We can’t afford to tune out politics

Since recent events, it has become harder to catch a break from all the politcal discussion. This isn’t a bad thing.


by Julia Kerrigan, Writer

People across the country gather in living rooms surrounded by friends, tortilla chips and cushy sofas. Their eyes are glued to the Super Bowl, to the Oscars, to whatever entertainment is on tonight. They groan collectively as it looks like a speech or commercial is about to “get political.” Within the same country, a Puerto Rican family’s car is being vandalized with the words “Go home,” a Muslim student is being threatened at their own university and “Make America White Again” has been scrawled across a baseball dugout.

Don’t we deserve a break from thinking about all this political turmoil?

The answer is no, not until we can find a way to make the situation better. For the victims of these hate crimes, there is no break from thinking about the injustice and oppression they are facing in America.

I have to admit that I didn’t watch the Super Bowl, but DVRed it and fast forwarded through the game so I could watch the ads, like a truly resourceful American. This year offered the same generally meaningless 30-second snippets as past years, but some had political tones that were hard to miss.

Overall, they were well-produced, moving and had good messages about unity. A favorite of mine was by Audi, showing a young girl in an all-male soapbox car race with her father voicing his concern about how she will be treated. It ends on a positive note with Audi’s pledge to equal pay.

Beautiful, right? Not everyone agrees. Fox News host Todd Starnes felt as if the ads meant to “crack American patriots over the head with a political 2×4.” Those who felt entitled to their football game had now been force fed a political message, and they were not happy about it.

Within the first month after the election, there were 1,094 bias-related incidents, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. These have ranged from anti-Semitic graffiti to Islamaphobic verbal attacks. Lots of religious minorities feel unsafe to worship and live freely in America, a result of people going against the values that began our country.

Political discourses have always been a central part of our media, but recently they seem particularly inescapable. I’ve realized that I shouldn’t be trying to avoid them because they make me sad or angry, but instead become informed on them in order to help make a change.

Yes, keeping up with every executive order and hate crime in the community can become exhausting, depressing even. But for the people falling victim to acts such as the man who came to Manhattan with the intention of killing black men, these aren’t just headlines you scroll by while on Twitter: it’s reality. Slipping into ignorance about the current state of the country and the world is a privilege, but a dangerous one that shouldn’t be encouraged. It undermines the privilege of access to uncensored media.

Not all the news is grim, though. Recently, it seems more people than ever have been inspired to become politically active. This is best shown by the women’s marches across America, which brought out an estimated four million supporters. Some of these people have been  politically inactive for most of their lives and feel compelled to act by the alarming treatment of the oppressed people in this country.

A common complaint is that people need to stay in their lanes and not “play” politics, like it’s some exclusive club that only certain people are allowed to know about and keep up with. The truth is that in a democracy, everyone should have a say in the political situation. That includes students, celebrities and yes, even the people behind the ads at the Super Bowl. As Americans, we have the right and responsibility to speak our minds.

I can understand why it’s annoying to have politics on the radar while you’re trying to relax, but the situation in America is not something that can be ignored, no matter your political alignment. The only way the constant barrage of politics is going to ease up is if we work together to make sure the system is protecting everyone. It’s going to take a lot more than just facing a camera and saying “stop it” on national television, as Trump did.

What can you do to help? First, stay informed. Choose a news source that you trust and make sure you’re staying up to date. It’s easy to fall victim to fake news and alternative facts, but avoiding them (and even better, discrediting them) is very important. The second is to act on what you’ve learned when you go out into society by volunteering, attending protests and calling representatives. I’m planning to make more of an effort on all of these things.

By flipping the channel the second politics come into play, we send the message that we don’t care about the people oppressed by the current systems. In order to really make changes for the better, we must stay alert and take action when we see injustice. It may not be our own personal reality, but it brings us one step closer to becoming a more just society.