Hate Politics? Get Over It.
Avoiding politics is the quickest way to give up any agency you have in your own life. Don’t do it.
Until a couple years ago, I avoided politics like most people avoid the dentist. The only time I’d subject myself to anything political was the few weeks before a presidential election so I could feel like I was making an informed vote. I didn’t care about state or local elections, and I certainly made sure to not bother myself with any aspect of such politics. I didn’t watch debates, I avoided political articles, and I never participated in political conversations. I probably went around proudly proclaiming myself to be “apolitical” or “politics free”. In truth, I had nothing to brag about and was making a huge mistake.
The Force Will Be With You, Always
Politics is essentially a considerably less cool version of the Force; it surrounds us and binds our reality together. And like the Force, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. Han Solo didn’t believe in the Force, but clearly significant events unfolded around him and affected him because of the Force, whether he liked it or not. Politics is exactly the same. Tomorrow new gun laws could be passed that lead to someone having a gun that doesn’t have one today, and you end up being a victim of gun violence. Or maybe gun laws get passed that lead you to not have a gun to protect yourself when a burglar breaks into your home and assaults you. In either scenario your life would have been dramatically altered due to laws established as a result of politics. And while perhaps each political decision can’t be quantified as a life or death scenario, it can be quantified as affecting your life, just like the Force affected Han. However there is a really big and great difference between the Force and politics; you can do something about politics.
If you don’t speak your mind, you are handing over control to others who do, and effectively letting your life be dictated by the decisions of others.
One of the foundational elements of the USA that makes our nation great is that each of us has a voice. That freedom to express ourselves empowers each and every one of us to be able to do something about politics. Maybe we have to get creative to ensure our voices are heard, but the power to do so is within each of us. But being empowered, in any aspect, always comes with a catch — if you don’t do it, no one is obligated to do it for you. So while it is accurate to say that you are empowered to speak your mind and have your voice heard, a more visceral way to interpret this is you are obligated to speak your mind if you want to have control over how politics affects your life. Conversely of course, this means that if you don’t speak your mind, you are handing over control to others who do, and effectively letting your life be dictated by the decisions of others. If that doesn’t bother you, congratulations, you can avoid politics and navigate through life hoping the dice always roll in your favor. But if that does bother you, it should bring into crystal clarity why it’s so important to do anything but avoid politics.
What Do You Stand For?
It’s really as simple as this: politics influences our lives; caring about it gives us power to shape our lives, ignoring it leaves us powerless toward how our lives are shaped. So instead of deciding if you should care about politics, the real thing to consider is what it means to care about politics and how you will express that care. There’s no complete answer to this, and for each person it’s going to be different. What’s important to understand is what you care about and why, and what you want to be able to influence. If you’ve been avoiding politics, this may serve as a good start to manage the scope of the political topics to which you devote time and help prevent you from getting overwhelmed by the various political debates and ever changing political landscape.
What’s important to understand is what you care about and why, and what you want to be able to influence.
Going into details about how to decide what political topics to care about or how much time to devote to influencing politics are both topics far too vast to tackle here and ultimately are personal decisions that you need to make for yourself. Maybe what’s right for you is making sure you are informed enough that you vote with confidence, or perhaps that you can have intelligent debates with peers, or raise concerns to your representatives, or even run for an office — it’s completely your call. But no matter how involved you choose to get it’s important to think about how you communicate your concerns and viewpoints to others, and a lot of the proper behaviors you can probably sort out by thinking about the things that made you hate politics in the first place.
The Golden Rule of Political Talk
When (not if, because I’ve convinced you it’s important to do this, right?) you talk politics, there are two key concepts to always use as the bedrock of what you say or write: respect and empathy. Political topics are almost always charged with emotion, a clear side effect of how important politics can be to someone’s life as they know it (or want it to be). As such, it’s vital to recognize that as passionate you may be about a topic, plenty of other people are too, even if they don’t agree with you. Remember, politics is not a sport, but rather a very serious, life affecting hotbed of topics.
The entire point of talking about politics is to try to influence others to agree with your viewpoints or work together to find common ground.
The significance of always being respectful and empathetic is something I cannot possibly stress enough. In this day and age, when most of our conversations are textual instead of verbal; when we spend more time having faceless conversations instead of sitting down together to talk; it can be easy to forget that there’s a human on the other side of an argument. But as you probably know from your own experience, the chances you will change your mind on something is next to zero if you are treated with little respect or with no regard to your emotions. The entire point of talking about politics is to try to influence others to agree with your viewpoints or work together to find common ground. Not every conversation is going to be rainbows and sunshine; at the end of the day, we’re all human, and we all have that in common. But maybe if more people start talking politics, and do it respectfully and with empathy, talking politics won’t seem all that bad anymore.