When you hear “politics,” what do you feel? Do you cringe? Does your heart beat faster, afraid of what outraged opinion may follow? Do you jump at the opportunity to bash our current government?
I’m going to guess you most likely don’t experience the most euphoric and hopeful of emotions when you hear the p-word.
Politics have become a powder keg of fear, hostility and more in our country. A divide between blue and red, right and wrong, apolitical and extreme.
Difference of opinion is essential to politics. It keeps the political conversation alive and grants voices to different political views.
Though it seems that today, people are tied to their beliefs so tightly that they defend them through thick and thin, casting out compromise and reason. Others strike politics away altogether in hopes of avoiding the chaos that is present in our current system.
It seems so easy to shut out politics, turn off the yelling TV personalities or avoid that dreadful conversation with your extremely political uncle at the Thanksgiving table.
Apoliticism seems like a convenient alternative because it’s a faulty concept.
Every day, people respond to the political environment of their lives and community whether they consider themselves “political” or not. Some might wake up and drive their used car to a part-time job to support their family. Someone may begin their day in their high-rise penthouse or they may wake up and struggle to find clean water.
Our livelihoods are a result of how we experience our political system. Apoliticism is a mirage for those who want to spare themselves the effort to effect change. The more people who engage in apoliticism and relinquish their freedom of political participation give up a right to advocate for something bigger than themselves. Isn’t that what politics should be?
At the other end of the spectrum, political extremism is just as dangerous. We live in a time where we can consume more media and opinions in 20 minutes than the prolific political thinkers before us could consume in one month. With that comes a hundred perspectives and beliefs on pressing issues.
These opinions have become concepts we fight to the death to defend, closing our minds to the rebuttals and reasonings another view may present. Extremist ideals don’t take into account the importance of compromise or reflection.
So what’s the answer then?
Apoliticism as a whole is a threat to democracy. On the other hand, holding our political beliefs while expelling any alternative views is a hand on the throat of political pluralism.
I think it’s important to revisit what exactly politics is and offer a less cynical view.
Politics is not exclusively Democrat and Republican, who favors big business and who approves of what policy. Rather, politics is a pulse that connects human beings in the contribution to the welfare of a community bigger than themselves.
Politics is not just the suits in Washington, D.C., but the family bookstore around the corner fighting to feed their family or the people facing racial injustice in the land of the free. Politics is caring for our planet because Mother Nature does not care if you lean right or left.
Politics is a reflection of humanity and the power to evoke change. We need compromise and reconsideration. We need to escape the entrapment of political extremism and apathy. It’s time to transform our lives through politics and venture toward the political middle ground.
Whether it be a discussion on nuclear war, climate change or gun violence, the time for change is at our door. It won’t come through having an all-or-nothing political mindset. We need to listen more than we preach and empathize more than we chastise.
We’ve become so conditioned by the current chaos of our country, by the polarization of opposing parties, that we forgot to keep humanity in our politics.
If this article seems a bit too ambitious or blindly hopeful about politics, then maybe we, as a society, need to revisit what politics truly stand for.