By Apsara Senaratne
In 2020, with the quadrennial presidential elections just around the corner, community-based social activism is on the rise. Millions of Americans, from high school students to members of the working class, engage in community-focused efforts and support local causes, more often foregoing a more direct form of social activism by way of strike and protest.
It may be mistakenly believed that this new brand of social activism arrives hand-in-hand with a collective desire to engage in political activity; however, when these Americans are asked to discuss political stances, resounding indifference is an alarmingly common response.
Even in more politically active states, American voters are frustrated by the failure of democracy to protect and advance the interests of the people. Moreover, it was due to a lack of trust in the ability of the system to allow any real change that approximately 43 percent of American voters could not bother to show up to vote during the pivotal 2016 election, according to the U.S. Elections Project.
This attitude is understandable, as we have on countless occasions been let down by our political system; nevertheless, refusing to participate in any political activity whatsoever is both irresponsible and poses great risk to the democratic spirit of our nation which countless Americans before us fought so tirelessly to attain.
According to a survey performed by the Pew Research Center, one in ten Americans do not concern themselves with politics. Also known as Bystanders, this group consists of approximately 30 million Americans who have not registered to vote and who do not follow government and public affairs. In this survey, when asked questions of a political nature, these individuals would reply that they did not care, were not familiar with those topics, or did not wish to answer those questions.
Ignorance on the part of such a large number of voters can lead to voting decisions based upon misinformation if such people decide to vote. More likely, however, if they do not vote, it illustrates a lack of regard for their personal civic duty as citizens of a democratic country. It is dangerous to believe that people have little need for politics and can thus be disengaged without consequence.
It can be disheartening to witness the deterioration of foreign affairs by way of the current administration. However, it is ultimately the responsibility of all American citizens to care about politics. Those whom the people elect are those who ultimately make decisions which affect all of us as a people in a very significant way. It is hypocritical to take issue with the state of our world and to complain without taking action to attempt to change it. Choosing not to voice our opinions or to take advantage of the freedom that we are given to help decide the future of America invalidates such complaints.
Political involvement is a privilege. That we have the ability to influence political appointments and decisions should not be taken lightly. Issues that do not affect us personally should not be disregarded as issues that we should not care about; if we find ourselves in positions – granted by our race, gender, sexuality, or social class – privileged enough to enable us to turn a blind eye to the concerns of those around us, we should remember that it is our responsibility to care about issues that affect society as a whole and provide greater benefits for the American people overall.