3.09.2017

Why I Participate in American Politics (And You Should Too)


Is it 2020, yet? I swear, every morning I see new headlines that make me want to give up on humanity altogether and bury my head in the sand. How can I possibly be expected to raise two sweet, innocent, kind little bundles of joy and wonder in this scary, uncertain, and hateful world?! At least, that's the question I seem to be asking myself more and more these days.

I wouldn't say I've always been passionate about politics. I distinctly remember tuning into the State of the Union when I was in eighth grade and President George W. Bush was in office. I wasn't super interested in the state of America's economy or Bush's foreign policy stances. Really, it was because my social studies teacher mentioned that it was something we should probably do. Ever the brown-noser, I settled in, watched for about 10 minutes, and was utterly bored to tears.


I didn't declare my Political Science major until I was a sophomore. In high school, I contributed to my school's sad excuse for a "newsletter" and assumed journalism would be the obvious career choice. I promptly abandoned that idea when I realized I would have to write about things I didn't care about and became deathly afraid of resenting the one activity I loved the most in the world- writing. I had a vague, but uninformed interest in psychology. So, I chose that as my major entering into college with the understanding that I could change it once I got my feet a little wetter in the world of secondary education. I bounced from psychology to sociology when I couldn't get a grasp on my required statistics class and knew I would fail if I didn't choose something else. Sociology really never fit me properly and I think only lasted a semester, before I took a chance on a Human Rights and International Law class and fell in love. I was a sophomore with absolutely no poli sci background and chose a 300-level course to start with. It was completely intimidating. I felt so lost for much of that semester, and yet, this inexplicable burst of energy came out of me. I had finally found my funnel for channeling all of my passion for justice, international relations, and people, in general.

Since I graduated, when my college major has come up, the most common reaction is a kind of eye-roll as they assume I just can't get enough of American politics. Um, no. American politics feel like the bane of my existence. I can't stand politicking and just want all nations of the Earth to co-exist without threatening to blow each other up. Unfortunately, that seems too lofty a request. So, I put up with American politics as it seems a necessary means to an end. The end being that I want peace. I want people to be well-fed and earning a sustainable wage. I want children to be able to maintain their innocence. I want a beautifully diverse melting pot of people that reflect the face of God to be able to co-exist harmoniously with one another. I want people to be loved. You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one.

I may be naive and idealistic. But the things I want for this world are good things. Things that everyone should want. And I think we should all be bothered by the fact that not only do millions of people not have these things, but that there exist people in this country and in this world who are actively trying to keep them from attaining these basic human rights. The right to life, the right to food, the right to freedom from religious persecution, the right to free speech, the right to an education...

So, I participate in this ridiculous game we call American politics. Because although I think it can bring out the worst in human nature. And although I could rant for hours on how much I loathe our bi-partisan system that pits people against each other rather than fostering an environment of dialogue and compromise. It can also work.

American politics has ended slavery. American politics has desegregated schools. American politics reflecting the will of the people legalized the ability for two people who love each other to marry, regardless of their sexual orientation. There are good things that can result from the American political process if enough good people stand up and demand for those good things to happen.

I don't particularly enjoy reading headlines about migrant women being separated from their children. In fact, it makes me picture myself in the same situation and I want to throw up. I don't enjoy reading headlines about headstones in Jewish cemeteries being defaced, or mosques being burned to the ground. Literally, every single day, I have to fight my basic human instinct to ignore these things so that I can remain blissfully unaware. I don't enjoy calling my Congressional rep and Senators on a weekly, and sometimes even daily basis. I don't enjoy being confronted with the reality of genuine evil in the world. But it is my allegiance to humankind and the desire to leave this world better than when I entered it that compels me to take action.

I am not suggesting that American politics is the most effective way of creating positive change (which is why I left the federal government in exchange for a role in the non-profit world). But it is a way. I am not surprised by people who feel weary of "politics as usual." Nor do I blame them. I do, however, think that it's a sorry excuse for not taking a stand when children are hungry, families are being torn apart, and lives are being lost because of prejudices, because of lack of affordable healthcare, because of senseless wars and conflicts. This is why I feel so strongly about being a politically engaged citizen, and why I think you should too.


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