What America Needs

 In Promoting Tolerance

Americans today are living a monumental period in history. Impeachment has been the word on the street, breaking headlines on local and global media. While many citizens in our country are engrossed in and entertained by the scandal that has emerged, many fear to discuss it. Even more appalling are those who refuse to turn on and listen to the news. 

During my family dinner last week it was inevitable that the topic of impeachment would surface. My mom, dad, and I find these hearings fascinating, so we pursued discussion on the subject between ourselves. We praised Fiona Hill for her excellent testimony that morning, knowing well she added important pieces to the puzzle. Noticing that my grandparents and other members weren’t as engaged, my dad asked if they were aware of the happenings at our nation’s capital. They didn’t seem up to date, and my aunt expressed she found the hearings uninteresting and irrelevant to her. She said, “I don’t even bother to turn on the news anymore.” In shock, I asked her why, and she explained she was too busy to even bother and it doesn’t affect her. I questioned further, “who are you planning on voting for in 2020?” Her response– “I don’t even vote, Trump will get re-elected anyway.” 

I knew she wasn’t fond of our current president, so this conversation triggered my thoughts– I asked myself:  How would she conclude Trump’s re-election if she doesn’t watch the news? If she did not want Trump to preside for a second term, why wouldn’t she vote against him? 

Our country is plagued by a serious decline in voter turn out. In my community, I’ve heard many adults say they ignore the news because they find it depressing: they say they’re too busy and stressed out by work to follow politics, noting that watching the news induces more anxiety than they can handle. This is a case of pure indifference due to a loss of hope. This attitude is exactly the opposite of what we need. These excuses leave America in darkness, with silence dimming all lights of possibility for a brighter future. We see democracy and transparency threatened–from stripping immigrant children from their parents at the border, failing to protect Kurdish allies, and attempting to bribe the president of Ukraine– as each day passes by. 

As citizens, we cannot directly abate these actions; nor can we publically protest and expect change. It is important that we understand how our government works in order to influence it. For example, if citizens acknowledged the importance of midterm elections, (because Congress is where policies are crafted) the voter turnout would likely be higher than 49% (Fair Vote Organization). Although these results were at a record breaking high, (increasing from 36.4% in 2014) less than half of our nation voiced for change. While progress is being made in our Democratic House of Representatives, Congress and our executive administration have not been able to cooperate and pass important legislation. This tension was demonstrated primarily during the government shut-down, in response to Congress not allocating enough funds toward Trump’s border wall. Our President also stated his executive privilege leaves law-makers powerless against him (New York Times). Founded upon checks and balances, our government meant to instill equal trust and power in each branch; it was built by design to stand strong without infringing upon basic freedoms and liberties. Citizens of this country assume the right to rise up against governments who show a tyrannical face. It is our responsibility to vote against certain administrations who transgress, refuse to collaborate, and put our nation at risk. Reinstilling faith in our system and securing our democratic ideals for future generations is OUR duty. 

It all begins with informing ourselves, so we can reflect upon our beliefs and how they align with those of the various candidates. Awareness of what’s behind the marks on our ballots generates interaction in the relationship between us and our country. Involvement in our democracy ensures the policies made are shaped by the people themselves, not just a small sect of the population. Voting with purpose will unite our national community, even if we all hold different political beliefs. Agreeing to disagree has the potential to bring about new ideas through rational debate and compromise.

While Americans agree on the basic values the United States was founded upon, a partisan culture has divided us. All Americans want to see progress made. We all want to be safe, healthy, and live the American dream. We are beyond fortunate to stand upon the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are entitled to our basic freedoms, and find comfort in our Constitutional rights. However, America has become a battle ground, with Republicans pitted against the Democrats.  Media networks have exacerbated this partisanship, as Fox news spits fire at CNN and vise versa. Even our own president fuels this divisiveness, accusing “The Do Nothing Democrats” of “wasting everyone’s time and energy on bullsh*t” (CNBC). What Trump SHOULD be doing is working WITH Democrats and other branches of government to pass important legislation surrounding issues including climate change and gun security. Trump’s rhetoric is so powerful: his assertive language and conviction have brainwashed citizens into believing the madness of fake news and bigotry. Such influential rhetoric has the potential to unite a nation, if its words and attitude promote tolerance and cooperation. 

 In schools, educators avoid lessons on current events because they fear students going out of control. A friend of mine told me that when she asked her teacher to update the class on impeachment, he passively ignored her request. Professors should be teaching students how to present their argument in a respectful debate. Additionally, Americans have placed a taboo of “talking politics at the dinner table:” they say these discussions are unhealthy and get too ugly.What is ugly is that we cannot discuss prevalent issues that impact each one of us. It has prevented us from acquiring the necessary skills to think critically and stand our ground. It is sickening that, all this time, this taboo has been a primary cause of factual disputes. 

As blood gushes out of the White House in this crucial period, I find it imperative that we find some time in our busy lives to keep ourselves up to date with current events. I’m sure each one of us can find a policy that interests us or an issue we are passionate about. I encourage each person to discuss politics–of course, respectfully–among friends and family. We can only be sure of what we believe in once we are challenged. Votes backed by thought and reason–not merely party alignment–will ensure that our elected officials lead with integrity and make decisions in our best interest. We will feel fulfilled, confident in our minds, that we took a step to guide our nation and its future in the right direction.

Don’t resort to ignorance because you’ve lost faith. Our system will work only when we participate actively and wisely. Make sure you cast a ballot that reflects your beliefs in this upcoming election. And do it with pride. 

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