade the direct consequences of poverty, climate change, violence and other injustices, you do not have excuses for ignoring those that are affected. As an American citizen with the right to democratic political efficacy, you should consider it a privilege to participate in progress and social change.
I sympathize with the experience of disillusionment and frustration in the political process. I can understand why you may feel like your voice is not being heard. But consider this a call to action to do what you have in your personal power to make positive differences. Compassion and empathy may be tried and tired, and goodness knows that every individual can’t be wholeheartedly invested in each world issue or cause. So pick one or a few issues to focus on beyond the tediousness of tomorrow’s to-do list. I implore you to consider the bigger implications your voice can have on the future and the impact your decisions have on the lives of others, and to exercise your civic duty.
I am asking you to care about what happens beyond just yourself and to abandon apathy as the default approach to politics. I encourage you to find a medium through which to be involved in the active and influential process infiltrating every part of your personal life. That begins by making yourself an informed global citizen. Politics are constantly happening, on a local, state, federal and even international scale. There are abundant opportunities available to contribute to progress.
Let’s start by resolving to make America’s disappointingly low voter turnout better within our lifetimes by thinking outside ourselves and extending empathy unto others.
Contact CU Independent Opinion Writer Rachael Willihnganz at firstname.lastname@example.org.