How many of you can name the winner of this year’s “The Bachelor”? How many of you are aware who the next “Bachelorette” will be? Who can give an in-depth analysis of the Jordyn Woods and Tristan Thompson cheating scandal that has yet again thrust the Kardashians and their endless drama to the top of our social media timelines? I know all of my friends can answer these three questions, as well as many questions related to pop culture and the entertainment industry. Yet while the world obsesses over whether Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga are falling in love, we are seemingly asleep at the wheel when it comes to the major political issues of the day.
How many of you know who has announced their candidacies for a presidential run in 2020? How many of you can name both of your state’s senators or the elected representative from your district? While many college-aged youths are plugged into the latest political scandals or tragedies via the news on smartphones and via social media, it seems that other important aspects of politics are slipping through the cracks. While college may be a time when some become more politically active, it is also a time of infinite busyness and distraction. Between the hours of studying, extracurriculars and attempting to make time for a social life, it often seems understandable to not want to fill one’s few free hours a week with the latest report on the more mundane aspects of politics. But what if much like showering, eating or sleeping, keeping up to date on politics was viewed as an integral part of one’s weekly routine?
Apathy is a dangerous thing. Even those of us who do not find enjoyment or interest in the political realm have a responsibility to remain aware and civically active. This isn’t a new sentiment either. Most have probably heard it at one time or another, yet it still seems to fall on deaf ears. However, in a world of big government and globalization, almost every aspect of our lives is touched by politics whether we like it or not.
For example, the access of our search histories and social media profiles that corporations and the government have is something that affects nearly every single one of us. It is something that, if asked, I’m sure most would have some opinion on — but how many of us remain aware of the government regulations surrounding this issue? Mark Zuckerberg’s hearing may have been meme-worthy on Twitter, but I do not know many people who actually watched it in its entirety.
Or what about government regulations surrounding trade, tariffs and subsidies? While the mere mention of these words may make some want to fall asleep, these issues affect the price of almost every good available to us daily. From the prices of our produce to the price of gas, the way our government handles international trade affects us intimately.
There are so many issues affecting our nation’s people as well as the rest of the world every day that most think little about and may have never even heard of. Here are just a few examples. There are currently about 437,500 children in foster care in the U.S., living their lives within a broken system that shifts them from home to home with minimal protection from mistreatment and abuse. On average, 130 Americans die every day from opioid overdoses, and the number of yearly opioid deaths was six times higher in 2017 than in 1999. The largest agricultural corporation in the U.S., Monsanto (which was recently bought out by Bayer, providing a timely name change in light of negative press), was responsible for the creation of Agent Orange, many genetically modified seed strains, as well as the common herbicide Roundup. Monsanto was recently sued on a claim that Roundup may have active chemicals that can be linked to cancer.
There are endless examples such as these, some with higher stakes than others, yet it seems that only the most clickbait-worthy, scandalous or tragic political stories garner any sort of mainstream media buzz and catch the eye of the general public. If I were to ask my friends if they want our country and world to be a better place and if they think we have room to improve, they would undoubtedly all say yes. Yet how are we supposed to improve our world when we are more obsessed with immediate entertainment value than issues that truly impact us on a daily basis? It is not enough to simply say one will plug into politics when they are older. We will never again have more time on our hands to enact substantive change as activists, intellectuals and young people full of the sort of hope and vigor for life that fades over time. Now is the time in our lives when we can dedicate ourselves to enacting change. We don’t have mortgages, careers or families yet. We may have classes and social lives but these are small fish compared to all that will take up our time in the near future.
The task may seem daunting, but it is really as simple as closing out of the latest article about Kylie Jenner and opening up a tab to one of this nation’s many news outlets, most of which provide at least some level of free access. Even 15 minutes a day of research on a new issue that is affecting our state, country or world may open your eyes to an issue that profoundly impacts the way you view the world or inspires you to try and enact change. We will not create a better future for our children by “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” We will create a better future for them by keeping up with the world of politics and current events in a proactive and responsible fashion.
Abbie Berringer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.