Not caring about politics is a sign of privilege
It’s not an uncommon sentiment among college students: “I don’t really like to talk about politics.” Which in this state, where there’s about a 50/50 chance of guessing what political affiliation someone has, not wanting to talk about politics can seem like a matter of social survival.
Your ability to keep yourself out of the conversation says more about the advantages your particular life has given you than about how nonchalant your personality is.
However, for a large amount of Americans, many NDSU students included, getting to avoid politics is not a privilege they are afforded. When a political decision is a difference between your right to remain a citizen, your ability to access healthcare or your ability to marry the person you love, politics is an unavoidable topic.
Not caring about politics is not an option for those individuals who are forced to care through circumstance. Your ability to keep yourself out of the conversation says more about the advantages your particular life has given you than about how nonchalant your personality is.
First, a quick distinction needs to be made. There is, in fact, a difference between not wanting to talk about politics and not caring about politics. Neither are particularly appealing. The former really won’t promote any sort of lasting change, either personally or socially. The latter just reflects entitlement.
However, when it comes to these two options, not caring about politics is certainly worse than not caring at all. Sure, having an opinion about a political topic but remaining silent when the topic comes up is not ideal.
This action likely means you don’t have the courage or stamina to talk about and back your beliefs; however, there are those occasions in which your personal safety or liberties could be at risk as a result of sharing your beliefs. You may not want to get fired, antagonized or attacked for having a certain belief. Most of the time though, this is likely not a tangible result.
If you have women in your life, members of the LGBTQ+ community in your life, ethnic minorities, or those with intellectual or physical disabilities, then your caring for them requires you to care about the political issues that certainly affect them.
Still, the capability to not even have a belief shows how little empathy you have for others. It is one thing to not care about politics because it doesn’t affect you, but it will undoubtedly affect someone close to you.
If you have women in your life, members of the LGBTQ+ community in your life, ethnic minorities or those with intellectual or physical disabilities, then your caring for them requires you to care about the political issues that certainly affect them.
When trying to understand your own privilege and the role you play in taking responsibility for it, it’s important to understand what privilege means. A formal definition would see privilege as the benefits and power provided by institutional inequalities. A common example would be a male individual who could benefit from the oppression and inequality presented to females.
Individuals can be privileged without realizing it or even wanting the privilege. Privilege is something we are born with, not necessarily a choice we make. We can’t choose the color of our skin, the biological sex we are born with or our country of origin. What we can choose is whether we deny the privilege we have or we embrace it and work to abandon those institutional benefits we are provided.
Looking at politics, if you ignore your privilege as part of any majority, you won’t be bothered when a law oppresses the minority, because it doesn’t affect you, right? Yet, it does show how little compassion you have for those individuals who are negatively impacted by your unearned power.
A step in the right direction is establishing those political opinions; recognizing that your privilege plays a role in the oppression of others, and perhaps that the privilege of those around you may even lead to your own oppression. Staking a claim in politics allows you to have a role in changing those power scripts.
Conversely, not having an opinion means you are a bystander, and an ignorant one, to the hardships and difficulties many citizens must face.
There are several topics in modern American politics that are essential to the lives of many. A stance on gun control can be influenced by losing a family member to a shooting. A stance on drug price regulation can be a result of not being able to afford life-saving medicine. A stance on immigrant detainment can be influenced by reading about a child dying in a cage.
It may sound dramatic, but it is not inaccurate that political decisions are life and death for many Americans. By refusing to take a stand on any political issues you are delegitimizing and minimizing the struggles of many. By refusing to take a stand, you are showing how little these struggles have ever touched your life. By refusing to take a stand, you are showing how little you care about your fellow citizens.
If I had to choose between coming across someone with adverse political opinions and coming across someone with no political opinions, I’d take my political opposite any day. Even if someone disagrees with me, having political opinions and being willing to talk about them shows passion and a willingness to create change.
It is so much more productive to society to talk through issues civilly with those who you disagree with than to eliminate yourself from such conversations altogether. You learn nothing and appreciate little when you don’t stand behind your beliefs and when you don’t address the beliefs of those who disagree with you.
It’s a cliche, but it is a cliche for a reason: “You either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” Don’t be the benchwarmers of our generation, sitting around waiting for an opportunity to care about something. Recognize that there are things all around you to care about, that touch the lives of close friends and strangers alike, even if they don’t directly touch you.