I’ve never really been very invested in politics. I remember disliking Bush Jr. for the simple fact that he didn’t come across as a particularly intelligent individual (something I still stand by) and I voted for Obama to get a second term because I genuinely believed he wanted what was best for the American people. Whether I was right or wrong in these assumptions, the point is that I really didn’t know too much about American politics.
In the last year or two, especially after becoming acquainted with Bernie Sanders’ political message and then witnessing the beginning of a Donald Trump presidency, I’ve started to learn a lot more about the country that we live in. This is probably because I’ve slowly been entering “adult life” and realize that the implications behind our politics will have very real effects in my life and in the lives of my family members and peers. What I’m becoming increasingly aware of is that, if I consider my values to be even remotely progressive, I really don’t have a choice to be involved in politics or not; it’s sort of mandatory.
I’ve got a lot of friends who I know share my values– racial and gender equality/equity, protecting the environment, making sure all people have food, shelter, and adequate health care– and yet they simply write off politics as something they “just don’t care to talk about.” With all the B.S. propaganda and the polarization of the Democratic and Republican parties, who could really blame them? A person is generally brought up knowing that politics is a very touchy topic of conversation; civil discussion can get ugly very quickly, creating rifts between friends and family members who otherwise love and support one another to no end. Who really wants that?
While I do think we need to pursue a different method of discussing political issues, I’m finding that in our current social-political climate the one thing that people cannot be is passive and silent. Voter turnout was embarrassingly low in the general election, crowning Donald Trump our nation’s president although he only received votes from 27% of the voting-eligible population (meaning that only a quarter of our country wanted him to be president badly enough to go out and vote for him). Nearly half of voting-eligible people stayed home and left their ballot blank on election day, however I’d bet my money that a majority of those people don’t support Trump or his anti-Muslim, anti-minority, anti-LGBT, anti-eco-friendly, and overall pro-hate agenda. Unfortunately, 90 million people chose passivity and silence and now, more than likely, a Trump presidency is going to bring a lot of pain, struggle, and heartache to the lives of many thousands of Americans.
My point is not to scold or assume a position of higher morality but rather to urge people to get educated and try to be more active in the political processes here in the United States. I’m certainly not going to proclaim myself an activist but I’m trying to learn more about our incredibly un-transparent system and be more involved in local Minnesota politics. A resource I’ve found extremely helpful in this is the guide “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda.” As the title implies, the guide shares different ways to actually get involved in local politics and gives tips and tricks for those people like myself who are very new to the scene. I will copy the link at the bottom of this post and encourage everyone to take a gander at the guide, even if just briefly.
Although news and current events are becoming an increasingly depressing aspect of life, I’ve found that being active politically, whether through art, writing, discussion, marches, rallies, etc., can be a spark of hope to work against the dismal reality that most people would rather ignore altogether. Now more than ever, I think people need to put their progressive values and ideals into action, no matter how small or unsubstantial it may seem. I’d encourage anyone who envisions a different country for ourselves, our neighbors, and the generations to come to start making politics a part of their life. Whether we like it or not, to create progressive change and fight for basic human rights for all U.S. citizens, we’ve got to begin to school ourselves in American politics.
I’ll end with a quote that I find particularly powerful and relevant. It comes from Desmond Tutu who is an educator and civil rights activist and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work and dedication in South Africa’s anti-apartheid movement:
“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Link to Indivisible Guide: https://www.indivisibleguide.com/