It’s a question that I think a lot of people who are passionate about the subject get, ranging from “Why do you let yourself get so worked up about these things?” to “Why do you care? It’s not like anything ever changes, anyways…”
Well, first and foremost…
- I don’t believe that.
- I care because these things are important.
I didn’t always used to care about civics and politics. I barely passed the class in high school by the skin of my teeth and for the next several years after I graduated, my perspectives more or less aligned with those cynical questions asked above. This was during the presidencies of Bill Clinton – who I looked at as a joke after his affair with Monica Lewinsky – and George W. Bush – who I looked at as an idiot – so I didn’t really connect with any of our politicians in a positive way in my teens and early twenties.
That changed in 2007 when Barack Obama announced his candidacy for president because for the first time in my adult life, I saw an example of a political leader who I could actually respect. The Democratic senator from Chicago spoke thoughtfully and eloquently like an educated adult, he seemed more eager to engage with younger voters whereas previous candidates always felt more like my father’s candidates, so to speak, and frankly, his intentions just felt genuine and sincere whereas for the past eight years much of what had dissuaded my interest in politics was a pride in being patriotic where blindly waving the American flag seemed more important than actually making any meaningful progress on the country’s issues…
Also for what it’s worth, I’d done a lot of growing up during that time and I was starting to realize how significant of a role politics actually played in our lives because I knew gay people who weren’t allowed to get married and I’d started to witness more of these issues that for the longest time were admittedly more so just out of sight, out of mind.
Because if I’m being honest, I’m fortunate in that many of the policy changes Donald Trump preached about on his campaign trail won’t necessarily impact me personally at all:
- If the Affordable Care Act is repealed, I don’t have to worry about losing my health insurance.
- If religious rights are allowed as an excuse for discrimination, I’m not likely to be the target of any of it.
- I’ve never even had to think about not qualifying for the legal rights associated with marriage.
- No one ever debates access to drugs and medical procedures that are specific to my gender.
- My chances of being harassed or deported, or anyone else in my family, due to immigration reform are zero.
- Hell, Trump’s tax reform will likely result in me personally getting a significant tax cut!
But other people have to worry about these things, and we’re all in this together.
That’s what being part of a community is all about.
Over the years what I’ve learned about politics that shapes the way I see its role in my life today is that you can’t look at it selfishly with the question of “How will these laws affect me personally?”
Our politics are bigger than any one person.
The United States is a country of 320 million people who come from different backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life – very truly the classic “melting pot” that we were taught about in history class – and so while not every decision may benefit me or my family directly, they’ll benefit somebody and their family directly and that’s equally important.
Everyone, not just the people I know personally, should get the opportunity to live happy and healthy lives and feel the same benefits and protections from their government as I do. Muslim Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of guilt by association because extremists did a horrible thing, nor should American women have to worry about their Congressmen interjecting themselves in medical decisions best kept between them and their doctors.
That iconic clause from our Declaration of Independence – adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776 – didn’t come with caveats…
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
So for me here in 2017, my view on politics is one of unity and togetherness as a community, and when laws and policies are proposed that serve to target individuals or push us further apart, those are the times when we must band together and support one another to fight for what’s right.
United is literally the first word in the name of our country, no doubt because our Founding Fathers knew that we as a people are stronger together than we are divided.
Politics to me is simply making sure that nobody gets left behind in that mission of unity as a nation.