When people say they “don’t do politics,” I cringe so hard I pull a muscle in my lower back. I just … okay, listen. We all need to “do” politics. Now more than ever. Not voting when you are perfectly able to is a disgusting display of privilege and apathy.
Maybe you choose not to learn about the issues because you can’t be bothered. Maybe you’re emotionally exhausted (you and me both). Maybe you think the system is corrupt and you’re above wasting the time to educate yourself. Or maybe you’re perfectly informed but choose not to participate in the process because you just hate it all (I’m looking at you, Protest Voters).
All of these reasons for not “doing politics” signify that you don’t see your rights as being threatened.
Spoiler alert: Your rights are being threatened.
Your rights, your children’s rights, and the rights of everyone you care about are currently under threat. No matter how privileged you are, it’s a reality you need to face.
Take health care, for instance. Thanks to our disaster of a health care system, for most of us, all it would take is one long-term illness accompanied by a job loss to send us into poverty. As a country, we tried to make the free market thing work for our health care system, and it was a failure. The Affordable Care Act tried to fix some things, but it is far from perfect. We now have a system where no one can afford health care without a quality health insurance plan, but also health insurance plans are astronomically expensive. Health care providers and insurance companies make bank while sick people are ground up like hamburger meat in the cogs of this broken machine.
Everyone needs to care about this. We have to demand our politicians listen to us and not the insurance companies and Big Pharma who line those politicians’ pockets with cash. Adequate health care is a human right. But under our system, literally every citizen in this country existing below a certain net worth is at risk of having their financial security wiped out with a single prolonged illness. Diabetes patients are rationing their insulin because it’s so expensive, and they’re dying in the process. This is not okay.
I don’t want to hear that we can’t do a single-payer system. I don’t want to hear that it’s socialism and socialism is bad and icky. Bullshit. Our people are dying. Other developed countries manage single-payer systems with great success. Are Americans too stupid to figure this out? Have we lost our can-do spirit? Who even are we? Imagine putting health insurance companies out of business. Don’t pretend this thought doesn’t fill you with glee. Care about this. Ask your politicians what they’re going to do to fix this.
Our education system is also at stake. The voucher system proposed by Betsy DeVos would theoretically allow parents to send their kids to whatever school they want. Sounds great in theory, but few parents have the means to send their kid to a school out of their assigned district. Transportation is time-consuming and expensive, especially for single parents who work full-time.
We need to worry about what a system like this would mean downstream. Vouchers don’t solve the underlying issue, which is that the schools these kids are fleeing from will remain underfunded with no possible way of improving their performance. In fact, every time a child leaves an underperforming school in search of better opportunities, that school loses the funding it would have had if that child had stayed.
The goal with education should not be simply to ship high-performing kids out of low-performing schools. It should be to make all schools as high-performing as possible. And don’t even get me started on how schools are funded. Real estate taxes? Really? Why, this couldn’t possibly lead to any sort of inequity in school funding.
And if you don’t think you’re impacted by the inadequacy of our country’s public education system, I am sorry to tell you that you are deluding yourself. Every young adult who is ejected into our economy with a substandard education is a potential drain on our public services simply because they were not provided the same opportunity as students born and raised in a higher-performing school district. That is not the student’s fault. We all need to care about making our education system as equitable as possible.
Not that health care or education will matter much if we don’t start taking responsibility for what we’re doing to the environment. Everyone needs to care about this. Everyone needs to vote only for people who believe in science. There is no room in our government for climate change deniers. The fires burning in California and Australia over the last couple of years are not just a normal part of doing business as a human on earth, folks.
At the international climate conference in Madrid in November 2019, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said we are dangerously close to a point of no return. The time to do something is now. We literally have no time to waste on any politician who doesn’t think climate change is a real and urgent problem that must be fixed.
Maybe you’re cis and straight and don’t care much about the LGBTQIA+ community. Maybe when the topic comes up, you shrug and wave a hand as if shooing a fly and say, “Hey, what they do doesn’t affect me! Live and let live!”
Except, I guarantee that someone you love falls under the queer umbrella, and there is legislation currently underway both locally and nationally that could literally destroy their lives if it goes the wrong way.
And yet, unfortunately, too many Americans don’t care about politics. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, 10% percent of Americans over the age of 18 are “politically disengaged.” That means, not only do they not participate actively by contributing to campaigns or regularly reading up on news and politics, but they’re not even registered to vote. 10% may seem like a small amount, but it’s not. It’s 32.5 million American adults. 32.5 million people who, if only they would only spend 10 to 15 minutes per day educating themselves on the issues, could make this country a safer, more equitable place for all its citizens.
I understand that you feel life is just too busy to add one more thing. I also understand how demoralizing it can be to stay up to date on the news. I know. Everything is a dumpster fire. I’m tired too.
But we have to care. You have to care. Don’t leave it up to the marginalized folks whose rights are directly under the guillotine to fix the problems that you can’t imagine would possibly affect you. Sorry, but we’re in this dumpster fire together. And every single one of us needs to do our part to put the fire out.