Monday, April 14, 2008

Thoughts on Democracy and Voting

From a very young age, I have sometimes been interested in politics.

My first memory of political awareness and interest was from the second house that I remember living in. Almost everyone in my city had gardeners, and we did too. We had a few sculpted bushes in our front yard. "LOOK!" I'd tell someone, probably my parents (but maybe anyone who would listen). "PRESIDENT BUSH IS IN OUR FRONT YARD!" They would pretend to be interested, and I would lead them outside to one of the tall sculpted bushes. "See," I'd say. "President Bush." I would have been in first or second grade, and I remember thinking it was a clever joke, because Bush was the President's name, and we had one in our yard.

I remember some major political events, but the only other time I remember being especially interested was for my senior year of high school. I had an extremely liberal civics teacher, and I would correct him when he stated his opinions as facts. Most of my classmates were also very liberal (or didn't know or care, or care to know), so someone had to do it. [Dr. R agreed that he was doing it, anyway, and started drawing attention to the times when he didn't. "That is a fact, Ms. Mylastname," he would announce.] I was in that class for the 2000 election, and it was no secret that Dr. Ramp. did not want Bush to win. I was also 17, and could not vote. (Oh, the misery!) When Bush did win, I brought Republican BUSH cupcakes for my whole class, in celebration. They had red dots inside, and red sprinkles on top and said BUSH on each cupcake. I think I've blogged about that before, actually. But honestly, I don't think I knew too much about what Bush wanted for our country. Not really.

For my first year of college, I did student government, and was one of the senators. It was fun enough. I helped people register to vote, and I was moderately interested in politics for a little while.

And then, I completely lost interest in politics, and the news. On my mission, we were not supposed to discuss politics with people or follow the news, so that made it easier to be disinterested. But when I got back, I really wasn't interested either.

I think the main reasons were:
1. It takes a long time to follow the news and really have a good idea of what is going on. Reading up on issues and candidates is just very time consuming.
2. I got tired of hearing about the same things over and over again. I knew that September 11th had been something important for our country. I knew that people were dying in Iraq, and I knew that we were looking for Bin Laden, and I didn't want to hear the same things every day for months and years on end.
3. So much of the news and politics is negative. I have enough problems in my life without having to feel bad for even more people. It wasn't that I meant to be insensitive, just that watching the news made me sad, and I didn't want to feel sad about stuff that I couldn't really do anything about.
4. It seems like a lot of news and politics are subjective, and it's hard to predict what America really needs, or what will really work. Or how important integrity is among politicians, or how big of a role government ought to have. Everyone has such different feelings about it, and they all feel strongly about it, and I can kind of see where everyone is coming from. Since I can relate to most of the sides, it's hard to make a decision (especially without having taken the time to really understand the issues.)

There were probably other reasons, too. But I became really moderate, and stopped voting in local elections, and didn't read newspapers or watch the news on TV. I became really, really uninformed.

And then, for some reason, I became really interested in this presidential election. And politics in general. And when I visited DC, and took a tour of the Capitol, I became fascinated. It made me want to serve in the House of Representatives. It made me want to know what is going on, and do something. I've been following the news all day, every day since my trip. And I find it really dynamic and interesting.

Plus, I've been reading things that really talk a lot about how inactive my generation is, politically, and I can completely understand that, but I can also understand why we need to participate.

It is not our responsibility to put flag bumper stickers on our minivans, or to buy lots of fireworks for the Fourth of July, or to attend our American History classes just because we have to. But we do need to vote. We do need to learn about issues, and vote based on what we really feel or know to be right. And not for who or what our friends or families vote for, or for who we think would be cool for no reason. And if it's time consuming, or boring, or sad, that doesn't mean that we don't need to be responsible citizens anymore.

Democracy depends on people being informed and voting.


Optimistic. said...

Hear hear.

Did I mention that I keep a blog that parses the news into more manageable chunks for you? At ?

LJ said...

Aaaaand let's put it up for the shameless plug for the Worb. Woot!

P.S. O., I may have to start reading it to get my daily dose. I'm still extraordinarily uninformed.