“Do we care?”
This was the question that my high school American History teacher used to ask our class at the end of a lesson. It was not meant to be rhetorical – he wanted to spark a discussion, to examine not only when these events unfolded, but also how and why. After all, as the conventional wisdom goes, we must understand and learn from the past so as not to repeat those same mistakes in the future.
As we enter into an election cycle, it is more important than ever to care, and yet this can also be difficult to do when there is so much division and chaos right now in our nation’s politics. Add to that all of the events that are happening on the global stage – from a trade war with China and anti-government protests in Hong Kong to military turmoil in Syria – and it is understandable to feel a sense of anger, confusion, frustration, fear and, frankly, hopelessness.
With the news constantly churning out stories about squabbling between the left and the right – in what is becoming a partisan ping pong match in which no one really wins and the democratic process is the loser – it is understandable to want to tune out all the noise, all the negativity, all the talking heads. But to do so would be to our detriment, because ignoring a problem does not simply make it go away. We have to care, we must. Whether or not you are someone who pays attention to or has an interest in politics, you are part of a political society. Taxes, education, healthcare – all of these are influenced by politics and play a role in your day-to-day life.
Moreover, we need to go one step further, from caring to doing, from emotion to action. Something, anything. Your interests, time, skills, and money can all be contributed to the change that you wish to see, or be. You can contact your elected representatives, start or sign a petition, attend a town hall or rally, donate to or volunteer with a political campaign, canvass, make phone calls, hold a voter registration drive, stay up to date and informed on the local, national, and international news. Perhaps most importantly, you can cast your ballot at the polls. I believe in the power of civic engagement, that it is our responsibility as American citizens to use both our votes and our voices to spark change, to uphold the values of the Constitution and what it means to be a democracy.
The notion that any one of us on our own can make a significant difference can seem daunting, even impossible. But, to borrow a quote from one of my favorite movies, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring,
“Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”
A single vote might not be enough to decide the outcome of an election by itself, but together, many votes can turn the tide. So stand up, and show up. Be informed and be engaged. The future of our country depends on it.